On June 16, Wisconsin State Patrol officers and Dane County Sheriff’s officers wrongfully and unnecessarily detained and harassed Cassandra Smith, accusing her of driving a stolen vehicle. Cassandra, a Black woman, was legally driving a company vehicle when State Patrol officers pulled her over on a busy highway and detained her and a passenger at gunpoint.
The officers involved at first neglected to tell Cassandra why she was being detained and proceeded to hold her even after it had become clear the car was not stolen. As a result of the police stop, Cassandra lost her job and housing security. The impact to her mental health from experiencing such trauma must also be considered as a consequence of this harassment.
The police terror State Patrol and Sheriff’s officers subjected Cassandra Smith to is a direct result of the Madison Police Department’s failure to maintain basic records keeping practices, which resulted in the company’s vehicle being reported as stolen. These unnecessary violations are another example of how the so-called “criminal justice system” fails to protect Black women and criminalizes Black women without regard for the legality of their conduct. Police departments around the state are routinely provided with inflated budgets using our tax dollars and continue to use these funds to enable abusive and incompetent police to terrorize and commit violence against Black women, queer, trans and intersex folks.
We are not interested in building relationships with police officers who bring violence into our communities. We are not interested in marginal reforms that put more money into the pockets of police departments and prisons. We believe Black lives are inherently valuable, and any solutions to harm and violence should maintain a person’s dignity and seek to transform all involved. Our current policing system is getting large sums of money to “solve” violence by adding more violence to the situation. If we continue to pour our resources into them, these incidents of police terror will continue to happen, and prevent any chance for healthy and whole Black communities.
This is why we are demanding a people’s budget in Madison: because we should not be paying cops to harass Black women like Cassandra Smith. The city must build a budget that prioritizes building up Black communities instead of breaking them down. We must have Community Control so we have the power to decide what happens in our communities.
Love and Power,