Black Lives Matter protest in 2020. Photo: Judy Beishon
Black Lives Matter protest in 2020. Photo: Judy Beishon

Isai Marijerla, Socialist Party Black and Asian group convenor

Asked ‘What do you think the police should be doing’, the majority of people would say something like ‘protecting and safeguarding people from being victims of crime, particularly violent crimes’.

But do they think that this is what the police are actually doing? The same people will have experienced the police being slow to respond to calls about robbery and fears about safety. At the same time, police are deployed in huge numbers when there is a protest, demonstration or workers’ action. More and more people are asking, ‘what are the police for?’

According to the government website, levels of trust and confidence in the police in England and Wales have declined in recent years. One YouGov survey earlier this year found that only 6% trust the Metropolitan Police ‘a lot’, over half of Londoners don’t trust the Met.

There is a whole array of reports on corruption, and of sexism and racism in the policing institutions. Let’s be clear, we are not taking about one or two police officers, but the institutions as a whole. Even those that join the police force motivated by wanting to serve and protect their community are quickly pulled into the role of protecting the status quo, following the orders of governments and the capitalist state looking after the interests of the bosses and not working-class people.

The preference for the ruling bosses’ class is for ‘policing by consent’. To do this, policing institutions have to appear to be functioning for ordinary people; they need public confidence. But in the face of capitalist crisis, after over a decade of austerity and rising inequality, that trust and confidence in the system and its institutions, like the police, is being undermined.

There are too many examples of racist targeting and discrimination by the police to list them all. And the vast majority go unrecorded. Still, hate crimes recorded in England and Wales have reached a record high. Most recently, a 13-year-old Black boy, Child X, got surrounded by armed police for carrying a water pistol! He was ‘rammed’ off his bike, handcuffed and confronted by marksmen in Hackney. One of the water pistols being played with was blue and white and one was pink and white, and unmistakably toys. This took place not too far from the Child Q traumatic strip-search in a school.

Black Lives Matter

It was the racist murder of George Floyd in the US that reignited the Black Lives Matter movement globally in 2020. Those mass demonstrations featured placards reading: ‘UK is not innocent’. Two and a half years later, Chris Kaba was killed by the police in south London. It took more than a year for the armed police officer to be charged with his murder.

There have been revealing reports of racism within the Met. The Casey Review found that it is broken and rotten, suffering collapsing public trust, and being guilty of institutional racism, misogyny and homophobia. Yet this is not the first time an inquest came to similar conclusions. The 1999 Macpherson report on the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence also found the Met to be institutionally racist.

Socialists fight for immediate steps to improve conditions and stop racist discrimination. The Socialist Party demands an immediate end to stop and search, demilitarisation of the police, and for the abolition of the Territorial Support Group, Special Branch, and other similar paramilitary units. We also demand the end of police spying, which has mainly been carried out on left-wing, anti-racist and Black justice campaigns and activists, as exposed in the ‘Spycops’ scandal. We demand independent workers’ and community inquiries into police violence and for the outcome of these inquiries to be implemented immediately.

We need a justice system with democratic workers’ control all the way through. The police must be accountable to locally elected committees composed of representatives from trade unions and community groups.

Profit-driven capitalism is a system that brings misery to working-class and young people; it brings war, poverty and exploitation. Ultimately, the primary role of the police is to protect that system, and to help maintain it.

Socialists agree with Malcolm X that you can’t have capitalism without racism. Racist ideas, established and maintained to try to ‘justify’ slavery and super-exploitation, have been baked into the system from its creation.

Similarly, you can’t have an institution whose role it is to defend capitalism and it not be ridden with the reactionary ideas of the rotten system itself – for it to be racist, sexist, LGBTQ+-phobic and anti-working class. Ultimately, to get rid of racist policing we need to overthrow capitalism and its state, to establish a socialist society based on democratic public ownership of big business and the banks, and without exploitation and oppression.