Fix the Police

I'm so done with "fuck the police". It's a derailing tactic that vilifies individual police officers for systemic issues and offers no alternative solutions.

To be clear, I am writing this piece in the context of BLMTO's demand that police floats be banned from Toronto's pride parade based on the assertion that there's no pride in policing. I do not support excluding queers from a profession drenched in hegemonic masculinity from demonstrating their pride in both their profession and gender/sexual identities.

While I assume white privilege interacting with police officers, I am by no means oblivious to the tenuous relationship between political pride and problematic policing. I'm openly a drug user; I've had sex for money, and I have a diagnosed mental illness. I understand that privileged groups get to wander Toronto thinking the police are there to protect them, and disadvantaged groups exist in those same spaces fearful that the police are there to arrest them.

There are blatant problems with policing and incarceration practices in Canada, problems that can only be solved with suggestions, not complaints. I'm vehemently supportive of basic income and Angela Davis' calls for prison abolition, but in none of my conceptions of justice is the rule of law suspended.

Police forces are a necessary component of the maintenance of the rule of law, but this necessary function has, for many activists, become shamefully overshadowed by social relations laced with colonial, racialized, gendered, cissexist, heteronormative, and ablest contexts.

Fuck prisons? Absolutely.

Fuck the police? How about fix the police?

The core issue of problematic policing is that the police unjustly violate citizen rights. While this problem is huge and complicated, meaningful reform is a much more reasonable response than anarchy.

We train police forces to execute orders, observe and report, deescalate tension, and respond to crises. All of these areas are integral to the role of police in a just society, but required police training is notably lacking in critical thinking and practicing empathy.

So what can be done?

Every police officer in Canada needs to have a crystal-clear understanding of what human rights mean in practice. That starts with every deputized officer having the equivalent of paralegal training. Police officers also need to be cognizant of how social and economic contexts disproportionately criminalize already disadvantaged groups and that punitive justice ignores these preexisting contexts.

To close on a personal note, one of my friends from high school is a proud queer policewoman. My father is retired RCMP. When any group is homogenized for the purposes of articulating them as problematic, diversity is erased and justice is forlorn. When I here "fuck the police", I hear hatred for my family and friends. Exclusion is not an appropriate response to oppression.