Despite all the debate over whether police brutality is as big a problem as the black community says it is, one thing most people agree on is we need police — some of us just want them to do better. But Black Lives Matter Founder Alicia Garza isn’t so sure we need law enforcement as we know it today at all.
Speaking to Complex about the protests that have ensued in Charlotte in the days since Keith Scott was killed, Garza spoke on the need for people to focus less on the protests and riots and more on the issues that led to them. “When people are systematically denied their right to adequate housing, adequate schools, to adequate food, to dignity—this is a response and a reaction that we should absolutely expect,” she shared. And while eliminating those problems could ultimately lead to a reduction in violence of all kinds throughout various communities, on the specific issue of police brutality, Garza proposed this solution:
“Ultimately, policing in and of itself is problematic. I know that in this country we give a lot of veneration to police. In the ethos of this country, police can do no wrong. And if and when police do wrong, it’s a case of individual bad apples, as opposed to a corroded and corrupt system… Quite frankly, many of our [Black Lives Matter] members are continuing to investigate what it would mean to have police-free communities. I think what we’ve continued to see over time is that no moral appeal is actually stopping the deaths of black people, whether they be armed or unarmed.”
Though radical, Garza’s proposal isn’t completely novel or as far-fetched as it may seem on first listen. In fact, in December 2014, Rolling Stone put forth “6 Ideas for a Cop-Free World,” which included unarmed mediation and intervention teams to patrol neighborhoods, which currently exists in cities like Detroit and L.A.; decriminalization of almost every crime (along with economic and community programs); restorative justice, which means “spaces are created where accountability is understood as a community issue and the entire community, along with the so-called perpetrator and the victim of a given offense, try to restore and even transform everyone in the process;” direct democracy at a community level; community patrols; and mental health care.
Last November, The Takeaway also shared insight from a community experiment taking place in Liberty City, a predominantly black neighborhood in Miami “with a long history of policing issues,” on what society would look like without police.
George Ciccariello Maher, an associate professor of politics at Drexel University, concluded in an interview with WNYC:
“What’s clear is that a society without police would look radically different from what we have today, in part because it simply would not be the kind of unequal society—a society divided by great socioeconomic disparity and by racism—that we live in today. The police emerge precisely to deal with and to control those kinds of divisions in society.”
In other words, get rid of the disparities that lead to crime and you no longer have a need for men and women to police one another. Do you think American society could ever reach that point?