On August 14, 2003, at approximately 4:10 p.m., the power went out in Detroit, and the entire northeast United States. Our secretary was trapped in the elevator. The Greyhound bus driver’s union is on the same floor and their secretary heard her shouting. She gathered help and was able to pry open the door about an inch. We pushed wet towels and water through the opening.
For over three hours, we talked and worried. Finally, the fire department showed up and cracked the door, catching Matty as she crawled out. She had been a genuine trooper and justifiably raised her fist in triumph. Working people had indeed triumphed over an unnecessary tribulation. As Matty said, what else could we do? No money offered and none requested.
About two hours into the ordeal, someone identified Enron as the cause of the problem. Most people responded with bewilderment. As explained, the crisis arose out of the failure to maintain and upgrade transmission lines. Enron had spent millions promoting deregulation and exploiting the energy system. Importantly, Enron spent millions buying political support. Then Enron sucked out of the system approximately $70 to $100 Billion. This capital would have provided the necessary capital to insure a functioning system. Instead millions of people “made do” on August 14, and 15, 2003. Meanwhile, the people who exploited the deregulation lived comfortably in one of their numerous luxurious homes.
The media, of course, provided little or no explanation, analysis, or insight into the cause of the problem other than to point fingers. We get minor revelations here and there, but we are given a make believe world. The first thought that entered people’s mind was terrorism. The myths are so pervasive, the distortions so extreme that we fail to recognize how propaganda distorts our reality. In many ways, what happened was far worse than terrorists could ever accomplish. Deregulation destroys our economy, our democracy, and our quality of life, as is occasionally acknowledged in the media.
“But deregulation hasn’t worked, for three basic reasons. First, there is a fairly fixed demand for electricity and generating capacity is tight, so companies that produce it enjoy a good deal of power to manipulate prices. The Enron scandal, which soaked Californians for tens of billions of dollars, was only the most extreme example. California authorities calculated that a generating company needed to control just 3 percent of the state’s supply to set a monopoly price.
Second, the idea of creating large national markets to buy and sell electricity makes more sense as economic theory than as physics, because it consumes power to transmit power. “It’s only efficient to transmit electricity for a few hundred miles at most,” says Dr. Richard Rosen, a physicist at the Tellus Institute, a nonprofit research group.
Third, under deregulation the local utilities no longer have an economic incentive to invest in keeping up transmission lines. Antiquated power lines are operating too close to their capacity. The more power that is shipped long distances in the new deregulated markets, the more power those lines must carry.
In addition, in the old days of regulation, a utility like Con Ed would be required to regularly submit a resource plan to a state’s public service commission. The two organizations would forecast demand and decide how much money should be invested in power plants and transmission lines. Rates would be adjusted to cover costs. Under deregulation, however, nobody plays that crucial planning role.
Much of the Southeast, by contrast, has retained traditional regulation—and cheap, reliable electricity.
When the blackout hit on Thursday, many of us first thought of terrorists. What hit us may be equally dangerous. We are hostage to a delusional view of economics that allowed much of the Northeast to go dark without an enemy lifting a finger. (Robert Kuttner, NYT, 8/16/03, page A25)
Paul Krugman explained:
Four years ago, Paul Joskow of M.I.T. told FERC: “Proceeding on the assumption that, at the present time, the market will provide needed network transmission enhancements is the road to ruin. And so it was. (Krugman, NYT, 8/19/03, page A23)
Deregulation is the general theory that justifies and promotes privatization. Both are founded on the myth that the market works. Market failures are rampant, silent debacles, never discussed and never investigated. And more importantly, never anticipated. Believe it or not, that is why this discussion leads to police brutality. When it comes to public policy, the failure of private companies to provide necessary service must be discussed, exposed, and anticipated because use of market mythology leads to disaster.
That is why this long discussion is a necessary precondition to any analysis of the recent contract between the City of Detroit and Kroll Incorporated. At a very steep price, Kroll has been hired by the City of Detroit to monitor the city’s police department. Pursuant to the Consent Judgment entered on June 12, 2003, Kroll, a private company, will be hired to “monitor” the violence visited on Detroit citizens.
