Black Lives Matter: The settings for safer communities
William Frazer, 23 February 2021
The recent posts on BLM have explained what the movement is and its Australian context, the main arguments for and against abolition of police and the principles that underpin abolition with real world examples. This research led us to conclude:
1. There is no current example of a full-scale abolition of police yet in place.
2. Safer communities should be the goal of policy and reform, not abolition of police.
3. A reform of the justice system across a range of settings is needed to achieve this goal of a safer community.
This range of settings can be seen in the graphic featured with this post. Examples have been seen through our previous posts but are presented here as a collective suite of policies to achieve systemic change.
Furthermore, it is more than a simple abolition of police that will achieve safer communities. As such, the graphic shows the range of changes needed to achieve wholesale reform of the justice system.
These reforming actions include legislative change such as changing police powers but goes further to incorporate adjusting sentencing laws for minor offences and changing the way we look at custodial sentencing. There must also be procedural reform, looking to mechanisms such as training and use of body cameras.
We must also look to changing police function to embed system change and achieve safer communities. To dispel the common misconception, this is not a call for complete abolition of police. Police have an important function to play in dealing with violent offenders and heinous crimes, but as has been seen in our previous research a descoping of roles away from social and mental health functions is essential to achieving a safer community. Increased accountability and having clear roles for the police is also integral for this change.
Finally, this descoping and demilitarisation of the police will have flow on benefits through economic savings in the justice system. It is important that this goes to social investment focussing on crime prevention, restorative justice and addressing economic inequity. This ensures community safety, improves social outcomes and begins to attack the root cause of crimes in social issues.
Now we have an understanding of how the police abolitionist goals of a safer community can be met, but what are the next steps? First there is acting holistically on the settings described above.
That said, further research and testing of solutions should be undertaken at a domestic and international level. It is important to understand the nuances of local problems and note that a solution that works in another jurisdiction may not work at home.
Regardless, this research provides a basis for understanding what abolition is, discuss what it might look like and going back to the fundamental purpose of the research, invites a discussion of how governments, communities and individuals can ensure that Black Lives Do Matter.