Why Police Abolition and Not Police Reform?
First, what is Policing?
Policing is a social relationship, a set of practices empowered by the state to enforce law and social control through the use of violence. The roots of policing in the United States are linked to the slave patrols and the enforcement of Jim Crow. Police forces keep new immigrants compliant and quell unrest amongst the poor and working classes. Police target poor people, people of color, immigrants, and others who do not conform to maintain “order” and to protect private property. Per Critical Resistance, “The choices policing requires about which people to target, what to target them for, and when to arrest a book them play a major role in who ultimately gets imprisoned." Therefore, policing & the U.S. carceral system are intimately connected.
Critical Resistance “Abolish Policing”:
Correia & Wall, Police: A Field Guide, Verso 2018.
What is Abolition?
Abolition is the act of abolishing a system, practice, or institution, and the conditions and relations that make these possible. Slavery was abolished. Prisons and the carceral system have been a target of abolitionists for years. We seek to abolish police & policing.
Why Abolition Rather Than Reform?
Police reform is not what you think it is. Reform doesn't seek to "fix" police. Reform sees the problem with police always as a problem a police legitimacy. Thus reform seeks to restore faith in police. This is the focus of Reform. Because of this, every reform effort in every city in the United States that has engaged in police reform has resulted in more police and larger police budges. Reform increases police budgets and puts more police in the streets.
Since the primary role of the police is fabricating and maintaining an order based on inequality, it is a fallacy to believe that police to protect and serve everyone equally. “Police departments direct their attention toward the racialized poor and away from the wealthy.” Reform does not change this unequal relationship; in fact, by investing more in the practice of policing, it doubles-down on this fundamental inequality.
Organizations like Campaign Zero & 8 Can't Wait call for "reformist" reform, thought even #8CANTWAIT admits the limits of reform on their own website: "While we stand by the idea that any political leaders truly invested in protecting black lives should adopt the #8CANTWAIT policies, we also believe the end goal for all of us should be absolute liberation from policing, and encourage visitors to the site to support the range of organizers who are making progress in employing other strategies towards abolition: defunding the police and reinvesting in community. If you are from a place where #8CANTWAIT is being considered, demand steps towards defunding and abolition."
As Alex Vitale states: “In the wake of the murders of Mike Brown and Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, we were told, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to fix it. We’re going to give the police implicit bias training. We’re going to hold some community police encounter sessions. We’re gonna buy some body cameras.’ A whole set of what we often refer to as ‘procedural reforms’ designed to make the police more professional, less biased, more transparent—and that this is going to magically fix the problem. But things did not get better. People are still being killed, and more importantly, the problem of overpolicing remains."
Police reform does not work. Decades of evidence demonstrate this.
For a World Without Police
What a World Without Cops Would Look Like:
Is Abolition the Same As Defunding?
No. Defunding the police is a phrase that recognizes police abolition is not about merely the abolition of cops in uniform. Abolition requires a transformation in the social conditions and relations that make police essential. Thus defunding police proposals are diverse, spanning a spectrum ranging from negligable ”reformist” reforms, such as body cameras, non-reformist reforms that reduce the role of police. The goal of defunding is making police unnecessary, and thus abolished.
Why Not Keep the Police and Maintain A Community Safety Department?
Policing is a social relationship, a set of logics and practices set loose by the state that fabricates and enforces social order through the use of violence. Without the abolition of the relations, such as property and private capital, and conditions, such wage labor and gender violence, that make police essential, any police, whether called police or community safety department, will serve the establish and reinforce these conditions. In other words, if we want genuine safety in our lives and communities, we won't find it in police.
"The history of policing is a history of violence against the marginalized–American police departments were originally created to dominate and criminalize communities of color and poor white workers, a job they continue doing to this day. The list has grown even longer: : LGBTQ folks, people with disabilities, activists– so many of us are attacked by cops on a daily basis."
MPD 150 FAQ:
Won't the Abolition of Police Lead to More Crime?
According to Alex Vitale, a scholar of police, “The first thing to point out is that police officers don’t do what you think they do. They spend most of their time responding to noise complaints, issuing parking and traffic citations, and dealing with other noncriminal issues. We’ve been taught to think they ‘catch the bad guys; they chase the bank robbers; they find the serial killers. But this is a big myth. The vast majority of police officers make one felony arrest a year. If they make two, they’re cop of the month." In other words, police don't solve crime and they don't deter crime. As Naomi Murakawa, a Princeton sociologist, points out, crime and crime rates are subjective and represent police behavior rather than some objective measure of deviancy.
The police rarely not prevent crime. Nor do not solve crimes. Keep in mind that “[a] world without police will still have 911. It will still have firefighters and EMTs. . . [A]cross the US, there are hundreds of programs and initiatives that ‘help’ people without police being the first point of contact."
As MPD 150 states, police abolition “is not about snapping our fingers and instantly defunding every department in the world.”
Instead, it is a “gradual process of strategically reallocating resources, funding, and responsibility away from police and toward community-based models of safety, support, and prevention. The folks who respond to crises in our community should be the people who are best-equipped to deal with those crises. Rather than strangers armed with guns, who very likely do not live in the neighborhoods they’re patrolling, we want to create space for more mental health service providers, social workers, victim/survivor advocates, religious leaders, neighbors and friends– all of the people who really make up the fabric of a community– to look out for one another.”
Police, in other words, don't guarantee our safety.