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GRIID Class – The Function of Policing in the US and how we can work towards a world Without Police: Part VII

March 3, 2022

For week #7, we finished our conversation on the Movement for Black Lives Defund the Police Toolkit, which was created in 2020, while millions across the country and the world were engaged in an uprising against more police murders of Black people and the carceral state in general.

We covered pages 8 – 26 from the Defund the Police Toolkit, which included things to be concerned about, steps to take, common demands that communities were making across the country, and a look a lots of alternatives to policing. On page 13, the question is asked, what do we want to fund instead of policing. Part of that narrative reads: 

We know, and the research shows, that what actually brings peace and safety is safe, accessible, quality, and stable housing, well-funded public schools and other public institutions like libraries and cultural centers, accessible and quality health care for all, including community-based, non-coercive mental health services, and ending the criminalization of unmet mental health needs and drug use. Additionally, many communities are already relying on non-police intervention and violence prevention programs that we know to be both effective and highly under-resourced compared to police. 

There was also a lively discussion around the need to practice radical imagination when it came to what we could fund instead of policing and why it is so important to allow ourselves the space to truly imagine. 

Then on page 18 – 20, we discussed what the toolkit referred to as tips for how to deal with pushbacks, threats and challenges to defunding the police. This was also a vitally important conversation, as there are people in power, pro-police groups and even liberal and progressive sectors that will want to convince us that defunding police departments is a bad idea or they will want to water down the message to one of a reformist position. 

The other reading we discussed was an excellent document from the group Interrupting Criminalization. The document is entitled, Cops Don’t Stop Violence, which deconstructs the whole notion of crime, how crime data is misused to serve policing interests and how police consistently engage in their own crimes against people they stop, detain and arrest.

The report is well researched and full of data, that is presented in a very readable fashion. The report concludes with the following statement: 

It’s time to recognize that decades of pouring more money, resources, and legitimacy into policing in an effort to increase safety have failed — because policing is functioning as it is intended to: to contain, control, and criminalize Black and Brown communities rather than to prevent and reduce violence. It’s time to invest in meeting community needs and building non-police community safety strategies. It’s time to invest in just recovery. 

For week #8, we will be reading parts of the amazing book written by Angela Davis, entitled, Are Prisons Obsolete? Since policing is connected to the larger Prison Industrial Complex, it is important for us to continue to investigate the function of prisons through an abolitionist lens. 

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