"We should demand safety and security – but not at the hands of the police"

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

For our next Lunch with… programme, on Wednesday 18 May, we will be joined by the US scholar and educator Alex S. Vitale, author of the best-selling The End of Policing.

Described by The Nation as “a compelling digest of the dynamics of crime and law enforcement”, The End of Policing was denounced earlier this year in the United States Congress by the Republican Senator, Ted Cruz, propelling it up the best-seller charts.

The police “exist primarily as a system for managing and even producing inequality by suppressing social movements and tightly managing the behaviours of poor and non-white people”, Vitale argues, describing as “a liberal fantasy” the notion that the police exist “to protect us from the bad guys”. As for attempts at incremental police reform:

The problem is not police training, police diversity or police methods. The problem is the dramatic and unprecedented expansion and intensity of policing in the last forty years, a fundamental shift in the role of police in society. The problem is policing itself.

Any attempt at police reform, Vitale writes, “must be part of a larger vision that questions the basic role of police in society and asks whether coercive government action will bring more justice or less… We should demand safety and security – but not at the hands of the police”.

We will be discussing what compelled Alex S. Vitale to write The End of Policing, and what he has been up to in the five years since its publication in 2017. Also among topics up for discussion: his civil rights work among the homeless in San Francisco in the early 1990s, and whether police researchers are too close to their subject.