Saturday, March 28, 2015

Claire Van Fossen: Justice Means NO POLICE

Claire Van Fossen, a self-described "lifelong Sherman Park resident who is deeply dedicated to a vision of a socially just Milwaukee," wrote an absolutely clueless piece as part of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's "Purple Wisconsin project."

She believes that a "just and free world means a world without police."

Say what?

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Whether we call them because of a dispute between neighbors or a robbery, a shooting or sexual violence, the police rarely meet our needs. They don’t help us heal. And they don’t prevent future harm. Rather than serve as advocates for true justice, they use their nearly limitless power to reinforce the oppressive status quo. They threaten us with violence and incarceration and target the most oppressed and vulnerable people in our society. By blaming “crime” and “criminals” instead of systemic oppression for society’s ills, the police exacerbate societal problems, harm citizens, and bar the people from liberation by maintaining the capitalist social order.

For certain, the negative effects of policing outweigh the benefits. In times of falling violent and property crimes, increased spending on police (ergo increased arrests, especially for petty crimes and drug offenses and especially in communities of color) has a host of negative impacts on individuals and communities, with little to no social benefit. Within the communities most affected, police hamper economic mobility, fragment families, and usurp taxpayer dollars which could otherwise be spent on the meaningful work happening to make those same communities safer and healthier.

What’s perhaps worse is the fact that, because the police do not keep us safe, their predominant role in society is maintaining a social order that enables people in power to operate with the least amount of disruption possible and thus continue to exploit and oppress the already disenfranchised. By targeting low-income individuals and people of color, the police maintain a racial and economic system of social stratification that is profitable and beneficial only for the ruling class.

And unlike basically every other institution in our country, they do this while safely insulated from competition, market feedback, the price mechanism, and the profit-loss system. As a result, there is virtually no system of accountability of police to their "clients" or the public, and any complaints against police are passed off as having been made by "criminals". Even in a state like ours, where investigations of police must be conducted by outside entities, those entities are often mostly made up of former police, and so perpetrating officers are almost never indicted nor face any criminal charges when they commit even the gravest of violent transgressions against the citizens they have vowed to serve and protect.

Plainly stated, police departments function as monopolies and come with incentives to overspend, overcharge, under-produce, and generally work in opposition to their clients’ interests and in favor of their own and of those of the ruling class. The police represent a nearly all-powerful, irreprehensible institution whose sole purpose is to keep poor and black folks oppressed so wealthy whites can prosper. It is for this reason that the abolition of the police must be a key component of the work to establish a more just, free, and equitable world.
Yes, Claire, the police are the bad guys. They don't help us heal and they function as a monopoly.

Seriously, what's wrong with you?

An adult shouldn't be this blind to reality.

Van Fossen says, "the police do not keep us safe."


She believes, "their predominant role in society is maintaining a social order that enables people in power to operate with the least amount of disruption possible and thus continue to exploit and oppress the already disenfranchised."

This drivel is straight out of the ivory tower.

So, what does it mean to imagine a world free of police? And what do viable alternatives to policing look like? The answer may be more intuitive than you think. As Luis Fernandez, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northern Arizona University, puts it, “Most of our communities already exist without policing. Most of our human interactions are already outside of the purview of police officers…Most social relationships between people do not require police intervention.”

Indeed, the absence of police might actually mean the chance to connect to one another more as people, on a human level. By eliminating the involvement of the state in social conflicts, we increase our opportunity to practice methods of conflict resolution like mediation, dialogue, and reconciliation - and we replace the racist, militaristic penalism which characterizes policing in this country and which proves so costly to our communities in so many ways.
And maybe without a police department unicorns could freely romp the streets and bring joy to all!

Van Fossen has the audacity to call the police in the U.S. "racist" and "militaristic."

Truly offensive.

It may take years before enough Americans recognize this, though. In the meantime, we have the power to reduce the role of the police in our own individual lives. This year I made a New Year’s resolution not to call the police. By participating in efforts in my neighborhood to reduce the presence and role of the police in our interactions, I’m also taking part in ensuring there is an organized, collectively-responsible immediate community with viable, humane and self-empowering alternatives to calling the police. Additionally, I know I can rely on resources like friends, help hotlines, restorative justice practices, crisis centers and so on should I find myself in a jam.
God help us if Americans ever adopt Van Fossen's beliefs.

Does Van Fossen really think a hotline or crisis center will suffice when it comes to maintaining order in society?

She wants "viable, humane and self-empowering alternatives to calling the police."

If someone is raped or robbed at gunpoint, I don't think we should be thinking of "self-empowering alternatives to calling the police."

The absence of police won't mean the "chance to connect to one another more as people, on a human level."

That is beyond idiotic.

It's not realistic.

Whatever our chosen alternatives to calling the police, we all deserve a conflict-resolution and crisis management process that is democratic, accountable, transparent, and over which our communities have the ultimate control. Our humanity, our justice, and our freedom depend on it.
Communities do have ultimate control over the police department. Good grief. We elect officials responsible for the department. The police aren't rogue oppressors, unaccountable to the public.

Is Van Fossen for real?

Mark Levin said, "Liberalism is the philosophy of the stupid."