Why Police Reform Is Not Enough
By Alex Vitale
Posted July 1, 2020
By conceptualizing the problem of policing as one of inadequate training and professionalization, reformers fail to directly address how the very nature of policing and the legal system serve to maintain and exacerbate racial inequality. By calling for colorblind “law and order” they strengthen a system that puts people of color at a structural disadvantage and contributes to their deep social and legal estrangement.
At root, they fail to appreciate that the basic nature of the law and the police, since its earliest origins, is to be a tool for managing inequality and maintaining the status quo. Police reforms that fail to directly address this reality are doomed to reproduce it.
These reforms may improve the efficiency of police bureaucracies and improve relations with those active in police-community dialogues between communities and the police but will do little to address the racially disparate outcomes of policing. That is because even racially neutral enforcement of traffic laws will invariably punish poorer residents who are least able to maintain their vehicles and pay fines. Well-trained police following proper procedure are still going to be arresting people for mostly low-level offenses, and the burden will continue to fall primarily on communities of color because that is how the system is designed to operate—not because of the biases or misunderstandings of officers. More…