TheGrio Daily

Why wouldn’t we abolish the police?

Episode 96

“The first step to solving crimes, enforcing laws, and keeping people safe is to abolish the police.” What if we’ve got it all wrong and our policing systems are actually doing more harm than good? Michael Harriot explains why Americans, especially Black Americans, would be safer if we abolished the police and started over with more intentional and targeted programs.


[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black podcast network Black Culture Amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:05] Hello, my name is Michael Harriot, and we will turn back with another episode of theGrio Daily. This week we are going to be talking about some of the mythology behind police because there’s a lot of stuff that you believe about policing that is almost certainly not true. And we’re going to be delving into that topic this week with facts, with figures, and with the question that this episode is going to center around. I’m world famous white people. It is Michael Harriot and this is theGrio Daily, the only podcast that will ask Why Wouldn’t We Abolish The Police? Like, seriously, you know, there are a growing number of people who have moved from defund the police, from reforming the police to abolishing the police. And while that sounds like a radical idea, it’s not really that radical when you think about it. And I want to explain why during this episode. First of all, one of the reasons people are against abolishing the police is that they say, well man crime would skyrocket and, you know, people would be hurt and whose traffic would be crazy and who’s going to enforce the law? Like, that’s the thing. Like, nobody has ever suggested that we would abolish the police and not replace it with anything. And that’s what that the reason why people are. In the mindset that they think that is an absurd idea is because of how we think about policing. 

Michael Harriot [00:01:49] Policing is a word that means to control. And we equate policing for some reason in America with enforcing the law, with stopping crime, with solving crime, with preventing crime, and with like keeping people safe. Public safety. But those things, those are synonyms, right? Like, policing is a whole different thing than public safety. Policing is not a synonym for enforcing the law. Policing is not a synonym for keeping people, you know, safe or directing traffic. Police is policing is a whole different thing, right? Policing is watching, controlling. And police don’t have to do that. So that’s what we want to get rid of when we say get rid of the police. We don’t mean stop solving crimes. We don’t mean stop keeping people safe. We don’t mean stop enforcing the law. We mean abolish policing. Now, some people ask, Well. Well, how do you do that? Well, first of all. Let’s start with who are police officers? In this country, the average police officer has to take about 830 hours of training to become a certified police officer. And they usually attend a police academy, a certified police academy, most of which are run by states. Well, when the Bureau of Justice Statistics looked at these police academies, they found, first of all, like police, when you look at what police are trying to do at these academies, they spend most of their time learning how to shoot. Like like 70 plus hours a week of up to 833 hours of learning about learning shooting firearms stuff. Right. And then the other the second one is what they call defensive tactics. And that might sound like they’re teaching police officers have to defend themselves. No, that means that they’re teaching police officers, for instance, a defensive tactic is a chokehold, a takedown, how to handcuff somebody. All of those things, how to tase somebody. All of that are considered defensive tactics. 

Michael Harriot [00:04:11] So, you know, the bulk the majority of police time, when you combine also less than lethal weapons, the bulk of their time is spent learning how to subdue, hurt or kill people. There’s no question about that. And then the next part of their time, isn’t it about learning like the law. Right. They spend twice as much time knowing how to subdue or kill people than they spend learning traffic laws and constitutional law. And they don’t really spend that much time learning how to do that. They don’t really spend that much time learning how to investigate. They don’t really spend that much time learning community collaboration. They don’t really spend that time doing very little time learning cultural sensitivity. So and then in many states, you have to be 18 to be a police officer, some others you have to be 21. But can you see what we’re doing right? We are taking 18, 21 year old dudes who, like were playing high school football last year, giving them guns, teaching them to shoot. Teaching them that how to be culturally sensitive and competent and then saying, I wonder why they shoot so many Black people, cause we taught them to do that. 

[00:05:36] And the second thing is, the second myth is about crime solving. Police, you know, according to the Associated Press, according to studies, police solve about 2% of all major crimes. And that’s for a number of reasons. First of all, like half of crimes aren’t reported. Most crimes aren’t reported. Secondly, the crimes that are reported, you know, police kind of don’t really, like police ain’t going out and looking for your TV, bro. I’m telling you, you can call the police when your house is broken, too, but they’re not going to apprehend somebody or go on a stakeout to find your, you know, flat screen. I’m just I’m just telling you. So when it comes to murders, rapes, major crimes, one of the things that people don’t understand is most of those crimes are committed by someone who knows the victim. Right. The offender knows the victim. And most men. So that’s the majority of the crimes they solve. Right. And then the other ones they solve by happenstance. They’ll just stop a car and find a gun that belonged to somebody who killed somebody. Or they might stop a car and find somebody who had a warrant out for their arrest because the police already knew who did it, because the person who they did it to told. Right. So that’s a lot of crime. 

