Do you or somebody you know think that the movement to “abolish the police” is unrealistic? It might be because you haven’t taken the time to understand what it means, the reasons for it, and why it actually makes a lot of sense.
Abolishing the police isn’t about establishing some kind of free-for-all utopia where everybody polices themselves and you just hope that nobody decides to police themselves into robbing you or killing you.
It’s about recognizing that we have taken almost every single one of our country’s most pressing social issues and handed them over to the police to fix with guns and handcuffs and charges and prison.
Our cities face a housing crisis. So instead of figuring out a way to provide affordable housing, which seriously shouldn’t be that complicated for the richest country in the world to figure out, we criminalize homelessness and send in the police to make arrests.
Drugs are destroying people’s lives in this country. So instead of providing access to treatment and recovery support and helping people escape addiction, we criminalize and send the police. Unless they’re white… in that case, they need treatment and recovery.
Our public education system is failing communities of color and students in poverty. So instead of funding schools better, paying teachers more, and reducing classroom size, we send the police to patrol public school entryways and hallways and funnel kids into juvie.
We live in a country where millions of *hard working* people don’t make a living wage and thus resort to desperate measures to feed their families. But instead of addressing rampant wealth inequalities and fixing the issues that cause them, we send the police.
We live in a country where 1 mistake could get you branded as a felon & permanently relegated to an underclass where you can’t find work, can’t vote, & where police control every aspect of your life & if you mess up even once by, say, forgetting to “call in” you go back to jail.
Abolishing the police is about recognizing that if we took away from the police every single public issue that they should have never been given to fix in the first place, the police would literally be redundant because we’ve turned them into “social workers” with guns.
It’s about recognizing that we can’t imagine a world where we actually take care of our social ills instead of policing them and that it’s time for this to change.
It’s about recognizing that we’ve used the police as a cover for rampant racial and economic inequalities that our country is unwilling to fix and that the ones who have paid the price for this most dearly are black people, whose communities are policed into oblivion.
It’s about recognizing that policing in this country as we know it must end because it’s wrong and unjust and untenable in a free society. It’s about recognizing that this country needs to stop hiding behind the police and finally take action to fix our social ills.
It’s not about establishing some kind of unrealistic utopia where everybody just magically gets along. A just and free society will still have people who break the law, who kill, who steal. But a just and free society should also know how to respond to these problems proactively and restoratively, instead of just policing them.
Abolishing the police is about recognizing that every single effort at police reform has only ever resulted in reinventing the same oppressions all over again. It’s about recognizing that we need to fundamentally undo the mess we’ve created and build new practices, new policies, and new systems.
And finally, abolishing the police is NOT about hating cops. Any police officer whose taken time to honestly & critically reflect upon his own frustrations with his own job *knows* that this country expects police to be social workers with guns and *that this is wrong.*
Abolition works under the premise that we don’t need police to keep us safe. We need *other things* to keep us safe. People raise an eyebrow at this idea. But consider that violent crime overwhelmingly afflicts poor communities, not wealthy. This is because most people don’t resort to violence if their needs are actually met.
“But what about domestic violence?” – “What about random acts of violent crime?” An extensive body of knowledge already exists showing that police are actually not the most effective response to domestic violence or any type of violent crime! It’s time we leaned into this body of knowledge to develop strategies that we know are more effective.
Most importantly, police abolition is fundamentally different than police reform. Police reform has largely failed because it tries to tweak and change a corrupt system. Abolition is about working to dismantle the police state and replace it with new systems that rely upon better practices. That doesn’t mean it should happen overnight. But it *is* something we should work towards achieving.
Finally, abolition doesn’t work if you just get rid of police. Abolition is fundamentally about building and creating *new* systems that we *know* are more effective at keeping our communities safe but which the U.S. has been unwilling to invest in.
You don’t have to agree with #AbolishThePolice but at least give it enough respect to understand what it means. And if you do support abolishing the police, educate yourself on why this is reasonable and what that could look like so you can represent the movement well.
I’d suggest starting with this book by Alex Vitale, The End of Policing. It’s worth a read.
Or listen to this interview with Mariame Kaba, who is at the forefront of abolitionist thought.
Here’s an article with links to abolitionist resources that is another entryway to understanding the conversations taking place.
And more info, from the Marshall Project.
And a resource guide with tons of links to help you do your own research.
Re-posted with permission.
Bridget Eileen Rivera is a writer, speaker, and educator completing her doctoral studies in sociology. She engages in public advocacy related to faith, gender, and sexuality, challenging the church to do better in its inclusion of LGBTQ people. Her first book, Heavy Burdens (Brazos Press, expected 2021), unpacks the legacy of LGBTQ discrimination in the church, helping Christians to better understand the experiences of LGBTQ people within Christianity and guiding readers to consider the tough questions necessary in charting a new path for the church.
As a Christian born and raised in the homeschool evangelical community, Bridget loves the church deeply and hopes to see it become a place where every member of the family of God can truly thrive. She runs a popular blog at www.meditationsofatravelingnun.com, where she engages issues touching faith, gender, and sexuality. You can learn more about Bridget’s personal journey navigating faith, gender, and sexuality on her blog or follow her on Twitter @TravelingNun.
DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.