Things you can do to lessen your reliance on police as we work together towards abolition.
The thought of police abolition feels scary or impossible to some, but it’s not. Police have not been around that long, and since their inception they have terrorized vulnerable and marginalized populations while protecting the property and power of the state. For those who still don’t believe that this is true, perhaps you will believe it from a former cop’s mouth; please go read ‘Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop’ on medium.com.
For those who want to work towards abolition: along with signing petitions, calling representatives and attending protests, there is work you can start doing on a smaller, but just as important scale. I call it “unlearning the cop in your head” because we’ve not only learned to rely on police, but we’ve been brainwashed by white supremacy. We’ve been brainwashed to think that the most vulnerable are a threat to us when really, they have been the ones most neglected by society. More often than not, what they truly need is support and resources.
Create or find a list of community resources to call instead of the police
This includes but is not limited to:
-shelters and drop-ins
-mental health and crisis intervention workers or programs
-help lines or therapists
-food banks-community services (for various people/identities)
-taxi cab or ride shares/tow trucks
Don’t only create or find this list, but familiarize yourself with it. Keep it in an easy to access place but also, memorize some of it so you can pull out names when needed. Put some of the phone numbers in your cellphone as contacts. That way if you’re in the middle of a situation and don’t have it on you, you’ll still have access.
Build relationships with the people in your neighbourhood
When you encounter someone who needs help directly, sometimes we can’t obtain immediate support. Often support cannot just show up, and you might be need to do a little more than just pass on a number. Honestly the best way to get comfortable doing this work or having those conversations is developing relationships with your neighbours, local businesses (their workers, their owners if it’s a small business), and the vulnerable people in your neighbourhood (homeless people, panhandlers, etc). Instead of only talking to the people in your bubble, greet and acknowledge the people in your neighbourhood who you don’t know. You don’t need to become their best friend, but what we’re trying to do here is build a sense of care and trust. That way if one day there is ever a situation, you will be more confident and more likely to engage in de-escalation, safety planning, or even just convincing someone else to not call the police. This is a long term action.
Learn de-escalation and crisis intervention basics
You don’t need to become a pro, but learn enough so that you feel comfortable knowing how and when to intervene. Take a local training, read some books, workshop scenarios with your friends and community members. It also helps to learn skills that apply to the specific situations you might find yourself in. Crisis intervention for people experiencing mental health distress, and de-escalation for a fight in your local store won’t always look the same, so make sure to learn what’s applicable!
Begin to challenge your own notions of ‘safety’
Most of us have been taught that the police are who we call to keep us safe. Most of us have also developed our own notions of safety through a white supremacist lens. This means we are more suspicious and afraid of black people; we are scared of homeless people; we are afraid of people who appear distressed. The most common way we deal with this fear or discomfort is to either walk away (do nothing) or call the police. Challenging our own notions of what scares us or makes us feel unsafe is a big part of unlearning white supremacy. Have discussions with your friends, find resources online, and I especially suggest not only unlearning these thoughts and feelings in our heads, but also in our bodies so that we are fully embodying this new awareness and unlearning. For that work I super recommend following @generativesomatics, @bodywitch @wildbodysomatics and @earthseaacupunture, as they are just a few of my favourite somatic practitioners and healers.
Hope these starter points are helpful and that you start practicing some of them right away!