While saying ‘no’ to the abuses of police, we must say ‘yes’ to the alternatives by actually building them. A community without policing means a community that has each other’s backs. It means being committed to healing from the impacts of police in our communities and in our minds, and developing the shared skills, knowledge, and structures to do so. We do not need anyone’s permission to begin this work, and there’s no need to wait either. Take our pledge to commit to taking steps in this direction today:
1. Get to know, connect with, and care for your community
Caring for your community means understanding systems and structures that put people in their current positions, listening to individual perspectives, and doing what needs to be done to meet people’s needs. When we know and care about each other, we are able to have honest conversations about creating a new world without police that is rooted in our material reality. It’s this simple: And we need to actually do it.
2. Train yourself & community members in first aid and healing centered de-escalation
Often, police respond to calls for minor conflicts and injuries. When police arrive or patrol in your community — even with the declared intent to “help” injured or arguing people — they escalate situations that we could attend to ourselves. By learning first aid and de-escalation skills within our communities, we can mediate conflicts, build relationships with our neighbors, and take care of our own, without putting people at risk of brutality and/or arrest.
3. Choose service providers who do not collaborate with the police
At this time, there are few, if any, providers physically located in the Greater Burlington Area that refuse to contact the police under any circumstances. We know that the police are a very real danger for poor, disabled, neurodivergent, Black, and immigrant folks. In order to keep every person in our community safe, even when they are in crisis, we need to ensure that the service providers who claim to care about their well-being are not making calls to cops that could endanger their lives.
4. Lean on community skills (knowledge & collective problem solving), not the cops
Many of us already have the lived experiences and skills to mediate conflicts and develop strong communities! We are a community of babysitters, grandparents, educators, counselors, cooks, parents, customer service workers, carpenters, nurses, EMTs — the list goes on. We know how to build relationships, and strengthen our communities, because we have always done so (in ways small and large).
5. Choose de-escalation as a first response to crisis
One fundamental characteristic of White Supremacy Culture is a Fear of Open Conflict, which serves the police by creating the need to “outsource” our conflict resolution process. In moments of crisis and conflict, we are often better able to respond to the emotional, physical, and interpersonal needs of our friends and neighbors, and we must commit to doing so.
6. Encourage others to quit calling the cops
Around the country and here in the Greater Burlington Area, white people call the police on Black people simply for existing. Affluent people call the police on poor people simply for existing. We know this is wrong. Many of us do not see ourselves in the people who go viral for calling the police for racist, classist reasons, and yet, many folks still call the police for things ranging from a stolen bike to a person urinating outside. calling the police for any reason invites them into our neighborhoods, which endangers the lives of our neighbors. We need to limit police presence on our blocks, and stop calling the police altogether.
7. Actively watch, film, and engage police activity as a community
We understand that policing is not designed to serve people, but rather is designed to protect individual and corporate power & property. This is true whether a society decides that “property” is people, animals, ideas, or land. Because of this, we understand that policing does not make us safe, but rather endangers many people in our community. We commit to actively watching, filming, cataloguing, and discussing police activity in order to combat bystander culture and to ensure that our community realizes that policing is not a force for good. We watch cops, we don’t call them, because we keep our community safe.
8. Remove cops from organization & nonprofit boards
The impact of cops, both in and out of uniform, extends beyond the police department itself, and we need to ensure that police don’t bring their abusive power into our community organizations. Whether it’s sports leagues, nonprofits, or school boards, it is our responsibility to remove them from those positions of influence and power.
9. Actively investigate your fears and assumptions; think about and feel your emotions in order to humanize yourself & others
It is incredibly important to decriminalize distress. When we base reactions to what we perceive as “odd” or “suspicious” behavior in fear and assumptions, we can endanger others.
10. Invest in community events, meeting spaces, & outreach programs that do not communicate or interact with the police
Access to free public places in the Greater Burlington Area is limited. One place where people still choose to hold public meetings is in the police station. And even when people are gathering outside of police stations, they request that police attend and supervise events and protests. It is extremely dangerous for many people to be in proximity to police, and for many more, being in the police station brings up traumatic memories of police interactions. Who are we (consciously or unconsciously) excluding by default when we choose to gather in places with police presence? Public events should be held in places where our community feels safe to attend, so we need to make the choice to stop having public meetings of any kind in police stations.
11. Educate yourself about the history of police
Many dedicated organizers have assembled reading and watch lists on the history of police from American Slavery to Reconstruction to today. Consistently investigate this history over a long period of time, and hold yourself accountable to continuing this study into the future. Consider reading buddies or watch parties to process the material in conversation and to give yourself structures of accountability.
12. Have conversations about existing racist structures and new systems with your community–neighbors, friends, coworkers, and family
Consider starting or joining a book club to learn more about the racist systems in your community. Invite others who may or may not share your perspective and understanding about racial capitalism and start reading and discussing together.
13. Invest in your own personal healing from whiteness and the impacts of white supremacy culture on your behaviors, patterns, and value
Our world has indoctrinated us with White Supremacy Culture, and seeing it is often the first step to really addressing it. Once you have seen it, unpack it within yourself. Do you gauge your own value (and the value of others) based on adherence to these characteristics? How do they degrade your own humanity? We must all begin to divest from these characteristics, and in doing so, divest from our proximity to the power of white supremacy.