To take a step back, the question of police brutality has a long and sordid history especially in Detroit (Whose Detroit by Heather Thompson). But this particular chapter begins in middle 1990’s with several police killings.
Even that statement is too limiting. Police killings and brutality are endemic to this country, and certainly Detroit has no corner on the market when it comes to suffering at the hands of the police. But we must begin somewhere and discuss the immediate problem. With the Consent Judgment and the hiring of Kroll, the citizens of Detroit face three points in issue, which must be recognized, classified, and discussed in some organized fashion.
Firstly, we live in a globalized economic system that exploits and oppresses our citizenry. The economic unfairness leads to an unjust judicial system that punishes working people and ignores the crimes of the rich. The police are therefore assigned the task of controlling a population that rebels against both the oppression and the exploitation.
Secondly, the police use force, sometimes deadly force, to secure control. The assumption underlying the hiring Kroll is that force is a necessary part of this control as long as it is done in a professional manner.
Thirdly, the City of Detroit is starved of funds because private companies have insured that taxes will not be paid in an equitable manner. As a result, the police force is inadequately trained and often the raw use of force is so brutal and unrestrained, the pretense of impartiality is eliminated.
That was the case in the murder of Malice Green, an unemployed steelworker. The murder was so brutal, so pointless, and so savage that even the globalized media could not ignore it. During the year of 1997, the Detroit Coalition against Police Brutality more or less formed with the leadership of Gloria House, Marg Parsons and Ron Scott.
Linking up with the October 22 movement, a national “organization” building a movement against police brutality, the Detroit Coalition began to accumulate information, attend vigils and expose the pattern of brutality. Providing a focus for stored up grievances, the Detroit Coalition against Police Brutality was soon overwhelmed given its under funded organizational basis. In spite of those weaknesses, the Coalition was nevertheless able to respond. With information pouring in, it became clear that Eugene Brown had a history of violence and brutality. On September 21, 1996, Eugene Brown savagely murdered LaMar Grable. Even though the evidence revealed that Brown had been involved with several killings and beatings, the Detroit Police Department was unresponsive.
Focusing on the murder of Lamar Grable, the Detroit Coalition began to take demands to the City Council including a demand for hearings. Setting up forums to air grievances, the coalition was again able to focus pent up frustrations of the Detroit citizenry. The Coalition was flooded with reports of killings, beatings, insults and unfair charges. With only a modicum of analysis, the pattern and practice of police activity became apparent. The necessary conclusion that something had to be done was easily supported by a growing body of factual information.
Eventually, Arnetta Grable, Lamar Grable’s mother contacted the federal government, Janet Reno’s office, to initiate an investigation of the Detroit Police Department. She was convinced that some outside body was needed. At the time of LaMar’s murder, Mayor Dennis Archer, now president of the American Bar Association, declared that LaMar Grable was a criminal trying to kill police officers. (Michigan Citizen 8/23/03, page A4). Also, Sheila Murphy Cockrell demanded an investigation. She had been active in the 1960’s investigating police brutality.
On August 6, 2003, a jury awarded Arnetta Grable $4 million for the killing of her son. Eugene Brown continues to work for the Detroit Police Department. The jury assessed the facts including the arguments of the city and concluded that excessive force had been used. This conclusion was reached even though much of the most damning evidence had been excluded from the jury’ consideration by the judge. Even with bias in favor of the police, the jury’s collective wisdom supported a democratic verdict.
The most salient aspect of this history is that the initiative for the investigation, the energy that sustained the inquiry into police activity was Detroit citizens. They formed the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, sustained it with their own contributions, called on the media to report what was happening, contacted the city council, and laid bare the repeated acts of police misconduct. It was their perseverance and demands for justice that moved the government, the judiciary and other agencies to respond. And this was all done without compensation.
Significantly, from 1997 to 2003, the total budget for the Detroit Coalition ranged somewhere between $10,000.00 and $20,000.00. Because much work was volunteered and because individuals dipped into their own pockets, the amount is not clear. The range, however, is from ten thousand to twenty thousand, not millions, as corporations would demand for the same amount of work. What is clear is that the dedication, commitment and persistence of Detroit citizens sustained the investigation to this date.
Of course, giving credit where credit is due, the Detroit Police Department continued its violent ways bringing new blood, so to speak, into the movement.
