October 24th, 2020

Invest in, rather than policing, communities


By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on June 4, 2020.

Ibrahim Turay

and Jason Laurendeau

Once again, there is violence in the streets in many American cities. And once again, it is the usual suspects. Meanwhile, those charged with protecting their communities, those who have seen enough of this thuggery, are rallying in the streets, insisting that Black Lives Matter, and that the police be held accountable for murder. And they are doing so knowing that they are putting lives at risk by taking to the streets in the middle of a pandemic. But they are fighting for their lives and their communities. Perhaps, however, we need to back up a bitÉ

Many readers will have grown up understanding the police as a force for good, as the people you could trust if you were worried, scared, or in danger. But we must understand that historically, that has not been true for everyone. Historically, in both the U.S. and Canada, police have been a force that protects property, not (all) people. They have been a force that divides, one that sees some as suspicious based on assumptions about whether someone that looks a certain way belongs in a certain neighbourhood – indeed, we heard this from the former Police Chief in Lethbridge. They have been a force that has torn children from parents to put them in residential schools. A force that disproportionately stops, questions, arrests and charges Black and Indigenous people, and other people of colour. A force that somehow finds ways to de-escalate situations with even armed white suspects, and yet too often fails to find ways to peacefully engage with unarmed Black folks. >

It is as part of this history that we must understand the kind of blatant police brutality the world witnessed on May 25: the violent murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. This form of blatant cruelty is not new – Floyd’s death has sparked nationwide protests not because it is unusual, but because it was caught on video and is but the latest example of an unarmed Black person being killed by those charged with law enforcement. This kind of violence – foreign to many readers but all too familiar to Black people and communities – stands to remind Black people that their lives do not matter, just as they did not matter during slavery and the Jim Crow era. What lynching, a practice of public execution, was to Black people during the Jim Crow era, police killing of Black people is today, in this era of mass incarceration. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. David McAtee. And too many more lives and loved ones lost. >

And as the hashtag highlighted this past weekend, “meanwhile, in CanadaÉ” Meanwhile, in Canada: Regis Korchinski-Paquet. D’Andre Campbell. Machuar Madut. All dead after encounters with Canadian police forces. And again, they are among too many racialized folks whose lives have ended in this way. Canada, like the U.S., has a long history of police violence disproportionately directed against Black people and communities, as well as Indigenous peoples and other people of colour. >For example, recent data indicate that while members of the Black community represent only 3.4 per cent of the Canadian population, they constitute nine per cent of the victims in fatal police interactions.

As the mainstream media tells all of us, we are in an extraordinary moment including “looting” and “violent unrest.” But who, exactly, is being violent? And what, exactly, does “looting” mean in a country literally founded by stealing land? What does it mean to refer to protesters fighting for their lives as looters, while celebrating those who profit from the exploitation of those same lives by paying them less than a living wage to cut our meat, to ship our online purchases to our homes, and to be more at risk for exposure to COVID-19 than those of us who wait in our comfortable homes for our purchases?

In a different register, we might ask what it means to think of the safety of our communities in terms of law and order. We might define safety, or perhaps better yet, the well-being of our communities, in other terms. Instead of investing most of our property taxes in police “services,” perhaps we should follow the advice of activists, journalists and authors like Sandy Hudson or Desmond Cole and invest, instead, in community supports and services. Instead of investing in a force designed to arrest offenders (a symptom of a broken system), perhaps instead we should treat the causes: record levels of social inequality, lack of access to housing, quality food and mental health supports, for example. Perhaps, in such a world, society would respond to a mental health crisis with support rather than force, and a woman would not fall 24 floors to her death. Perhaps, in such a world, we might work towards reducing social inequalities rather than responding with force to those fighting for justice in their communities. If we think in terms of investing in our communities rather than policing them, not only will we better serve marginalized peoples and communities, but we might work towards redefining community itself.

Ibrahim Turay is an instructor at Lethbridge College, School of Justice Studies, and a Ph.D. student in the Cultural, Social & Political Thought program at the University of Lethbridge.

Jason Laurendeau is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Lethbridge.

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Southern Albertan

Agreed…..a more, equal society is definitely a less crime-ridden society. Perhaps, this is still, not well understood by neo-liberal right wing social conservative politics and their supporters where the mantra is often, “get off of your butt and help yourself,” as opposed to the social democrat mantra of “giving a hand up so that one can help oneself.” This is why, for Alberta right now, it is a terrible thing that education is being cut. It has to be said that a more well educated society is also a less crime-ridden society. Financially successful social democrat countries/jurisdictions never do cutbacks to education.
And yes, we traditionally, did look to the police as “a force for good.” But, that gets skewed when we see what happened to George Floyd and other ‘dirty cop’ issues. Even now, for us, for example, if one is accused wrongfully of anything and the police come to arrest you, a lawyer would tell you to not give a statement to the police, (even though it would be said that they could help you), which could really damage your chances in court. And then we wonder why some folks don’t trust the police, let alone not wishing to do the job which appears, at times, to be a thankless one.
Again, there are schmucks in every crowd, and the bad apples can spoil it for the rest.

