We’re not the first to envision a world without police. Residents of Marinaleda, Spain have lived for 30 years without municipal police. In Mexico, indigenous communities in Guerrero developed their own security in 1995 to replace the corrupt police force, while Zapatista communities in Chiapas have resolved conflicts autonomously since driving out state authorities in 1994. All these efforts seek to disband police institutions and replace them with forms of collective, democratic power and conflict resolution. None of them is perfect, but they all indicate a way forward. Achieving police free communities is not a question of “if,” but how.
Disbanding the police means more than the creation of “community peacekeepers” who will continue to enforce capitalist exploitation, oppression and inequality through other means. Along with disempowering and disarming, disbanding police institutions aims at a larger goal: the abolition of police and policing entirely.
As police murders continue and superficial reforms prove unable to stop them, more and more people are recognizing that the problem is not within police institutions–it is the institution of policing itself. As we stated in “The Problem” section, the only way to end police violence is to transform society, and make wealth and resources freely available to all. Far from reforming the policing while maintaining their current role, this aim requires abolishing the police altogether.
In other words, we’re not fighting for a new police–nicer, more diverse, with better training than their predecessors–nor even a new justice system. We’re working to disempower, disarm, and disband individual police units and entire agencies, and transform society as a whole. We’re fighting for a world without police.
Here are some steps to disband the police:
- Transform how we think about crime, conflict and identity. We can break the association between crime and violent punishment, justice and jail cells, and criminality and certain kinds of people. We can expose how “crime” talk is used to dehumanize black, indigenous, NBPOC, poor, queer, unruly and rebellious people. When we don’t think in terms of punishment, control and division, we can begin to imagine what real justice might entail.
- Fight to disband particular police units when they are involved in scandals or otherwise politically vulnerable, as happened to the NYPD Street Crimes Unit that murdered Amadou Diallo in 1999.
- Decommission police precincts when they’re threatened by funding shortages, demographic changes, or challenges by popular protest.
- Organize to drive police forces out of specific institutions, such as schools or hospitals. Instead of replacing them with private security, develop community safety teams that are democratically elected and directed by those they protect.
- Demolish the political power of police unions, including lessening their influence in local governments, and ultimately decertifying and disbanding their unions entirely.
- Once our movement is strong enough, disband police forces entirely in democratic self-governing areas, and replace them with systems of community safety and conflict resolution.