The concept of Policing came about in the 17th century—unsurprisingly—around the same time as Capitalism. Even way back then, We, The People, sensed this was probably a shit idea.
Hence, Peel’s most often quoted principle that ‘The police are the public and the public are the police.’”
And this is where it all gets a bit sticky, because you can’t really talk about what’s happening in the States right now without talking about the tangled web of thorns that is Policing and Prisons, Capitalism, and White Supremacy.
But let’s take a step back and return to the question that probably brought you here:
I’m still there some days.
- By MARCH 2020, that same count was on 228 civilians killed by police officers in the U.S., and is currently being reported as 425 humans killed by cops so far this year. (source)
- At least 40% of police officer families in America experience domestic violence. (source)
- In 2019, black Americans in the US were close to three times more likely to die from police encounters than white Americans. Black Americans were also nearly one-and-a-half times more likely to be unarmed before their death.In 2019, 24%of all police killings were of black Americans when just 13 percent of the U.S. population is black – an 11-point discrepancy. (source)
- Cops in America are indicted (aka formally accused or charged with a crime) in less than 1% of the killings of human beings, but the indictment rate for Citizens is 90%. (source)
- In 2019, within the 485m² (1,255 km²) metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, police killed a record number of 1,814 people. In at least half of the 48 police killings analyzed by The New York Times, the deceased were shot in the back at least once, according to autopsy reports, immediately raising questions about the imminent threat required to justify such killings. (source)
- Back in 2016, it was estimated that in Venezuela, a police officer kills a person every 1.5 hours. (source)
- In South Africa it’s estimated that police officers killed at least 436 people between 2017/8. (source)
- In Nigeria, it’s estimated that police officers killed at least 841 people in 2018. (source)
- In Bangladesh and Pakistan in Asia, police officers killed over 1,000 people between 2017/8, with more Pakistanis dying in incidents described by law enforcement agencies as “encounters” than in gun violence or in suicide attacks in 2017. (source, source)
But, remember that
- “At times their fellow officers use more force than necessary when making an arrest,”
- “It is not unusual for officers to ignore improper conduct by their fellow officers,” and
- “Community-oriented policing reduces or has no impact upon the potential for police abuse.”
“In addition, the survey finds race to be a divisive issue for American police. In particular, black and nonblack officers had significantly different views about the effect of a citizen’s race and socioeconomic status on the likelihood of police abuse of authority and about the effect of community policing on the potential for abuse.”
If there’s a voice in your head right now mumbling something incoherent about how “the real problem isn’t the police though… it’s the system… it’s the minimum wage… it’s the ideologies… it’s the Trump supporters…. It’s just people from difficult backgrounds being given too much power…”
You are right.
The “real problem” is probably the industrial/capitalist system in which laws are made to protect property, not people, and criminality is a socially constructed, slavery-based paradigm designed to protect the interests of the ruling class.
But it is however important to understand that the ever increasingly socially repressive laws the police force are designed to enforce have very little to do with morality, or the public interest, or your personal safety.
Ask yourself: if America’s police force is there to serve and protect the public, why was it so difficult for them to prosecute millionaire sex predator Jeffrey Epstein, but so (very nearly, and for so very long) easy for them to get away with murdering an unarmed man (men, women, children, people…) in plain sight?
“Since 2014, 23 prisons [in the Netherlands] have been shut, turning into temporary asylum centres, housing and hotels. The country has Europe’s third-lowest incarceration rate, at 54.4 per 100,000 inhabitants. According to the justice ministry’s WODC Research and Documentation Centre, the number of prison sentences imposed fell from 42,000 in 2008 to 31,000 in 2018 – along with a two-thirds drop in jail terms for young offenders. Registered crimes plummeted by 40% in the same period, to 785,000 in 2018.”
You’ve heard of the rule of expectations, right?
How people tend to behave and make decisions based on how you expect them to behave and make decisions?
Some of you might have heard something similar, along the lines of “expectations are preconceived resentments.”
Whichever way you choose to reconcile this idea for yourself, it’s a nice one to chew on if you’re serious about understanding why Policing Should Not Be Necessary. Let me know what comes up for you in the comments.
“In sociology, dynamic density refers to the combination of two things: population density and the amount of social interaction within that population. Émile Durkheim used the term to explain why societies transition from simple to more complex forms, specifically in terms of the division of labor within that society.
He suggested that it required both an increase in population and an increase in the frequency of social interaction to form more specialised occupations, which then leads to a new type of society.
People in this new type of society are less independent and more reliant on each other and therefore develop what he called organic solidarity, where people no longer are bound by the same morality and sense of purpose.
Critics suggest that it is not a testable hypothesis, and nor does it follow logically that dynamic density would cause this new type of solidarity, supposing it actually existed.”
While he was spot on about us getting too big to be united by the same “morality and sense of purpose”, Durkheim’s prediction around that resulting in an increased ability to live and work together with respectful deference to each other’s beliefs, preferences, habits and behaviours, seems to have been a little optimistic.
