Bernie Sanders, Racial Justice and Policing


My sparring partner on Facebook (Neil Shock) and I have exchanged a little on the subject of the ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ protests at a couple of Bernie Sanders’ political events.

Neil directed me to the views of Bernie, on policing and racial justice. I had two separate comments to make. I set ’em out:

“We have communities in this country who feel that the police are going to war on them. You do not correct that imbalance by going to war on the police.

Why is it that almost every American I meet has no concept of the notion of collective policing, as it was originally conceived, namely that policing takes place only with the consent of the community?

If you are one who feels that your community has or should withdraw its consent, then establish a process that re-establishes the notion of consent. Don’t whine. And don’t go to war.

Police are not authorities unto themselves, with whom we need to barter or go to war. They are public employees, who perform only with our consent. And therein lies the solution.

Every single law enforcement agency in this country is beholden to a civilian institution for its funding. And those institutions are run by elected officials.

Make it a condition of voting for a candidate that they will enforce a new social compact with police, who after all are no more and no less than public employees, a new social compact which states that, in return for funds, police must henceforth accept that their rules of engagement and operation are to be drafted and monitored by those elected officials, in conjunction with police and concerned citizens, but no longer by the police on their own.

It really is as simple as that. I call it ‘citizen design of policing’ []. You can call it whatever you like. And operate it in your locale however you like.

The one thing we do not need to do, when a simple approach like this presents itself, is to meet war with war.”


“Bernie Sanders, bless him, is basically a professorial type, gloriously out of water. Give him a chance to get used to this sort of attention, and his responses might improve.

His groupies, the ones doing all the tutting, are looking ahead to the conversation they think they are going to have, the one where they tell Bernie it’s time to grow up, because this is looking serious now.

A conversation in which I hope Bernie limits himself to two words, the first one beginning with f, and the second one ending with the same letter.

Now I used to be a tacky political operator. And if I was advising Bernie, I’d say, don’t mess about, invite BLM to draft your platform on structural racism. With a very specific program as to how to address it.

Make the pledge: you draft it; it ain’t crazy; I get elected; you’ll be given the remit to implement it. Now, put your money where your mouth is.

I personally have very little time for empty words. I believe in doing (cf. citizen design of policing:

The only thing is, I simply do not understand why I, a white, sort of progressive, reformed British Conservative, am the one advancing this concept. Where are the US progressives – white, black or polka dot?

I’ll tell you what I’ve discovered since being in this country. There are too many folks having too much fun saying no. And not enough doing the hard, difficult, unseen job of designing the yes.”

As a consequence of my post, a rather interesting discussion began to develop here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s