How do we move from protest to policy in #DefundingThePolice?

Jun 08

The rise in the prison population and police budgets are the policy outcomes of the Southern Strategy that was initiated by the Republicans in the late 1960’s through the War on Drugs. It was accelerated by the Democrats by the 1994 crime bill. A general observation that can be made by studying a variety of data on crime statistics, incarceration and policing is that the current approach to public safety is ineffective at keeping people safe.

The only utility of the current regime of public safety and corrections is:

  • Decimation of Black civil society
  • Targeted use of violence against those who challenge the current social order – as a form of social control against poor people and people of color
  • Use as political issue used to garner the support of white people against policy demands that empower Black people

If we are going to defund police budgets and eventually abolish police departments throughout the United States, the most important consideration is the development of an alternative vision and proposed infrastructure for community safety.

It is not enough just to demand that police budgets are defunded.

It is not enough to suggest that merely investing in social programs will be enough to address the violence in places like Baltimore.

There needs to be viable alternatives that have the institutional infrastructure to put in place community controlled measures of public safety.

This infrastructure could/should include things like:

  • Violence interrupters – who are credible messengers who can diffuse conflicts in context where traditional law enforcement may not be able to
  • Networks of community mediators who can help resolve deep conflicts that are ill-served in traditional courtroom settings
  • Community based supports that address the traumas that play a big role in perpetuating the violence in our communities

Creating an alternative infrastructure should be buttressed by an over-arching public policy strategy that addresses the material conditions of our communities.

Any funding that is taken from the police department should be reinvested in an alternative community safety infrastructure.

While this is happening, we need to be able to demonstrate to our community that this alternative infrastructure will meet the needs of the elements of our community that struggle most with being safe in their neighborhoods. This will lay the groundwork for a more robust demand for abolishing the police.

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