Topic at coming West Coast gathering: Imagining a world without police
Alex Vitale, Sociology Professor at Brooklyn College, via Twitter

OAKLAND, Calif.—Alex S. Vitale, sociology professor at Brooklyn College, will be featured here on Saturday, Nov. 16, from 5-7 p.m., in The End of Policing, an evening of conversation with local activists on abolition of policing.

The event, at the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, is sponsored by the Northern California Communist Party, the Harry Bridges Club of San Francisco and People’s World.

In his recent work, “The End of Policing,” Vitale gives a scathing critique of police reformism and presents realistic alternatives to policing, such as restorative justice and harm reduction programs implemented in various departments around the world. The book attempts to spark a public discourse by telling the racist and anti-labor origins of modern policing as a tool of social control, in which police authority is inconsistent with community empowerment, social justice, and public safety.

Vitale says, “The origins and function of the police are intimately tied to the management of inequalities of race and class. The suppression of workers and the tight surveillance and micromanagement of black and brown lives have always been at the center of policing. Any police reform strategy that does not address this reality is doomed to fail.”

An example is the reformist idea of “community policing,” which focuses on police accountability, diversity, training, and community relations which so far do not produce positive results, either alone or in combination. “The problem,” Vitale says, “is not police training, police diversity, or police methods. The problem is the dramatic and unprecedented expansion and intensity of policing in the last 40 years, a fundamental shift in the role of police in society. The problem is policing itself.”

Vitale’s work touches on the War on Drugs, political repression of communists during the McCarthy era, militarization of policing, policing in schools, criminalization of sex work and more.

These ideas around police abolition are not necessarily new. Vitale follows the tradition of fellow intellectuals and activists such as Michelle Alexander (“The New Jim Crow”) and Angela Y. Davis (“Are Prisons Obsolete?”), who have highlighted work about mass incarceration and racism in the United States.

Davis, who was arrested in the early 1970s on false charges of conspiracy related to the Soledad Brothers case, has been a continuing advocate for prison abolition and decarceration since then and has recently put a call out to refound the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.

The resurgence of these ideas comes as an explosion of police violence and repression continues in the United States and across the globe. Since the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, the Movement for Black Lives has used the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag to highlight the injustices in interactions between unarmed black people and police officers in America by televising police arrests and pullovers which have led to deaths of countless black people. A recent example is the case of Atatiana Jefferson of Fort Worth, Texas, who was murdered in her own home in front of her nephew during a wellness check.

Alex Vitale is Professor of Sociology and Coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College and a Visiting Professor at London Southbank University. He has spent the last 25 years writing about policing and consults both police departments and human rights organizations internationally. He also serves on the New York State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He is also the author of “City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics.”

Vitale’s academic writings on policing have appeared in Policing and Society, Police Practice and Research, Mobilization, and Contemporary Sociology. His writings also frequently appear in the New York Times, New York Daily News, The Nation, Vice News, Jacobin, and USA Today. He has also advised Bernie Sanders’ 2020 campaign concerning the candidate’s Justice and Safety for All proposal.

For further information on the event, email mbechtel@peoplesworld.org.


CONTRIBUTOR

Jamal Rich
Jamal Rich

Jamal Rich writes from California's Bay Area.

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