Rahila Gupta

Why abolishing the police and turning to the community won’t protect women

The Independent, 21 June 2020

Women come to us when their family and elders have not only failed to remedy the situation but reinforced it. Furthermore, communities cannot be held accountable in the same way as the state

The killing of Rayshard Brooks by police in America happened less than three weeks after that of George Floyd. With jaw-dropping horror, these deaths point to the intractable history of police brutality towards the black community, despite an equally long history of reform. The killings have given new impetus to the long-simmering frustration of how do you solve a problem like the police?

Calls to defund the police and use the resources that are freed up on community welfare, health and education are rational and laudable, as those kinds of investments should reduce the need for police intervention further down the line. But defunding is usually seen as the tactical first step on the road to abolition by creating the kind of society in which policing would not be needed.

While the US context, with its prison-industrial complex and where the police began life as slave patrols, is significantly different from the UK, there are enough parallels in terms of disproportionate numbers of black people represented in the criminal justice system and killed in custody, to reflect on what it might mean for us here, particularly for black women.

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