Another day in America, another Black man killed by police, this time in our community. Our hearts go out to the friends and family of DeShawn Tatum. We do not yet know all the details from yesterday’s killing, but our message hasn’t changed: defund and abolish the police.

The killing occurred on the corner of 11th St and 31st Ave in Rock Island in the evening of April 1st. From the heavy police presence and outcry of the community at the scene of the killing, we can gather that City of Rock Island Police did something very bad and everyone knows about it. Later that night members of the community gathered at UnityPoint Health Trinity Rock Island hospital, with the police swarming the hospital grounds during a pandemic and telling the public to “stay away.” The narrative from the police and the media has already convicted the victim of the suspected crime for which he had a warrant but has never actually stood trial for; this is known as character assassination. The media and police have also fed into the destruction of the credibility of the bystanders, mainly Black Rock Island residents. There’s a good reason why Black people do not want police to get involved in disputes, and this situation is a very telling tale.

RIPD last killed someone on October 16th, 2020. Since then, there continues to be no interest by Mayor Mike Thoms, city council, or Rock Island County to force transparency and accountability upon RIPD. The city council has approved a police budget for 2021 with increases to the department to over $20 million total; in 2017 the budget was over $17 million. Furthermore, city council approved budget cuts for parks and recreation and public works, and has barely increased funding for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in west Rock Island, a budget that has remained essentially fixed for the last four years. Additionally, nothing is being done about the now barren site on 11th St where the Walmart was supposed to be, and as such the area remains a food desert bereft of economic opportunity for its residents. Why do we allow the continued expansion of the police but austerity economics for everyone else, all the while expecting less crime?

Numerous studies have shown that body cameras, bias training, and more diverse hiring have not translated to less people being killed by police: the number of police shootings has remained essentially unchanged since Michael Brown was murdered in Ferguson, MO in 2014. We demand massive budget cuts of the RIPD with those funds being used to invest in mental health services, public housing, job creation, public recreation, infrastructure, etc. We demand particular investment into Black, Brown and Indigenous communities in Rock Island, especially in the neglected and overpoliced area of west Rock Island where institutional racism keeps thousands in poverty. We demand the city provide funding to the west Rock Island community to develop the former Walmart site to ensure food security and job creation. We demand full accountability and transparency from RIPD, City of Rock Island, and Rock Island County in the investigation of this killing.

In solidarity,
Quad Cities Democratic Socialists of America

Quad Cities DSA