The murder of George Floyd was a major breaking point in American culture. Police injustice and brutality has been around for decades and centuries, but 2020 has served as a tipping point. The country witnessed a horrific manifestation of all that is wrong with our police force with no way to bury or obfuscate what really happened: George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight by a police officer.
Even months after Floyd’s death, police brutality reigns and sympathy for white supremacy is amplified under the “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” slogans.
What should have been a wakeup call for all police to heed went unheard. In spite of daily protests, law enforcement officers continue to resort to inhumane and brutal actions to enforce the law and continue to murder innocents. Meanwhile, they either passively ignore or actively protect fascists who counter-protest BLM.
It’s clear that the police force doesn’t want to fix itself, so we have to force change. To do this, we need to identify the problem.
Law enforcement as it exists now primarily serves to protect capital over human lives. It enables and encourages brutal behavior by establishing a mindset among officers that citizens are subjects to be ruled over, not individuals. This is accomplished by, among other factors:
- broken windows policing
- racial discrimination
- the procurement of military equipment
- the normalization of police responding to inappropriate situations
- the refusal to effectively challenge or persecute fascism
Even officers with noble intentions of serving and protecting their community can easily adapt to this broken system and adopt brutal behavior. Humans are affected by their environments more than most give credit for. It’s all but a matter of time before the good cop can become jaded and cynical, falling in line with their fellow officers as they launch rubber bullets and tear gas into peaceful protests.
People are capable of taking care of themselves and doing great things IF they’re given the means to do so. Right now, the people don’t have the means while the police have all the power.
We cannot have good cops in a racist system. We can’t take care of our own if we’re struggling to survive. We can’t live a humane life if we’re worried whether or not the next interaction with the police is the one where something goes terribly wrong. This cannot stand any longer.
The fundamental problem is that our police institutions are so broken and far gone that the only way to fix it is to get rid of the old system and start over.
This is why we need to abolish the police, if not in principle then as it currently exists.
This realization led to the creation of Ten Demands for Justice, which envisions a world without the need for a centralized police force or prisons. It also lays out a roadmap for how to get there. Incorporating feedback from abolitionists and prominent figures in the Black community, the following demands are being made regarding our police institutions and the criminal justice system:
- Defund the police and reallocate resources to impacted communities
- Demilitarize the police
- Eliminate discriminatory policing, prosecution, and sentencing
- Institute complete law enforcement transparency and accountability
- Independently investigate all police crimes and abuses of power
- Install community representation, oversight, and safety measures
- End strategic counter-protest violence
- Apologize and provide reparations
- End the war on drugs
- End carceral punishment
For more information about what’s entailed with these demands, visit TenForJustice.com
With that said, there are some minor counter points some may have for #TenForJustice.
The first is that, in the long run, a total abolishment of the police may not be desirable. There are still anarchists who believe that we need some form of “police” force, even if it looks very different from what we have now. Ideally, we’d have a society where we learn to cooperate and provide for one another, leaving no need for a police force. Until that happens, we can much more easily adopt principles of community outreach and community policing, leaving behind the need for a militarized police force.
Additionally, reparations is a nuanced topic. What exactly does reparations for slavery, colonialism, and other grave injustices look like? Should we even focus on reparations in light of our broken political institutions and how little faith we have that they’d do the right thing? Is it wrong to put a sort of “price tag” on answering for slavery? Is it more effective to double down and focus on removing the core rot that’s enslaving and killing all of us? Should we simply ensure that we will never do anything again that would justify having a conversation about reparations as we build a system that works for the people?
These are all questions that require a nuanced and sincere discourse. Right now, America at large isn’t in a spot to have a healthy discussion.
Nevertheless, these are only small critiques in the grand scheme of things given the current state of American society, our police force, our prison industrial complex, and criminal justice system as a whole. There is virtually no argument one can give out of charity that can justify how these institutions function today.
It’s also clear that attempts to reform the police in our current political climate will only work to further serve the interests of the state and of corporations at the expense of civilians. While some police forces across the country have been partially defunded, we’re only getting breadcrumbs — Seattle initially talked about a 50% budget reduction and it ended up slashing a meager 1%.
We cannot allow this fundamentally flawed system to continue.
#TenForJustice is a step in the right direction of building a more just and egalitarian society.