Blackspot the Police

Can we stop the increasing militarization of our communities through a movement to de-fund the police?

Police quell anti-police riot in Oakland, CA. Photo taken by Thomas Hawk

Byron Hammick, Kendra James, James Jahar Perez, James Philip Chasse, Amadou Bailo Diallo, Julian Alexander, Bobby Tolan, Oscar Grant and Alexandros Grigoropoulos. These are the names of innocent, unarmed individuals executed without a trial by police officers (source). Of course, the list is not exhaustive and shootings seem to be occurring with greater frequency as police departments become increasingly militarized. There is even talk of developing softer handcuffs that can be used on children as young as five years old (source). The death of Alexandros Grigoropoulos in Athens sparked riots as did the videotaped execution of Oscar Grant in Oakland, CA. But while riots may relieve the anger of the moment, they also function to justify increasing police budgets. What if we took a different tactic and blackspotted the police by building a movement to de-fund the police and replace them with community safety patrols.

Let's take the example of Oakland, California where Oscar Grant was lying on his stomach, restrained by police officers and then shot and killed. The whole incident was caught on tape (see video below) so there is little dispute as to the facts of the case. Oakland currently spends around $194 million on police services and their total budget is a little under $950 million (source). That is about four times as much as is spent on Libraries, Parks and Museums combined. The police budget is an amazing 20% of the entire Oakland budget! In these times of economic depression, de-funding the police would directly translate into an increase of funding for the types of community quality of life improvements that decrease crime.

While we de-fund the police and pour that money into community improvement projects, we can also work to make the police unnecessary by replacing them with a Blackspot Police. Obviously a Blackspot Police would share very little in common with the State's police but would instead work to supercede the police by becoming the community's first responders. This would be something akin to the Guardian Angels who patrol "dusk until dawn, without weapons, [...] to ensure that citizens can enjoy their communities without fearing for their safety" (source). The objective would be to demonstrate that the police are overfunded and their presence is antagonistic and violent.

What have your experiences with the police been? Could a movement to de-fund work in your city?

Micah M. White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters Magazine and an independent activist. www.micahmwhite.com