Source: The Intercept
Images from the mass protests in St. Louis last month against the acquittal of a white former police officer in the fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith felt like déjà vu: raised fists, Black Lives Matter signs, swarms of police armed in full riot gear. But this time, as police made arrests on the third night of protests, they began to chant “Whose streets, our streets” — a refrain that, stolen from the voices of protesters, mutated into an unsettling declaration of power, entitlement, and impunity.
So far this year, 773 people have been fatally shot by police, according tothe Washington Post, while independent databases that include other causes of death by police report tolls above 900. In the three years since the flashpoint of Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, pushes for reform have reverberated through all levels of government, most notably from former President Barack Obama’s policing task force. And yet, much like gun violence itself, police brutality in the United States remains stuck on repeat. A new book published last week goes beyond the rhetoric of reform to interrogate why we need police at all.
In “The End of Policing,” Alex S. Vitale argues that police reforms implemented in the wake of Brown’s death — from diversity initiatives to community policing to body cameras — fail to acknowledge that policing as an institution reinforces race and class inequalities by design.
“The suppression of workers and the tight surveillance and micromanagement of black and brown lives have always been at the center of policing,” writes Vitale, a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College.
Vitale calls for an ideological reframing of policing as an inherently punitive practice that criminalizes the most vulnerable and marginalized people in the U.S. in order to maintain the status quo for white elites. Instead, he writes, people should be given the programs and resources they need to solve problems within communities in ways that do not involve police, courts, or prisons — a path to materializing justice.