Nearly a year after the murder of Geroge Floyd, the nationwide protests that followed, and the countless other cases of black and brown bodies dying or being harmed in the hands of the police, very few reforms or other forms of justice have actually been enacted in order to hold accountability or prevent such violence from occurring in the first place.
Most recently, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, which would “ban chokeholds, carotid holds and “no-knock” search warrants at the federal level [and more]” has yet to be passed by Congress. Police reform has never been and never will be enough. For an institution built on racism and oppression, reforming it is far from the solution.
In the South, the first form of policing were slave patrols, whose main “duties included chasing and hunting escaped slaves, releasing terror on slave communities to prevent riots, and [keeping] plantation owners in check [...] The slave patrols lasted until the Civil War and eventually gave way to the Ku Klux Klan.” In the North, the first municipal police departments in the mid-1800s helped quash labor strikes and riots against the rich. For as long as they have existed in the U.S., the police have suppressed marginalized communities and enforced the status quo.
Now, despite what many may think, the police still do not “protect and serve.” The US Supreme Court has repeatedly enforced that law enforcement agencies are not required to provide protection to the public, the very same people who pay for their so-called “service.” In both the cases of DeShaney vs. Winnebago and Town of Castle Rock vs. Gonzales, the Supreme Court has ruled that police agencies are not constitutionally obligated to protect individuals, that is, police officers have a right to choose when to intervene or not. This allows for a completely biased approach that allows for racial prejudice to decide when police officers are “protecting” others (i.e. when Black and Brown bodies are present).
Besides protecting and serving the public, many believe that police officers deter or evidently, punish criminal activity. Many may also argue the classic case: that only a few cops are “bad apples”, but even so “the [very] best apples [will still] surveil, arrest, and detain millions of people every year whose primary ‘crime’ is that they are poor or homeless, or have a disability. Cops escalate violence disproportionately against people with disabilities and in mental-health crises, even the ones who call 911 for help”. Cops themselves are the very same criminals they are meant to protect us from, “the police kill more than a thousand people every year, and assault hundreds of thousands more. After excessive force, sexual misconduct is the
second-most-common complaint against cops”. After countless cries and demands of marginalized individuals who have experienced first-hand abuse from police officers, “fixing” such a system is not a solution, there is no fixing what was broken, to begin with.
If reforming police agencies is not the solution, then what is?
Very simply: abolishing what we consider to be law enforcement. How? Well, scholars and activists support different approaches, and very prominent movements (i.e Black Lives Matter) have continuously and bravely fought for opening and establishing mainstream discussion on this matter. However, what is very clear is that people should not continue to die or be mistreated in the hands of police officers, the criminal justice system, or any other forms of incarceration, like the immigration system. Abolishing the police is not, however, a means to look for something else to replace law enforcement, instead, it is an opening to reshape questions towards criminality, prevention, and rehabilitation. For example,
“If you want to know what a better response to addressing harm caused by rapists and murderers is, then it’s not like, ‘What are you going to do instead?’ It’s like, ‘What are you trying to transform?’ Are you trying to make it so people don’t murder each other again? Are you trying to make it so that this one person is incapacitated indefinitely? What is the goal of the thing? And I think if the goal of the thing is that we don’t want anybody murdered again and we don’t want anybody else to be raped, then the job ahead of us isn’t to figure out how to incapacitate somebody better. The job ahead of us is to figure out what are the conditions that lead to murder and rape.”
Defunding the police is a huge first step into actual abolition and towards answering these questions. Focusing on community-based organizations and similar options aid in establishing a system that actually helps rather than causing harm.
Alternatives to policing now:
Despite what some may believe, there are alternatives to calling 911 (something many refuse to do in the first place out of fear of the police). The information below comes from an infographic on Instagram from @whocanicall, even more information can be found at:
Calling the police on people who are in a mental health crisis can cost them their lives. Instead, call Mental Health Crisis Interventions
Instead of calling the police on an unhoused person consider calling a Shelter Hotline/Centralized Intake
Drop-in Centers are also available. Locations can be found by calling 211
Homeless/Street Outreach Teams: these are teams that will personally go into the communities to speak with people experiencing homelessness, and help them to access assistive resources and/or supplies.
National Domestic Violence Hotline;
1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233)
Strong Hearts Native Helpline; 1 (844) 762-8483
National Deaf Domestic Violence Hotline
Videophone: (855) 812-1001
Instant messenger: DeafHotline
Strong Hearts Native Helpline; 1 (844) 762-8483
National Runaway Safeline
Children of the Night
National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline
(866) 331-9474 --- Call or Text
(800) 787-3224 --- TTY