The idea that we can separate police brutality from the role of the police force is a dangerous illusion. It is an institution for repression. We must challenge every case of brutalization and killing by the police. We demand justice for Omoblanle Raheem. To stop such wanton killings, we must end the police, as we know it.
The trial of ASP Darambi Vandi, the police officer who killed Omobolanle Raheem on Christmas day, resumed at the Lagos High Court on 25 January. Two other police officers who were with Vandi were called as prosecution witnesses.
The aim of the state is to present the murder as simply a tragic happenstance, for which Mr Vandi will be brought to justice. There was a nationwide outcry in the wake of the shooting of Ms Raheem, a lawyer, at the Ajah under bridge. And there were calls for police reforms from several quarters.
The Inspector General of Police added his voice to the chorus of voices demanding the swift prosecution of the errant police officer. According to him, “the ugly and professional act” does not represent “standard operating procedure and core values” of the police.
We equally find the killing abhorrent. And we demand justice for Omobolanle Raheem, just as we have demanded justice for the scores of victims of extra-judicial murders, that have become the hallmark of the police.
But we hasten to disagree with the false narrative of this being a happenstance. It is in the nature of the police to kill people, steal our liberty and destroy lives. The police is not your friend. Brutality is written into the DNA of policing.
The 2020 EndSARS Rebellion was a graphic demonstration of what our attitude to the police must always be; RESISTANCE! it could be argued that there are instances of individual police officers siding the people and our struggle. An example of such is some squads guiding activists from where their more ferocious colleagues are during protests such as the anti-SAP rebellion. Many police officers also defended their revolutionary organizer during the police strike in 2002, with their silence and lives. While these instances must not be discountenanced, they should be considered as exceptions that confirm the rule.
All Cops Are Bastards (ACAB). The police force is the primary coercive institution which the ruling class uses to maintain law and order, and make the illegitimate system of capitalism appear natural. Like dogs that taste blood in service to their masters (e.g., suppressing demonstrations, safeguarding property), they develop a general craving for brutality and blood (extra-judicial murders).
That is why, despite the mass uproar that accompanied the EndSARS protests, police brutality and extra-judicial killings has not stopped. In fact, between January and September 2021 alone, over 164 people were killed in the country.
The phenomenon of police brutality as an inherent attribute of the police force is not limited to Nigeria. The killing of George Floyd in the US ignited the greatest wave of protests in America and across the world, in 2020. And the US government promised police reforms. But such killings rather than stop, only increased. At least 1,176 people were killed in that country in 2022 alone.
The idea of police reform is an illusion. They don’t protect us. They protect the bosses. We must abolish the police, and smash the capitalist system, to emancipate ourselves.
by Baba AYE