Trying to list all the names of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) people, especially Black people, who have been brutally harmed by police in America would take years- and we’d never get an exact number. We need more than police reform to solve this issue.
Originally, in the South, the police were created to enforce enslavement on Black people by enforcing segregation and ensuring the disenfranchisement of freed enslaved persons. Fast forward to the late 1800s and the police are a mechanism for preserving political party bosses’ reign over major cities; they took bribes to allow illegal activities of their sponsors or actively harassed opponents of their affiliated political party.
In modern times, the police are still ineffective, causing more harm than good by murdering Black people nearly every day. After centuries of reform, the police system in America still proves ineffective and dangerous. Reform doesn’t work.
In fact, according to The Guardian, in 2015 the city of Minneapolis implemented reforms, specifically training on “implicit bias, mindfulness, de-escalation, and crisis intervention.” They also spent over 4 million dollars on a project that used “data collection, social psychology and police community dialogues to repair and strengthen the frayed relationship between cops and communities”.
StarTribune has been keeping a database of all the police-involved deaths in Minnesota since 2000. Overall, they count 208 lives lost, about 65 of which occurred after 2015 when those reforms were implemented. Keep in mind, these are only the stories the StarTribune was able to collect.
So, if reform doesn’t work, what will? To start, police organizations in America need to be defunded. This means that we would drastically decrease the amount of money that goes to the police for weapons, equipment, and staffing, etc. We should then direct those monies towards groups that are better equipped to handle situations that we currently default to police for, like mental health crises. Organizations like Reclaim the Block and Campaign Zero have been working towards these goals and more.
Though defunding and demilitarizing is a great step, it certainly isn’t the last one. Ultimately, we need to abolish the police. This doesn’t mean that the police completely disappear. It simply means we re-establish the entire system.
The police were founded to enforce racist policies, and have only continued to serve that purpose as more racist policies were created. There is no way to reform a system that was built on the oppression of Black and Brown people. Instead, we need to dismantle and rebuild, with a focus on rehabilitation, equitable policies, and other groups taking precedence for certain crises.
The police aren’t the only institution where this process of abolishing needs to occur. Healthcare, education, the justice system, and government are all examples where a massive restart is needed.
History and the present has made it clear reform is not the answer. When we completely dismantle the organizations that were founded on the idea of perpetuating white supremacy and harming BIPOC communities, we can start creating real, long-lasting change.
Sources:time.com, theguardian.com, nytimes.com, startribune.com