Did you know that Canada spends $15.1 billion annually on municipal, provincial, and federal police services?
Canadian Taxpayers already spend $41 million per day on policing.
In Tiohtiá:ke (Montreal) The operating budget for the SPVM is 665,3 M$, having increased by 17,5 M$ from the previous year, and by 33% over the past 10 years. This represents nearly twice the amount allocated to the fire department, and five times the amount spent on social housing (source).
You’ve probably heard calls to defund/disband/or even abolish the police, but what does each mean? A good way to navigate this, is to see each term as a step in a larger strategy. The goal? JUSTICE.
The strategy begins with disempowerment. We need to stop looking to police as a viable solution, because they aren’t. It has been proven that police don’t keep people safe.
How can we build relationships in our community so that we do not rely on the police to “solve” our problems? This is something many (MANY) communities of colour have always done (since we cannot trust the cops). This is something everyone can do.
Defund: reallocating funds/resources from law enforcement toward community based programs such as education and healthcare. Reallocating funds/resources from law enforcement toward severely underfunded community based programs such as education and healthcare. According to CBC, 70% of victims of police killings suffer from mental health and/or substance abuse problems. Funding community support programs targets these issues at the source, rather than criminalizing them.
Disarm: with defunding, what cuts can be made to the current system? A great place to start, is cutting the police budget for weapons. There are many places where cops can do their “work” without fatal weapons. Let’s remember that weapons are not only guns and tasers, but also tear gas, surveillance technologies, etc. This is another step towards disempowering the police.
Disband: Disbanding is the formal elimination of one or more units within the department up to and including the entire agency. The most common reasons for disbanding are that the service is either no longer needed, no longer affordable or that the organization is no longer effective.
See the plan? If we don’t need them, then it’s disbanded. With disbanding, comes “community peacekeeping”, which HAS BEEN DONE elsewhere. From Indigenous communities in Mexico (like the Zapatistas have resolved conflicts autonomously since driving out state authorities in 1994) or residents of Marinaleda, Spain, eliminating the police from communities has been done. While all these steps ultimately lead to the abolition of police, it is important to keep an eye out for politician’s promises of reforms (like body cams), that actually gives more money and power to police, making it difficult to imagine a world without them. Reform is NOT enough.
Alternatives to Prisons
While we want to hold police accountable, the current justice system will not bring justice. Arresting them won’t solve racial injustice and police brutality. The system doesn’t work. We need to re-imagine our justice system so that accountability and abolition coexist.
Police defunding and prison abolition come hand in hand.
Prison (or other forms of punitive justice) is not the only option. Other forms of justice exist.
|This is a political framework and an approach to responding to violence, harm and abuse
that seeks safety and accountability without relying on alienation, punishment, or State or systemic violence, including incarceration or policing. State and systemic responses to violence, including the criminal legal system and child welfare agencies, not only fail to advance individual and collective justice but also condone and perpetuate cycles of violence. The aim is to actively create systems and responses we know will bring healing, accountability, resilience and safety for all involved parties.
|This emphasizes repairing the harm caused by crime and conflict. It places decisions in the hands of those who have been most affected by wrongdoing, and gives equal concern to the victim, the offender, and the surrounding community. Restorative responses are meant to repair harm, heal broken relationships, and address the underlying reasons for the offense. Restorative Justice emphasizes individual and collective accountability.
Instead of prison, responding to crime and conflict with restorative justice can generate opportunities to build community and increase grassroots power when restorative practices are employed.
Defund the police resources:
Abolition and Alternative Justice resources:
Introduction to Restorative Justice
Indigenous Abolitionist Study Guide
“Are Prisons Obsolete”, by Angela Davis
Towards the Horizon of Abolition: A Conversation with Mariame Kaba
*For more info/resources to disempower police in your neighborhood, workplace, school, etc., click here.