DougCameron

Your quote; “As the mainstream media tells all of us, we are in an extraordinary moment including “looting” and “violent unrest.” But who, exactly, is being violent? And what, exactly, does “looting” mean in a country literally founded by stealing land? What does it mean to refer to protesters fighting for their lives as looters, while celebrating those who profit from the exploitation of those same lives by paying them less than a living wage to cut our meat, to ship our online purchases to our homes, and to be more at risk for exposure to COVID-19 than those of us who wait in our comfortable homes for our purchases?”

Looking at your credentials, I am absolutely appalled you would seemly condone people to loot and destroy property because “It is not your fault”. Peaceful protests are fine. Using the horrific events of a life being taken by the very people that are to serve and protect, to steal and destroy is totally wrong. I fear another slippery slope downward for the next generation if these are the ideals you teach. It’s obviously too late for the two of you but please don’t destroy the minds of our young people.

JLaurendeau

Doug, you’re simply engaging in character assassination and fear-mongering. If you want to actually challenge (rather than simply refuse) our argument, and provide evidence to back up your claims, we would welcome that. If not, you’re simply making noise to distract from the real issue at hand here – racial injustice.

Fescue

It’s nice to see these two professors showing us the difference between indoctrination (as Doug would have it) and education.

I am very pleased to see future police officers and, potentially, lawyers being introduced to some of the underlying root causes of the current social reaction to what amounts to systemic (and historic) violence against the vulnerable, the disenfranchised, racialized Canadians, the poor and their intersections. Well done.

biff

so.ab., fes, and to the writers: agree that greater equality is essential. equality is necessary if we wish to reduce crime, and the effects of poor lifestyle, underachieving educational outcomes, and health related issues that too often are a consequence of poverty.
moreover, equality manifests as respect for one another; it creates a reason for a buy-in from all: why should those severely marginalised care about others and “rules”, when they no doubt perceive others/society does care about them? how is it we have come to value such wide discrepancy in remuneration as realistic and acceptable, let alone caring or fair? the idea of working 40 hours a week to remain in poverty is disgusting, particularly when there are others that earn the typical average yearly income in mere hours or days. how is it the people that collect our trash (a useful necessity) earn a fraction of those that play games, music, or make believe “professionally” (near useless and certainly nonessential practices)? how is greed and packing away far more than one’s fair share – often, far more than one could ever use in numerous lifetimes, let alone one – considered acceptable, and worse: the sign of success? people such as buffet, gates, bezos, rothschild, rockefeller…regardless of the relative pittance they return via poser “philanthropy, should be seen as greedy, sick, immature, cruel, and absolutely not as pillars of greatness.
clearly, it is time for a paradigm shift. indeed, limits on accumulation are necessary, as is a more equitable redistribution of wealth, resources and power. none of this will come via the present regime we honour with our poli-illiterate vote, and with our red-in-the-face debates over left/right policies. in the final analysis, we do not get much change: govts from both supposed sides of the political spectrum give us essentially the same in terms of fomenting debtor societies, fomenting division/hate/anger/insecurity, usurping more control over our fundamental rights and freedoms, and exist primarily to pacify the masses so as to ensure the inexorable power and wealth of the handful that actually own govts and policies – that uppermost of the top 1%.
as for the entry from d.c., i agree with the point that looting is not a reasonable or acceptable practice of the protests. the people being hurt are mostly typical folk, not those that are primarily responsible for the inequities and divisions that have long been sown, and insidiously socially conditioned into us as normal and decent.

DougCameron

Jason: I was merely pointing out that for you and your cohort, as I understood your opinion piece, suggesting that it was OK to steal and destroy other people’s property under the guise that it was because of inequalities between various groups of people is insane. The peaceful protesters that are trying to make change in this world for the better, I admire. The looters and vandals are just thugs taking advantage of the situation to get their own “stuff”. I will not get in a pissing contest with you as I am only stating my opinion based on my life’s experience and my observations of the very rocky history of us homo sapiens. Peace out.

buckwheat

Anyone interested in investing in downtown Minneapolis or many other major cities or should they invest in law and order so those who wish to invest to contribute to society and earn a living can do so without having their investments looted and plundered.

Fescue

Or we can ‘defund the police’ when they prove unable to protect all citizens. When there is justice, there is peace and a civil society worth investing in.
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/06/defund-police/612682)