Since the murder of Tyre Nichols in January 2023, you may have seen more messages on social media about #defundthepolice and wondering why people are hating on police so much. Maybe you’ve thought that it’s really sad that Black people keep getting killed at the hands of police, but that these are not the norm, they’re just some bad apples on police forces. Not every police officer is racist. Maybe you’ve thought defunding the police is way too extreme of a reaction to what’s happened. You might think that police are necessary to keep people safe. Who’s going to catch and lock away serial killers, or pedophiles, or thieves if there are no police? Won’t our society become complete chaos?
Here’s the thing. The current policing system isn’t actually keeping everyone safe. It’s actually endangering the lives of Black and Indigenous people.
I created these slides for my Instagram to try to explain what the deal is with the Defund the Police movement.
Why would we want to get rid of the police system? Don’t we need the police to keep us safe?
1 – Canadian taxpayers spend about $45 MILLION PER DAY on policing. Edmonton uses >15% of taxpayer dollars on police. That’s more than what is spent on public transportation and public libraries, combined.
2 – Black people = 3% of the Canadian population, but account for 10% of the federal prison population. Indigenous people = 5% of the Canadian population, but account for 30.4% of the federal prison population.
3 – The Ontario Human Rights Commission found that a Black person was 19.5 times more likely than a White person to be involved in a police shooting resulting in death.
“But we can’t just get rid of the police! Who will keep us safe?”
If you are wondering this – then you need to ask yourself some follow up questions:
1 – Who is being kept SAFE with the current system?
Spoiler: It’s not EVERYONE. Clearly police are not keeping Black and Indigenous people more safe, but are rather a threat to their lives.
2 – What have your experiences been with the police? Do you acknowledge that your own experiences may not be representative of everyone’s experiences?
The Yellowhead Institute released a resource called Carceral Redlining: White Supremacy is a Weapon of Mass Incarceration for Indigenous and Black Peoples in Canada. They defined Carceral Redlining as:
The systemic ways in which incarceration practices are used as a tool for social control by the redlining of racialized communities. There are effectively red lines drawn around certain communities to be criminalized and targeted for incarceration.– Yellowhead Institute
If the current police system doesn’t work… what’s the alternative?
Defund.ca provides solutions for alternatives to police services, including mental health services, bylaw enforcement, traffic services, and investigation services.
As it states on their website:
Abolishing the police does not mean the abolishing of community safety.
Think about the things addressed by police right now. Most do not require an armed police officer.
Think of things like traffic violations, speeding tickets, noise complaints, traffic re-direction. Yes we need some kind of system to handle these, but do they need armed police officers?
Then think about situations where a mental health professional would be MUCH more appropriate, and also SAFER, than an armed officer.
I think about the case in Calgary, Alberta, where Latjor Tuel was shot and killed by Calgary Police in early 2022. Family and friends in his community reported he suffered from mental health issues, and obviously the officers in the altercation did not have the skills to help him.
And what about situations where people are criminalized for living in poverty, like houselessness, loitering, or vagrancy?
Defund.ca also talks about decriminalization. Some laws are archaic and outdated, and really don’t make sense anymore. Is not paying a transit fare really an offence that requires a police intervention?
Up until a few years ago, the extent of my experience with the police were times when a police officer showed up to a special event, smiling and greeting citizens, and the occasional getting pulled over because I was speeding. I thought they were doing their job and I was a good citizen so I wasn’t worried about getting in trouble with the police.
Then my baby nephew was murdered when his home was set on fire. And when I experienced the “justice system”, I was appalled at how the white guy who set the fire got off with a slap on the wrist. And then I heard from people sharing their experiences with police in cases of domestic violence. They were rarely positive experiences that supported the victim of violence. And then innocent people getting shot and killed by police. Again, and again, and again. The murders that happened in Edmonton Chinatown in 2022, when a man was released from a correctional facility unsupervised, even though he was a repeat offender. He had a history of addiction and was supposed to go to rehab. And a few days later, he killed two innocent shopowners in the very neighbourhood he was released into.
The system keeps you safe if you’re a certain kind of person. It’s dangerous if you’re a racialized person, and especially if you’re BIPOC, MOST especially if you’re Black or Indigenous.
#defundthepolice doesn’t mean everything goes to shit (though arguably it already has). It means thinking outside of the box to come up with real solutions to keep communities safe, and not continuing with a system that was rigged from the very beginning.
If you truly believe that Black and Indigenous Lives Matter – then you also have to acknowledge that the current system of policing is UNJUST. We need DIFFERENT systems that don’t have racist origins and white supremacist ideals embedded in them.
That is the only way we can keep ALL our communities safe.
Read more about anti-Blackness in Canada in my Instagram post below.