Sortition for selecting civilian police control boards

In an undated proposal by Max Rameau from the an organization called “Pan-African Community Action” the author writes:

A Model: The Civilian Police Control Board
The primary institution for the exercise of Community Control over Police is the Civilian Police Control Board (CPCB).

The CPCB must be comprised entirely of civilian adult human beings- not corporations or human representatives of corporations- residing in the police district. To be explicit, residing means living in, not owning property in, without regard to citizenship status or criminal history.

While some envision an elected board, we propose something entirely different: a board selected entirely at random among residents of the policing district.

There are two (2) main constraints to an elected board. First, elections in the US are thoroughly corrupted by influences of corporate finance on one side and two party electoral politics on the other. Even if multiple communities were to win control over their police, it is not difficult to imagine that after one or two election cycles, your local CPCB would be a corporate board brought to you by [ insert name of powerful corporation here ]. For this board to shift power, instead of becoming another institution to maintain power, it must break through the limitations of electoral corruption.

Second, even elections with minimal levels of corporate or party influence, still occur in a social context. In this social context, elected officials are disproportionately white, male and wealthy- the exact population with the highest level of support for the police. We must devise democratic systems that encourage active participation from those least likely to engage, not those most likely to benefit.

Sortition- government by random selection- is the best way to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to exercise power. The rich and poor, straight and gay, male and female, white and Black all have an equal shot at making decisions through random selection. If we believe that democracy is for everyone, then random selection of officials is the best way to ensure each person can exercise power.

Not incidentally, there are numerous studies on sortition, including a few theories that suggest the practice would instill better government in Washington, DC than the current practice of corporate elections.

However, for those with deep reservations about allowing randomly selected people to judge police or engage on this level of decision making, we are willing to meet you halfway. We are prepared to concede the point, publicly support the position that ‘randomly selected’ people are not qualified to make these decisions and work to find a viable alternative that does not involve unqualified randomly selected individuals.

Right after we empty the prisons.

Guilt and innocence, imprisonment and freedom, even life and death are determined by unqualified randomly selected individuals that we call ‘jurors.’ Anyone who is not qualified to determine how their taxes are used to arm officers of the state or if those officers have behaved inappropriately with the people they serve, cannot possibly be qualified to determine if someone represented by an overworked public defender or prosecuted by an unscrupulous district attorney is guilty or innocent in a case with any level of complexity. Empty the prisons and we will work together on a a better system for both.

Randomly selected board seats, refreshed on a regular basis, make subversion of the democratic process virtually impossible. Special interests would be forced to bribe entire communities in order to assure some level of voting pattern stability. If bribery is special treatment or rewards for the official in question, randomly selected board members would compel the corrupting force to provide special treatment for every adult in the given community, an act which more closely resembles a perk or amenity than bribery. Kind of like a neighborhood pool or rec center.

One Response

  1. […] in Minneapolis, Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò of the Pan-African Community Action reiterates the proposal made by Max Rameau to enforce citizen control over police via allotted citizen […]


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