As a result, the federal and local governments have entered a Consent Judgment. This Consent Judgment, however, excludes the people who brought it about. It does not even provide for their nominal participation.
Alleging to be setting up an “independent monitor”, the Consent Judgment turns over the evaluation of police activity to a “private” company. Kroll Incorporated, a risk consulting company. Kroll, Inc is not a private company; it is a publicly held corporation that trades on the New York stock exchange. That is important because incorporation shields all the officers from liability. Incorporated in Delaware, it has outstanding 39,985,035 shares of common stack outstanding. (Annual Report 12/31/02)
With all this enormous wealth, Kroll nevertheless is completely shielded for responsibility for implementation of the Consent Judgment. The Consent Judgment states:
“92. Neither the Monitor [Kroll Inc] nor any person or entity hired or otherwise retained be the Monitor to assist in furthering any provision of this Agreement shall be liable for any claim, lawsuit, or demand arising out of the Monitor’s performance pursuant to this Agreement. Provided, however, that this paragraph does not apply to any proceeding before a court related to performance of contracts or subcontracts for monitoring this agreement.” (Page 23 of the Consent Judgment.)
In other words, this wealthy publicly held and publicly protected company, which will be paid a huge sum of money by the City of Detroit, assumes no responsibility for the effectiveness of its activity. As with all privatizing projects, the company appropriates all the profit, privilege, and perks but imposes on the citizens all the risks, losses, hazards, and liabilities.
On August 4, 2003, the City of Detroit law department submitted a Motion to Approve the Monitor’s budget:
“The Monitor has agreed to perform the services outlined for a flat fee, to wit:
Professional fees – $1,250,000 per annum for five (5) Years
Plus actual expenses – Not to exceed 15% of the Professional fee”
For a total of $7,187,000.00, Kroll Inc will do what the Detroit Coalition has accomplished for the last 6 years for less $20,000.00. But Kroll will have access denied to the Detroit Coalition and resources never available to the Coalition. But, in fact, any reasonable prediction is that Kroll will provide less service and even less success than the Coalition has provided.
Kroll will produce a series of reports but will have no responsibility to implement recommendations. The City of Detroit, having spent a large sum of money for these reports, will then claim lack of funds to set up a review board that is accountable. In order to prepare these reports, Kroll must spend time contacting people in the precincts, finding who is reliable, determine who can be trusted for accurate information and determine who will follow through with proposals. In other words, Kroll will have established a matrix of cultural contacts that can be utilized to understand procedures, good and bad, that are regularly followed by the police department. Then having obtained these contacts, having prepared these reports, all of this knowledge and all of these methods of operation will be ripped out, Kroll will leave and the City of Detroit will be left with nothing to insure the continuing safety of its citizenry.
And that is best possible scenario. Other problems include the fact that Kroll comes in with a bias in favor of the police, its investigators have no street experience, and many times no working class experience. There is a very real possibility that the reports will miss important information only available to the people active in the community.
The question presented is why the City of Detroit is spending so much money to accomplish so little.
Apparently, powerful interests have decided that the reason excessive force has been a common practice of the Detroit Police Department; the reason so many citizens have been killed and beaten is simply the unprofessional actions of a few poorly trained police officers.
But there are many other issues to be addressed. Historically, the Detroit Police Department was a bastion of overt racism and right wing ideology, contending that the Black community is violent and iniquitous. That ideology is encompassed in the view that the problem is simply unprofessional activity. The oppression and exploitation that engenders the necessity for control is swept under the rug.
Police officers are workers just as all people in Detroit. But Eugene Brown has proven that the changing the face of the police force is a necessary but insufficient reform. The ideology that requires such force must be addressed. The police force is charged with control of a population that is oppressed and exploited. The laws relative to drugs are unjust and unfair. When Enron officials steal billions, nothing is done. When an addict needs relief, he risks his life and limb.
For the City of Detroit to address the insanity of a system that is unfair and undemocratic at every level of government, institutions must be built carefully so that protection of our citizenry is primary.
Yours in Struggle,
Ronald D. Glotta
220 Bagley, Suite 808
Detroit MI 48226-1409
(313) 963-1320 – (313) 963-1325/Fax