This past weekend, I read the full report “Believe Us” from the Community Safety & Well-Being Task Force in Edmonton. This is a long thread with some of my thoughts about the report. 1/
I have the utmost respect for the ‘civilian’ members of the task force. They faced an impossible task, and in the end I believe the report reflects the failure of transformative imagination that was baked into the bylaw that gave the task force their mandate. 2/
As pointed out by @tina_faiz, a membership of 12 where 3 members are designated from police organizations simply reproduces oppressive power dynamics. The task force report is founded on a fundamentally flawed premise: “There will always be a role for police” (p. 6). 3/
Police have not always existed, and they will not always exist. Policing is just ONE way of addressing social needs. Policing in ‘Canada’ is specifically - historically & contemporarily - designed to address the social needs of white supremacy. Reform cannot change this. 4/
Change requires a fundamental social transformation from the ground up. Abolition is a robust field of study and practice that challenges us to #imagineotherwise. This report otoh begins w/ a predetermined conclusion that rejects a vision for true community safety w/o police. 5/
I cannot interpret this as anything other than pandering to police self-interests. This shows up throughout the report, and in the report presentation to #yegcc. Is this a result of police participation on the task force, or some other constraint? 6/
A 2nd flawed premise of the report is that training can reduce or eliminate the inherent racism & violent oppression of policing. “Comprehensive, systematic training programs [...] will drive fundamental culture changes that embrace and live inclusivity and anti-racism” (p.ii) 7/
The concept of “inclusive and anti-racist policing” (p. 7) is an oxymoron. The belief that training for police can actually reduce the inherent violence of policing reminds me of flawed attempts to address abusive behaviour in interpersonal relationships through counselling. 8/
What we will see is a police force fluent in the language of anti-oppression, while material circumstances of racial criminalization do not change. That is not culture change, that is systemic gaslighting. This already happens in police responses to DV and sexual assault. 9/
When police know the right things to say, but there is no change to power structures, discretionary enforcement, access to weapons and use of force, we see things like this. We get excellent PR & eloquent explanations for why police actions are justified & not racist. 10/
The report proposes a future where “[t]hanks to a culture of inclusion and anti-racism, EPS would have strong and productive relationships with racialized communities in our city, better positioning them to understand the harm posed to these communities.” p. 27 11/
But we know that policing is both the harm itself and symptomatic of greater harms. How can the same person who has the power to use force, to arrest and remove someone’s freedom, be part of a community they are obligated to police? 12/
This report and its recommendations were clearly developed through a labour of community care from the task force members. I am grateful for their work. My sincere wish is that this is not the limit of what we can hope for. 13/
I have many more thoughts about the report itself: the amazing ideas, the disappointing recommendations, and some total head scratchers. But ultimately... 14/
I believe we can do better than trying to redeem an irredeemable system, trying to reform policing into something it never was, doesn’t need to be, and probably can’t become. I wish this report was truly a vision for community safety. 15/
Those visions are out there. Powerful, creative, practical abolitionist thinkers offer us the gifts of their life’s work - we can take up those visions and work for transformative change. We don’t need to settle for reform after ineffective reform. 16/
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