A key thing to keep in mind with respect to the huge increase in police forces and policing over the past forty years is that it has dovetailed with an increase in inequality: rather than attending to the root causes of inequality, we’ve turned to the police to deal with its effects:
Broken-windows policing is at root a deeply conservative attempt to shift the burden of responsibility for declining living conditions onto the poor themselves and to argue that the solution to all social ills is increasingly aggressive, invasive, and restrictive forms of policing that involve more arrests, more harassment, and ultimately more violence. As inequality continues to increase, so will homelessness and public disorder, and as long as people continue to embrace the use of police to manage disorder, we will see a continual increase in the scope of police power and authority at the expense of human and civil rights.Vitale, The End of Policing, page 7
Not only is it unethical to criminalize poverty, it doesn’t accomplish anything. What does arresting a homeless person achieve? It costs more to punish someone for the failings of their society than it costs to help them—and their community—recover from those failings.
But spending the public’s money efficiently isn’t the point: the point is to oppress. That oppression serves to uphold the unequal systems that draw money out of Black and brown communities and drive it into the hands of rich white corporate owners.
Inequality and violent over-policing require each other to exist. You can’t have one without the other. If you’re serious about ending inequality, you also have to end policing.