For Immediate Release: June 18, 2020
Hawkins and Walker Call for More Radical Changes to Policing
Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker, the leading candidates for the Green Party nomination for president and vice president, released the following statement today calling for community control of the police, large-scale federal spending to end poverty, and the decriminalization of drugs.
They say the nationwide uprising against police brutality and racism should raise these demands in order to make more fundamental changes in public safety systems than only reforming police practices and shifting some money in police budgets to social services.
Creating a Public Safety System That Really Protects and Serves
By Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker
June 18, 2020
A long menu of policing reforms has been thrust into public debate and legislative consideration by the nationwide uprising against police brutality and racism. Many of the proposed reforms of policing practices at the state, local, and federal levels are good policies.
The movement is also demanding to Defund the Police. Defunding means scaling back what police do and transferring the savings into social services, schools, housing, and community economic development. Defunding means removing police from dealing with many social problems such as homelessness, drug use, sex work, mental health crises, domestic disputes, and school discipline that are better addressed by other trained first responders, including social workers, EMTs, doctors, child protective services, therapists, and legal aid lawyers.
Reforming police practices and reallocating portions of police budgets to the provision of social services are not enough. These reforms do not shift the power to control policing to the people the police are supposed to protect and serve. These reforms do not provide enough resources to resolve the social problems that police are now sent in to contain because the system has criminalized problems like poverty, homelessness, mental health issues, and drug use. These reforms do not decriminalize personal drug use and possession, the largest single category of arrests and imprisonment in the US criminal justice system.
If we are going to truly create a public safety system that serves and protects the people, we must add three critical demands to the our menu of reforms:
1. Community Control of the Police
Police brutality will not stop as long as the police can continue to police themselves and brutalize people with impunity. We need Community Control of the Police to make the police work for the people and be held accountable for misconduct. Community control means police commissions, publicly-elected or randomly-selected like juries, with the power to hire and fire the police chief, to independently investigate and discipline police misconduct, to formulate and oversee police practices and budgets, and to negotiate police union contracts. Community control shifts the power over policing to the people and away from the police and the power structure that created the abusive policing system we now have.
2. Federal Social Investment to End Poverty and Economic Despair
Police budgets do not have enough money with reallocations to pay for the services and economic development that working-class communities of color need. Sending in cops instead of social services and economic resources has been at the center of the public austerity program of the power structure. As part of reimagining public safety, it is time to fight crime by fighting poverty instead of sending in the police for every social problem. That will require a multi-year, multi-trillion federal investment in community-controlled housing, schools, social services, and businesses in the communities of color that have been impoverished by generations of discrimination by racists who exploit these communities.
3. Decriminalize Drugs
Ending the war on drugs will take the single biggest bite out of police budgets. Drug law offenses account for 16% of all arrests and are the single biggest category of arrests. Drug offenses account for about 1 in 5 people in jail or prison, including 46% of federal prisoners. Drug abuse is a health problem, not a criminal problem. Instead of a criminal offense, we must make drug use and possession a violation that refers drug users to medical and social services.
We discuss this approach in more detail in our policy paper on Reimagining Public Safety.