Instead, we now live in a system where we have to fight tooth and nail to repeal the archaically repressive laws our police force are trained to enforce (using excessive force), while billions are being spent fighting battles for basic human rights to be recognized by law.
And which apparatus is the first line of defence for those who’d like to keep things this way?
“Remember that criminality defined and enforced by a violently racist/capitalist/settler colonial empire is an inherently oppressive political construct. Legality has nothing to do with morality, it has to do with power [and control]. Instead of billions being invested into policing/carceral apparatus, it should go into our communities (free housing, free healthcare, free mental healthcare, free accessible transit, education, job creation!). Policing is a violent, anti-black, settler institution that originated as slave patrols. Their primary mandate is to protect property and to militarily enforce white supremacist capitalism. They are doing their jobs as they are trained and paid to do. You can’t fix what isn’t broken – and that’s why we fight for police and prison abolition.” –
@vrye (emphasis and parenthesis my own)
But… but… what will we do with all the rapists and the murderers!?
And… what about after that?
Well, that brings us right back to my least favourite C-word.
“Asking the question ‘what are alternatives to policing?’
is to ask the question ‘what are alternatives to capitalism?’”
– Luis Fernandez,
Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northern Arizona University
“Most of our communities already exist without policing. Most of our human interactions are already outside of the purview of police officers. Most of the social relationships between people do not require police intervention.”
Suffice it to say: in an emergency, I would call every neighbour on my street—and/or my Great Uncle who lives in Canada—before I resort to calling the same Police Service I was once brainwashed enough to believe existed solely there to protect me.
So again we ask, why are protestors fed up enough with this gross incompetence and flagrant abuse of power of this institution to be calling for the abolition of the whole thing?
Because they are not incompetent.
We can’t ‘fix’ policing, because policing is successfully doing exactly what it was designed to do:
Protect capitalist interests.
Protect rich white men in power.
Exploit labour for minimum wage and then wonder why that same labour loots a Target at the first opportunity.
(Or was that the white supremacists using these protests to live out their purge fantasies? Whichever camp you prefer to counter-productively “blame”, the causes of their anger are the same.)
If #ACAB makes you uncomfortable, it might time to check your attachment levels RE: your things.
In other words: it’s time for all of us to ask ourselves just how much we’re willing to sacrifice to right the systemic wrongs we say we’re now committed to addressing.
Are you really ready to take a look at your relationship with capitalism?
In a landmark ruling for the concept of restorative justice in 1995, Canada addressed systemic discrimination in their policing and prison systems.
“A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles: … (e) all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders”.
The practice enabling this legislation emphasises, mediation, conversation, and reconciliation, instead of punishment, and goes by many names: restorative justice; peacemaking circles; rehabilitation and reintegration; non-hierarchical dialogue between community, victim, and offender…
The correlation between restorative justice in indigenous communities and repressive law in industrialized, capitalist societies, is not easily ignored.
“the roles played by poverty, marginalization, and systemic discrimination in the overrepresentation of Indigenous people. Significantly, the Supreme Court of Canada’s judgment supported the idea – contrary to the view of the British Columbia trial court judge – that Indigenous people in urban areas, as well as in reserve communities and more remote and isolated areas, should be considered under s. 718.2(e).”
In legally recognizing restorative justice, Canada has begun to pave the way for all of us – including those of us living in deeply entrenched capitalist societies – to recognize the more humane and community-centric idea that:
“crime is a violation of one person by another, rather than an act against the state, and that it is harmful to both personal relationships and to communities. The process takes the holistic context of an offence into consideration, including moral, social, economic, political, and religious considerations.”
At this point, the “yeah, that sounds nice and all, but it’s just sooo unrealistic…*” argument might be coming into your mind.
And let’s talk about being unrealistic*, for a moment.
What’s unrealistic is demanding change without discomfort.
What’s unrealistic is expecting a revolution without a willingness to sacrifice.
What’s unrealistic is asking people to end centuries of systematic exploitation, violence, and murder using “peaceful protest.”
What’s unrealistic is calling a silent protest “unpatriotic” when a man takes a knee during a little sing-song session, and then condemning people for burning shit down to the ground one year later when nothing’s changed.
What’s unrealistic is heartwarming propaganda in mainstream media of cops kneeling down next to protestors for a photo opportunity, an hour before dowsing those same people in tear gas.
What’s unrealistic is looking at cops and not seeing the bastard brainchild of a white supremacist, capitalist ideology, sustained to protect only products, property and the billionaires who own both of the above; and not, to protect, in any way shape or form, “the people.”
What’s less unrealistic—as Canada, the Netherlands and communities around the world are fighting through the complexity to prove to us—is a world in which we all choose to put people before property and profit, and abolish the police and prison systems in favour of a more humane, community-centric approach to crime and rehabilitation.
Opinions expressed are all, of course, entirely my own and in no way representative of anybody else’s.
If, after reading this, #ACAB, FTP, 1312, or ‘Fuck 12′ still makes you feel uncomfortable, I’m looking forward to engaging with you in the comments.