Community Control of Police v Defunding Police: Addressing the Patriarchal Roots of Policing

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Community Control for who? We still have too many hierarchies and contradictions within the Black community to ensure a subset of people with police power would not replicate the same violent institution power. The problem with policing is not who controls it or who can enforce its protocols. The problem with policing is that policing is inherently violent and always patriarchal. Campaigns like #sayhername (though co-opted/erased/reduced to now include #sayhisname) was a recognition that non-cishet men experience police violence. The violence may not be out in the open or in the streets, recording on a cell phone, or public in the ways Black cishet men experience violence. It may be indoors when the police officer is sent to evict a single Black mother and coerces sexual acts in exchange for a little more time in her apartment. It may occur late at night along strolls when a police officer pulls up to a Black trans woman and coerces her into sexual acts in exchange for no-arrest, this time. It may occur when a Black woman experiencing homelessness is experiencing an alternate reality that “is not allowed in public” and is bum-rushed and arrested or often shot by police. It may occur when a young Black queer and/or non-binary person runs away from home and is forced to go back home to “reunite” with violent family members. It is at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability where the limits of community control of police are amplified. If the police are not policing Black women, girls, other marginalized genders, disabled, and migrant people, they are being hounded, harassed, policied, and killed by the cishet men in their communities. To me, community control of the police is still rooted in patriarchal notions of policing, even if the people who make up the policing or accountability board represent marginalized genders. 

COVID-19 amplified capitalism’s contradictions and the willingness the state is to put profit over Black life. Thousands have been in the street for over 100 days to protest police violence. During these protests, organizers with Movement for Black lives pushed the “defund the police” demand through pre-existing organizations, formations and organic, decentralized mass protests. Defunding the police was a strategic and positive development in the Black Lives Matter Movement protest tradition. Though our freedom cannot be captured in one simple demand, it provided an opportunity to build power across the country within a unified message and it provided opportunities for communities to discuss city/state budgets, strategize and practice safety outside of policing, demonstrate the limitations to policy reforms and expose the unrelenting commitment for Democrats and Republicans to criminalize Black people despite the clear demand. At a time where Black abolitionist organizers are calling for defunding the police Democrats 1) Nominated Joe Biden, the person who drafted the 1996 crime bill and is responsible for the expansion of policing and prison budgets 2) Selected Kamala Harris, California’s top-cop who is notorious for punishing and incarcerating poor Black

mothers and restricting incarcerated trans people from accessing health care 3) Rejected “defund the police” demand at every level of government. Thus, “defund the police” was a polarizing demand that further exposed the bi-partisan commitment to policing and incarceration, making more and more people cynical. Hopefully, this will also push more people to divest from the Democratic party. 

As an abolitionist, I do not see defunding the police as a *pathway* to abolition. Abolition would necessitate the complete destruction of the U.S. However, defunding the police is a popular demand that can help build the power, infrastructure, resources, and knowledge to open up abolition possibilities. According to Critical Resistance, abolition is both a practical organizing tool and a liberatory framework for the future. Abolition requires us to build the time, space, and resources to imagine and implement the type of world we want to live in now in preparation for the future. Rather than a call for “community control of police,” I think we should push towards community self-determination and defense, particularly for those along the margins of the Black community.  Our communities need skills and resources to prevent, intervene, and heal from violence. The more skills, resources, and relationships we have, the more Black communities will divest from policing and invest in community networks of care. 

Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) launched a campaign called “She Safe, we safe,” rooted in the idea that police violence is directly tied to intercommunal patriarchal violence. We need to combat patriarchal violence with the same rigor we do policing. This campaign was built off of INCITE! work, which was the first container to create an abolitionist, anti-violence framework, rooted in gender justice and trans and queer liberation. In July, I, along with some of my comrades from Collective Action for Safe Spaces and BYP100, hosted an event titled I Gotchu Sib: Building Abolitionist Tools for Community Care & Safety 

“ to collaborate and build skills for preventing violence against trans and cis Blackwomen, Black girls, Black non-binary folks, and other marginalized genders in our communities. The murders of Oluwatoyin Salau, Nina Pop, and Brayla Stone, as well as the attack against Iyana Dior is a call to action for us to build strategies for community defense, accountability, and wellness in a way that uproots state and interpersonal violence. We also need to confront the cycles of harm, manipulation, and abuse that has been happening within our abolitionist, leftist movement. Our calls to abolish police and prisons are meaningless if we are not actively looking out for one another, and ending the homophobic, transphobic, and anti-black violence that we perpetuate in our communities. We recognize that the state and law enforcement frequently commit acts of gender-based violence against trans and cis Black women, girls, and non-binary folks, so we cannot rely on them to resolve instances of violence. Instead, we must rely on our own communities to address instances of gender-based violence and transmisogynoir.

During the skillshare and political education, we explored how gendered violence isn’t just towards Black cis women and Black girls, and that Black trans women, Black non-binary folks, Black femmes, and Black transmasculine folks all experience interlocking systems and spectrums of gendered criminalization and harm. Over 300 people registered for the event, and participants got to select one of the following training: 

  • 5D’s of De-escalation
  • Self-defense Strategies for marginalized genders
  • Survivor support + safety planning
  • Self-Facilitated Wellness Strategies for Responding to Harm
  • First aid/Street medic 
  • Mutual aid/Fundraising campaign
  • Restorative Practices

Many people were excited and interested in additional training and felt more equipped to support survivors in their immediate communities. We also need cishet men to create more spaces to address, confront, and commit to political action to divest from patriarchy. Additionally, cishet women should also create more spaces, address, confront, and commit to political action to divest from patriarchy, specifically transphobia and homophobia. We all; need to adopt a disability justice framework and create networks of support and get skilled in decolonized mental health crisis interventions. During COVID-19, the state has not come to save us. It is ordinary people all over the country, specifically those at the margins, who have been crowdsourcing and showing up for one another during this crisis. We don’t need our communities to control violent institutions; we need to start building the skill sets within our community to defend ourselves and build the relationships necessary for the revolution. 

I believe in revolutionary violence. It is both necessary and inevitable to realize abolition and the destruction of the United States truly. According to the Black Liberation Army, “revolutionary violence is not an alternative to mass movement and organization; it is complementary to mass struggle; it is another front in the total liberation process.” We must build a mass movement and organizations to see the success of revolutionary violence. Suppose people are not educated about their current conditions and don’t

have political alignment around what we are trying to build. In that case, this leaves room for repression, co-optation, and demobilization of the masses. 

“Defund the police” runs the risk of moving people into single-issue organizing, which often moves us away from mass organizing’s revolutionary potential. Additionally, if any defunding happens, the resources will shift to another state institution or department that is operated and enforced through policing and capitalism. Defunding has many limitations. However, it is up to Black leftist organizers to infuse political education about capitalism, imperialism, cisheteropatriarchy, anti-blackness, and more to move from “defunding the police” to mass organizing and sustained revolt. Black people already inherently know the police don’t keep us safe. How can we solidify that with tangible ways to create safety outside of the state while using mass movements and protest to elevate the contradictions of the state and raise the political consciousness of the masses? To me, that is our current charge.