Following the unjust deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless other innocent Black lives, protests around the world and locally called for police reform and abolition. Instead, the City of Ithaca, Tompkins County and the Center for Policing Equity responded with a performative proposal.
The “Reimagining Public Safety” draft report states, “The total abolition of law enforcement agencies was not seen as a viable approach to reimagining public safety in Ithaca and Tompkins County.” However, abolition is the next step of radical change in America. Abolition deconstructs the agencies that were built to continue systems of oppression.
The systems that were designed to protect society do not include Black people. Our current policing system upholds systems of oppression. Black people are more than three times as likely to be murdered by police officers than white people. These systems have yet to prove they are committed to racial equality. Instead, while white people are raised to trust the police, Black people are raised to be cautious, understanding that the police are a threat to their safety.
When people call for abolition, they do so because nobody should die at the hands of a police officer. Police abolition is meant to create communities that can provide for their own safety and well-being.
The proposal, while far from abolition, still promises to deliver more transparency and reduce the number of armed officers. The draft also proposes to replace the Ithaca Police Department (IPD) with the “Department of Community Solutions and Public Safety,” which would include armed “public safety workers” and unarmed “community solution workers.” Only time will tell if the proposal will prove effective. Unfortunately, not everyone, especially Black people, has time to wait.
The plan funnels more money into policing, ignoring that true abolition allocates money, time and commitment to affordable housing, rehabilitation and the community. While the plan is more ambitious than what the United States has seen so far, to claim that it is the “most ambitious” or “radical” is ignorant and ignores the truly radical work being done by Black grassroots organizers.