Anyone who has ever taken part in direct action will have some first-hand experience of why the police force exists. Liberals and right-wingers may argue that battering Climate Camp activists or striking miners over the head with truncheons are unfortunate anomalies; stopping old people from being mugged is the real essence of the role of the police.
The reality is precisely the other way around; the police force fundamentally exists to defend, violently if necessary, the interests of the ruling-class; and any useful community defence function it may play is almost a by-product.
The thoroughly undemocratic and entirely unaccountable nature of the police force also very clearly undermines the idea that the police act in “our” interests; we know what our interests are, so where are the channels by which we can instruct and control the police to act in them? The nature of the police as an undemocratic, armed wing of the capitalist state is exposed clearly in the shameful saga of Jean Charles De Menezes — the Brazilian man who was gunned down at close range by armed officers because they thought he was a terrorist.
Even allowing for the heightened tension following the 7/7 London bombings, and even allowing that the Metropolitan Police had evidence that suspected suicide bomber Hussein Osman (who had been involved in a failed attack the day before De Menezes was killed) was in the area in which De Menezes was spotted, the manner of the killing — up to a dozen close range shots with ammunition forbidden in actual warfare by international law! — indicate an obscene level of brutality and expose the “shoot first, ask questions later” ethos at the heart of capitalist “justice”.
Even though it has been three years since Menezes’s murder, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) only recently opened an investigation into the case. The investigation has already exposed shocking cover-ups within the police, including the admission by one surveillance officer that he tampered with evidence dealt with earlier in the inquest, deleting the record of Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick's note that De Menezes should be allowed to run onto the tube as he “wasn't carrying anything.”
Now, in the middle of the inquest, Met Police Commissioner Ian Blair has resigned. Good riddance, but if the police really were a public body acting in the public interest, why isn’t Blair, for instance, elected, or appointed by an elected, accountable authority, and why can he sacked by that same democratic control at any time? Why couldn’t he have been booted out in the immediate aftermath of the De Menezes killing?
Because, simply, the police does not belong to us. It is part of the armed wing of the capitalist state. To demand the “abolition” of the police as an immediate step would be to get well ahead of ourselves, but the De Menezes case shows us very clearly the need to maintain constant hostility, distrust and opposition to the bosses' state and its militias; the army, the air force, the navy and the police.