Yes, Some of Us Actually Want to Abolish/Defund the Police
Abolish the police. Defund the police. These are phrases that have been on the lips of many activists as we’ve seen Black Lives Matter protests hit the streets this month. I have seen a lot of pundits say that “they don’t really mean ‘abolish the police’ they just mean reform” and while I’m sure that is true in some circles, it needs to be said that many of us absolutely mean abolish the police.
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) June 10, 2020
Police abolishment is something that makes a lot of people uncomfortable because for them the police are symbolic of order. Symbolic of protection. Yet that is not how many people within urban Black and Brown communities view the cops. Hell, I know white people in rural society who are quick to call cops pigs. This is because embedded within the modern system of policing is a lack of accountability. A lack of accountability from those higher up and a sense of solidarity that ignores the power that the average police officer has over their citizens.
When I see the police come onto the subway I am more afraid of what they might do to someone than a crime. I am afraid they will act out of fear and not attempt to defuse the situation. When in NYC they started being so vigilant about fare evasion it filled me with rage. Where were they most present about this issue? Black and Brown working-class and poor areas. Places where those fines and the jail times that come with not paying them make all the difference. I’ve seen white people fare evade all the time, but when they do the police are nowhere to be found. It is that kind of targeted policing that makes even riding the train genuinely stressful.
As for the question of what will happen to society if we don’t have the police, I don’t fully know what that will look like, because it hasn’t been done, but I also feel it is worth finding out. The thing that stops me from committing crimes is not because of jail, it is because I don’t want to hurt people. And the police have hurt people.
The infuriating aspect of New York police boss Mike O’Meara’s emotional tirade about how the NYPD was being treated completely lacked any acknowledgment of the things the NYPD has done to harm people: “Stop treating us like animals and thugs and start treating us with some respect … Our legislators abandoned us. The press is vilifying us. It’s disgusting.”
Yet you have created entire policies about policing that depend on viewing people like thugs, vilifying victims of police brutality, and not showing respect to people.
When I was a child the shooting of 23-year-old Amadou Diallo occurred. Diallo was a young immigrant from Guinea who was slaughtered outside his own apartment by four plainclothes officers who thought he was a suspect from another case. Diallo was unarmed, but because one of the officers thought Diallo had a gun, all four cops fired what ended up being 41 rounds. 19 hit Diallo, killing him. He had no weapon. Committed no crime. Yet because one man thought he had a gun (it was just a wallet) this young man was dead.
The police stood by these officers and when the case finally went to trial in Albany (having won a motion to relocate) the officers were acquitted. One of them even became a sergeant in 2015, a decision that was “in accordance to police policy, which is not subject to review by top department officials.”
If you want to understand police and prison abolition/defunding outside of the fearful language then I would recommend reading the works of activists/lawyers like Josie Duffy Rice who has made this her life’s work. Read the books of activists from the Civil Rights Era and why they are asking for this.
“There is an unbroken line of police violence in the United States that takes us all the way back to the days of slavery, the aftermath of slavery, the development of the Ku Klux Klan. There is so much history of this racist violence that simply to bring one person to justice is not going to disturb the whole racist edifice.” (Angela Davis)
Also, I would just offer this as food for thought. Everyone wants activists who are asking to defund the police and abolish prisons/the police to have these perfect answers to the issues of rape, murder, sexual assault, etc. when the police and prison have proven time and time again to be deeply, systematically imperfect. Why are we putting so much collective faith in a system that is familiar, but doesn’t work, and not putting any collective faith into trying to build something with the potential to be better?
For those who wonder about how this ideology might hurt us in the election, I’d remind you that no one on the ticket is talking about abolishment or defunding, they are talking about reform. And when, for the love of whatever power you want to call to, will we stop worrying about what the Right thinks? They don’t give a fuck. The Democrats play into their hands all time with their kente cloth kneeling bullshit, but activists, who are trying to undo the ingrained racist and class issues that are built directly into the modern concept of policing in America, are the ones causing the optics problems? I don’t think so.
(image: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
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