Amid worldwide protests against the police killing of George Floyd, activists around the US have raised demands for specific policy measures, such as defunding the police. Justifying these demands are the images emerging from the protests, with police officers ramming protesters in vehicles, indiscriminately attacking protesters with pepper spray and exerting excessive force. Local and state policing budgets have nearly tripled since 1977, despite declining crime rates. Even people unfamiliar with the police and prison abolitionist movement are starting, rightly, to envision that public spending could be used in more socially responsible ways.
But beyond the fiscal argument is an ethical one: policing in America cannot be reformed because it is designed for violence. The oppression is a feature, not a bug.
That seems like a radical sentiment only because policing is so normalized in American culture, with depictions in popular media ranging from hapless, donut-chugging dopes to tough, crime-fighting heroes. We even have a baseball team named after a police organization – the Texas Rangers.
But it’s time to look beyond the romanticization of American police and get real. Just as America glorifies the military and Wall Street, and some Americans whitewash the confederate flag and plantation homes, the history of policing is steeped in blood. In fact, the Texas Rangers are named after a group of white men of the same name who slaughtered Comanche Indians in 1841 to steal indigenous territory and expand the frontier westward. The Rangers are considered the first state police organization. Read more…