Calls to “defund the police” reverberated throughout communities across the US in the summer of 2020, when millions took to the streets to protest a brutal, unchecked, and racist system of police violence and control. Then came the backlash. Since the initial push by activists and protestors to get the public to consider alternatives to endlessly increasing police spending, a forceful chorus has pushed in the opposite direction, demanding more funding for more police who should be given more power over our lives. “Defund the police” has been criticized for being not only a “bad slogan” but a political pipe dream that fails to reckon with the messy realities of maintaining “public safety.” However, as Geo Maher argues in his latest book, A World without Police: How Strong Communities Make Cops Obsolete, America’s policing system is a demonstrably terrible way to keep people and communities safe.
Police abolition has become a national conversation since the George Floyd uprisings. Many university police chiefs are encouraging the misconception, however, that campus police are somehow different from other police forces — despite their long history of racist violence. To take just one example, a campus police officer at the University of California, Los Angeles shot and wounded a Black man he assumed was unhoused in 2003; in 2009, that same officer repeatedly used a Taser on an Iranian American student studying in the library. But police violence is not confined to these dramatic incidents. It appears in the routine, everyday functions of policing. UCLA police logs reveal, for example, that campus police stop and arrest Black and Latino people at higher rates than their white counterparts.
The organizing toolkit released Monday is an archive of the No Cop Academy campaign from 2017 to 2019, protesting a $95 million police training facility in West Garfield Park. The materials document the tactics activists used to build a powerful coalition demanding that City Hall invest in schools, mental health clinics and social services rather than pouring more money into Chicago Police.
Just past midnight on December 14, 2020, Osamah Alsaidi walked near a police cruiser on a dark city street of Paterson, New Jersey’s third-largest city just outside New York City. Shortly thereafter, that very same police car cut off Alsaidi’s path and out jumped officers Kevin Patino and Kendry Tineo-Restituyo. They immediately accosted the 19-year-old, striking him numerous times and dropping him to the ground where they continued their assault. The police report they filed described Alsaidi as “acting belligerent” and “screaming profanities.” That report would remain the only evidence of the incident until surveillance footage surfaced from a store just across from where the beating took place. That footage, vindicating Alsaidi’s claims, would ultimately go viral at the beginning of 2021.
Student movements have always raised our current conception of justice and equity. From the civil rights movement and Vietnam War protests, to the anti-apartheid movement and calls to abolish the police, student protests on college campuses have a context and history linked to substantial change in U.S. policies and practices. This is a rite of passage from which we all benefit. So, it is perplexing that Northwestern University (NU) President Morton Schapiro fails to recognize this as NU students demand a different and better sense of campus safety in their demand to abolish the police...
In a Sunday statement, Northwestern University Graduate Workers condemned the police escalation — including the pepper-spraying and shoving student protestors — at Saturday’s NU Community Not Cops protest. At least two participating NUGW members were pepper-sprayed, the group wrote, during the 20th straight day of demonstrations demanding that NU divest from law enforcement. “Last night proved once again that it is heavily armed, militarized police who create and escalate violence,” NUGW wrote.
At the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, City Hall Park lies in a cold-stone land where law and order rule. The area is defined by French Renaissance-style courthouses and municipal buildings. The NYPD’s headquarters is across the street and the Manhattan Detention Complex, colloquially referred to as “the Tombs” by many, is a short walk away. While the park provides one of the only green spaces in the concrete-scape of Lower Manhattan, it does not have a laid-back, community ambiance the way that many smaller New York parks do.
In this moment of transformative possibility, amid activists’ growing calls to defund and abolish the police, young people across the country are leading a movement to remove police officers from schools. They are demanding that city and school district leaders reallocate funding for police into services and resources for students, including counseling, social workers and restorative justice programming. The movement for police-free schools has a long history of Black youth leading this fight as a key strategy to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, a process of funneling predominately Black and Latinx students out of schools and into the juvenile legal system.
Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Capt. Jason Castleberry grabbed his shoulder radio, responding to a dispatcher from his office at Austin EMS’s Station 5, “Chip 100, chip 1, are you calling me?” “Yes, we’ve got a confirmed psych call. Are you available?” “Yes, we’ll get moving.” Castleberry helps oversee the city’s Community Health Paramedic team, abbreviated as CHP, or “chip,” and this was just the type of call I had come to the station that morning to witness. We hopped into the station’s marked SUV, and rolled. “Normally for these, I would go lights and sirens. The reason we’re not is I can tell medic 3 is already on scene,” he tells me, pointing to his monitor. The monitor also showed that mental health counselors with Integral Care’s Expanded Mobile Crisis Outreach Team (EMCOT) had been dispatched; it didn’t show police among the responders at or heading to the scene.
Philadelphia - The Philadelphia Police Department, the fourth largest in the U.S., is one of the oldest municipal police agencies, founded in 1854. Its history has been marked by patterns of police brutality, intimidation, coercion and disregard for constitutional rights. Recently, a statue of former Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo (1967-71), whose tenure is synonymous with racist police brutality, was finally removed. While welcomed, simply removing his statue changes nothing fundamental. It is only a first step. Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney had ordered the removal of the hated statue in the middle of the night on June 3, robbing activists, who for years had fought for its removal, the pleasure of taking it down themselves. Back in 2017, Philadelphia REAL Justice had launched a campaign called “Rizzo Down.”
We are calling for disruptive actions aimed at shutting down the city: Strikes, sick-outs, blockades, occupations, and spontaneous marches. We’ve watched a wave of grieving and rebellion take hold of the nation, and we say it’s about time. We seek justice for Terrence Sterling, Jeffery Price, D’Quann Young, Marquees Alston, Miriam Carey, and Ralphael Briscoe, as well as the many hundreds of Black people who have been killed by MPD, ICE, or other white men with badges and guns. We remember families separated by prison walls and by state borders. We mourn all the community members we’ve lost doing sex work, defending sacred land, crossing borders, and the rebels we’ve already lost from the Ferguson uprising.
Jaisal Noor: On June 12th, activists painted ‘defund police’ in front of Baltimore City Hall, head of a committee hearing on the Baltimore Police Departments proposed a $509 million budget. Speaker 1: The City Council is voting on a $509 million investment into police at the expense of resources that are necessary to communities. And so we want the Baltimore City Police Department to cut the police budget by $270 million and take that money and invest it in community-based solutions. Speaker 3: The process to abolition is actually a process that’s not going to happen overnight. I know that removing the police in their footprint in our city and redefining public safety is going to be a long process.
The recent protests across the country following the murder of George Floyd have elevated the demands to defund and abolish the police. This comes on the heels of the nationwide resurgence of a movement for community control of police led by the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. We speak with author and activist Max Rameau of Pan African Community Action about the role of police in the bigger picture of the evolution of human beings as protectors of private property and wealth, the pitfalls of defunding police if this dynamic is not addressed and what community control of police looks like. Max is co-author with Netfa Freeman of an upcoming book, "Community Control over Police."
The clashes between police and protesters in response to the recent police killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and others throughout the country expose the violence inherent to the U.S. system of policing. Social media has been inundated with hundreds of videos chronicling police aggression and brutality. Cities nationwide, particularly in the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C., have faced unprecedented militarization of their streets. Police have wielded weapons typically used only by special forces in overseas military campaigns, even going as far as to use a Lakota helicopter with Red Cross markings in a show of force against protesters (in violation of the Geneva Convention).
In 2018, members of the Minnesota grassroots groups Reclaim the Block and Black Visions Collective dropped a banner at Minneapolis City Hall. On it were two lists: on the left, three budget items on the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) budget, totaling $9 million. The right side was significantly longer, listing programs and organizations where the city could invest those $9 million to promote community safety — like domestic violence programs, housing and harm reduction. We were calling on the city to move our community’s dollars out of the violent, untrustworthy MPD, and into programs that actually keep us safe. That year, the city council moved $1 million from MPD’s budget into violence prevention — a drop in the bucket of the MPD’s $180 million budget, but a significant investment for underfunded anti-violence work.