Systemic oppression and exploitation
In a capitalist society, police work to reinforce the systemic oppression and exploitation of the working class, particularly communities of colour, who have historically been targeted and criminalised. Abolishing police is a necessary step in the struggle for a classless society. The current system of policing perpetuates harm and reinforces the power dynamics of the capitalist system. By eliminating police, however, we can also dismantle the institutions that uphold oppression and exploitation and create new systems of safety and conflict resolution based on principles of social and economic justice.
Only by ending the systemic inequality of the capitalist system and creating a society that prioritises the wellbeing and autonomy of all its members can we achieve true safety and security. Police cannot provide that. Police, as they exist today, cannot be reformed to serve this goal. Instead, we must envision and create alternative forms of community-led conflict resolution, harm reduction, and support services.
The struggle for police abolition is a fundamental aspect of the larger struggle for a society that prioritises human need over profit and property interests. A society without police is one in which the working class holds real power and has the ability to shape the conditions of their own lives. The fight for police abolition is a fight for a better world.
Despite widespread calls for police reform in the wake of the recent appalling events in the United States and the United Kingdom, the effectiveness of such measures continually comes into question as numerous studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that they have had little to no impact on reducing police brutality or improving community relations. Many experts point to the failure of past reform efforts, such as community policing programs and diversity training, as evidence that systemic change within police departments is unlikely to bring about meaningful progress. Additionally, the persistent resistance from police unions and a lack of political will to address deeper systemic issues have proven to be significant obstacles in implementing and enforcing reforms. Police don’t work; they just make things worse.
Recent incidents of police violence against communities of colour, despite the presence of body cameras and other accountability measures, further highlight the limitations of reform efforts. Given these realities, it is clear police reform alone will not solve the complex and deeply ingrained problems within law enforcement. It is imperative that a more comprehensive approach, including a rethinking of the role and function of police in society, be taken to address these issues and bring about change.
Are we really supposed to believe those officers guilty of acts of racism, misogyny, murder, and rape are just a few rotten apples in the orchard? They are just parts of an institution, the institution of policing. For every act of violence or murder caught on a body camera, thousands go unreported or deleted, blamed on a body camera fault or a new piece of equipment. The victim becomes a statistic and then enters the legal system. As Derecka Purnell writes in her 2021 book, Becoming Abolitionists, on the murder of George Floyd:
“I often wonder, What if the cop had kneeled on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty six seconds instead of nine minutes? Floyd would have lived to be arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned for allegedly attempting to use a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill. Is that Justice?”Derecka Purnell
Purnell is correct, but I also wonder what of those police, Chauvin crushing the life out of Floyd, the others who stood by watching, ignoring the violence in front of them. Floyd lives, and they continue to protect and serve. That Floyd was murdered, four dangerous police officers were taken off the streets. How can you reform anything that creates these results?
Can police be reformed?
Police reform may seem a right step, but it is far from a solution to the ongoing problems within law enforcement. A more comprehensive and systemic approach is necessary to address the root causes of police brutality and improve community relations. In a classless society, there is no need for institutions of social control and repression, such as police. Instead, the community would have the means to address harm and conflicts in a way that prioritises the happiness and autonomy of all members.
The focus of this alternative system would be on addressing the root causes of harm, such as poverty and inequality, through collective ownership of the means of production and distribution. Economic programs aimed at addressing poverty and inequality, combined with accessible and culturally competent mental health and social support services, would help to prevent harm before it occurs.
Community-led forms of conflict resolution and restorative justice would provide a means for addressing harm not rooted in systemic oppression and exploitation. These programs could involve facilitated discussions between those affected by harm, including victims, witnesses, and those who caused harm, with the goal of repairing relationships and restoring a sense of community. The elimination of police and the creation of alternative systems necessitate a significant overhaul of society and the dismantling of the capitalist system.
Although this is a long-term project, it is essential for realising a world where everyone is prioritised. The ongoing fight for police abolition is a crucial aspect of the broader struggle for a classless society and a more equitable world. By recognising and addressing the root causes of harm and inequality, we can create a society that prioritises human needs over profit and property interests, to provides a foundation for true safety and security for all.
To do nothing leaves police to continue their reign of terror against people of colour, against women, and against all groups of the oppressed. Leaving police with the responsibility to police themselves is a greater crime than doing nothing. The apple is not rotten; the orchard itself is diseased; we must dig it up at the roots and plant anew.
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