Many prison reformers suggest hiring someone after a white cop fatally shoots someone. more Black copsOr more women. But diversifying the police force won’t end police violence, and neither will milquetoast reforms that have been tried and tried again.
Benjamin Jancewicz is a Baltimore-based abolitionist who points out that about 62 percent are white and 85 percent identify as male. However, this lack of representation is not the main issue with policing. Jancewicz asserts that police have an established culture of “oppression and dominance” that does not change even when the force has more women or BIPOC officers. “Baltimore,” he points out, “has a 40 percent Black police force” which has not affected the “already established culture of corruption and brutality.”
After being brutalized by Baltimore cops in 2015, Freddie Gray was taken into police custody and later died. the police violence and misconduct in Baltimore hasn’t ended there. This is because a system will not and cannot reform itself, especially “when you dump more money and more personnel into it,” according to Jancewicz.
How can we tell if a reform will actually funnel more money and power into the prison-industrial complex? Interview with TruthoutSarah Fathallah, an Oakland-based Abolitionist, points out that a Critical Resistance framework that helps to determine if a proposed reform “is an abolitionist step that works to chip away at the scope and impact of policing, or a reformist reform that expands its reach.”
This framework helps us to look at reforms criticallyAsk yourself: Does the proposal reduce funding for police? Is the proposal a challenge to the idea that police increase safety? Is the proposal likely to reduce the number of tools, tactics, and technology available to police? Does the proposal reduce police size?
It is obvious that any reform involving the hiring of more police officers in an effort to diversify can not reduce the prison industrial complex’s reach when it comes to the prison-industrial system.
Instead, Fathallah says, “Hiring more diverse cops often expands the funding and bodies police departments have at their disposal.” Fathallah saw this firsthand in Oakland, where the City Council voted to approve a police academy in September 2021, citing “discrepancies between the gender and racial makeup of the police compared to communities” to justify the need to hire even more cops.
It is impossible to focus on the actual issues by focusing only on the names of the police officers who are committing violence. Fathallah rightfully points out that these pushes for gender and racial diversity frame “police brutality and murder as individual issues to solve” while reinforcing the “‘bad apples’ narrative of policing, that the police are harmful because of individually blameworthy and racially biased police officers.”
This narrative must be promoted by those who want to preserve existing power structures. It wrongly implies that large social problems are the failures of individuals and not structures.
The prison-industrial complex is a place of violence and cruelty. has been well-documented Since its inception, the public consciousness has been reflecting this realization. The prison-industrial complex is being criticized by more people. This criticism reached its peak with protests against police violence following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Breonna Taylor. People want answers and solutions when they see the horrific effects of incarceration and brutal police violence.
Prison-industrial complex abolitionists work to abolish policing and imprisonment because they are inherently racist and violent institutions. Abolitionists argue that the prison-industrial complex can be eliminated and resources diverted to life-giving resources, services, and not death-making institutions.
Prison-industrial complex reformers and preservationists generally argue that the system is “broken” — that it has problems that are ultimately solvable, but that maintaining its existence is imperative for public safety. The truth is, the prison-industrial system is working exactly as it should. It was not designed to provide justice. It was instead created out of the desire for white supremacy. It becomes clear that the prison-industrial complex is fulfilling its intended purpose when we reframe how we understand it.
In this context, it becomes clear that reforms, such as hiring more Black cops or more women cops — as well as proposed changes like bans on private prisons, body cams on cops and requiring that police verbally warn before shooting — will never solve the problem of police violence.
While police violence canIt can be enacted by individual officers because of racial bias, but it is not limited. Fathallah says it is also (if not more so) “the outcome of intensive over-policing and systemic criminalization of racialized poverty,” meaning diverse hires will not stop violence.
Policing can continue to exist if concerned citizens focus on reforming the police. Fathallah mentions the phrase “preservation through transformation,” coined by Professor Reva SiegelThis describes the phenomenon in which a violent institution changes and shifts just enough to be legitimate in the eyes most.
Hiring diverse cops changes who is doing policing and what the police look like, but it doesn’t change what policing is. And it certainly doesn’t change the fact that the system is actually functioning exactly as it was designed to do.
To stop police violence, you must abolish the police. “Policing itself is a form of violence,” says Fathallah, “and violence is a fixture of policing, not a glitch in its system.” Once we acknowledge that truth, then we can see that no reform will change what police are and what they were created to be: protectors of a white supremacist state, of racial capitalism and of private property.