In their recently published opinion piece, former Seattle police chiefs miss the larger point of calls for abolition. Abolition, as scholar Ruth Wilson Gilmore puts it, is about “presence, not absence.” Abolitionists are not naive, radical, rigid absolutists as the police chiefs would have you believe. We are your neighbors who recognize that when we invest our resources in housing, health care, education, transportation and the environment, we will all be safer.
Were we safe in the summer of 2020 when Seattle Police Department officers used tear gas and rubber bullets on the very residents they are meant to keep safe? Our police department has been under a federal consent decree for a decade, but 10 years of budget increases, training and reforms haven’t led to meaningful change. A recent report found SPD uses force against Black people at a per capita rate seven times that of white people, and it is even higher for Black youth.
Public safety comes from preventing harm from happening in the first place. It is time to resource Black and brown community-led solutions that address the root causes of poverty rather than criminalizing those the system has neglected.
Ben Hines of the abolition solidarity group Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites (CARW.org), Seattle