Michael Harriot [00:07:00] But the part we don’t talk about a lot is what we call a police created crime. Right. So when we look at crime statistics, for instance, comparing Black neighborhoods to white neighborhoods, we say, well, the Black neighborhoods have a lot more crime. But that’s sometimes is because of police related crime. Here’s an example. Right. So police go to a corner and stop and frisk people and they find marijuana on them. Now, nobody reported that crime. That crime only existed when the police stopped somebody and frisked them and found that marijuana, nobody was being harmed. But that goes down as a crime that police stopped or solved or prevented. Right. Another one, a great one, a great instance of this is criminalizing poverty. Right. So say you get stopped by police. Now, most police, police traffic stops are most responsible than anything else for people being brutalized or killed by cops. But say the police stop you and you know, you were speeding or you get a traffic ticket or, you know, you didn’t have your license with you. Your car wasn’t insured. And you can’t pay the ticket. For whatever reason, maybe you don’t have the money. Maybe you’re out of work. Well, when you don’t pay the ticket, that puts a warrant out on you. Some places just a misdemeanor, some places you can rise to a felony, depending on the number and the amount of the ticket of the offense that the police want you to ticket for. 

Michael Harriot [00:08:42] Well. If you’re in a car with somebody else and that person gets stopped and you have that warrant out for you, the police can take you in and it goes down as them solving a crime, apprehending a fugitive, but it was a police created crime. Right. Like they wrote you that ticket. They were the ones who were performing traffic stops. Not necessarily. And we know from studies that like like patrolling traffic, does it make people generally drive slower when police aren’t there? And the same thing is true with drugs. Right. So as we talked about that, that marijuana stop. Right. Or like even when they bust in somebody’s house to arrest them for cocaine. Well, we know that arresting somebody from for cocaine or drug possession in general doesn’t lower the use of drugs, doesn’t have an effect on the drug use rate in a city. So it is a thing where police are creating this situation that doesn’t solve the problem. They’re not lowering drug use. They’re not affecting the rate of use for drugs. So back to abolishing police, how what would we do if we abolish the police? Well, if we want to, for instance, solve a crime? Well, what we would do is hire more educated people, perhaps people who have been to college and gotten a degree in criminology. In the end, if we hired really qualified police officers, what would happen is colleges would create courses for people to specialize in policing, and policing wouldn’t be taught by other police officers who have already brutalized people. Right. And so we hire investigators to investigate. We hire drug people to lower the drug rate. We hire people who are experienced, who know about traffic to make traffic stops. And those people don’t have to have guns. Right, because cops get shot. You’re right. Cops get shot doing traffic stops because even if it’s a criminal, they shoot the cop because they know the cop has gun. Right. So if there’s not a cop, it might be confrontational, but it probably won’t end or result in somebody losing their life. 

Michael Harriot [00:10:59] So we get traffic, people doing traffic stuff. We got, you know, investigators investigating. We got drug people stopping the drug rate. Then we got people who actually know the law, enforcing the law. So when you call in to 911 and there is a legal dispute or a dispute between neighbors, there’s some kind of law being broken. They would send an investigator or they would send somebody skilled at a mental health if there was a mental health emergency or an EMT or an investigator, if there was a crime being committed. And of course, we’re going to need people with guns. I don’t deny that. And those people don’t have to be police. Those people would be concerned with public safety. Well, how do we get those people? What we’ve done is call that people with guns force down to so few people that we would have to hire because we would be able to hire the most highly trained, the most skilled people in those positions. And so it probably would be some dude who was on the high school linebacking corps at regular school high last year. Right. It would be someone who was qualified to fill those positions. They would have to have the education and that education would be provided not by police, but by people who have the same goal of stopping crime and ending crime as we do. And what would happen is fewer people would get shot because, one, fewer people who investigate crimes would have guns. And two, what would happen is the people who have the guns wouldn’t be as gung ho about shooting Black people because they were trained by people who shoot Black people. They weren’t protected by people who shoot who have shot Black people in the past. Before they made detective, they wouldn’t be guided by the people who shot Black people union. Right. All of this contributes to the police killing Black people. And the only way to do it is to solve the problem that we have now. 

Michael Harriot [00:13:15] Here is the thing. Let’s say none of what I said is correct. I’m going to offer you an option. We’re going to start from zero. And we’re going to figure out a way to fight crime, to enforce laws and to keep people safe. Would you first start with, “Hey, let’s give people guns and see what happens.” There’s no way that you would. And that’s why the first step to solving crimes, enforcing laws and keeping people safe is to abolish the police. It’s just that simple. And that’s why we have to subscribe to this podcast. That’s why you got to tell a friend about it. That’s why you’ve got to download that Grio app, that Grio streaming service. And that’s why we always leave you with a saying from Black America. And today’s saying is, “Abolish the police or kill Black people. There’s only one choice.” We’ll see you next time at theGrio Daily. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app, subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at theGrio dot com. 

[00:14:46] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast network. Black Culture Amplified. 

Panama Jackson [00:14:52] Coming this February. theGrio Black Podcast Network presents Dear Culture. Truest Black Stories. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:01] When you think of sheer artistry, sheer creativity, the ability for someone to bring Black people together in the most fundamental ways. It’s, you know, I would say of my four, Randy Watson is my number one. 

Michael Harriot [00:15:15] When the news about Ricky first broke, what I heard about it is the thing you hear about, you know, every time somebody Black dies that it was gang related, That means the police don’t know what happened. So they just said probably the gangs, probably, you know, the other Black dudes. 

Damon Young [00:15:32] When I think of tequila, you know, I think about I think about how impressionable white people can be. I think about how, you know, if you watch that movie again, you know, he should have lost like three times. 

Panama Jackson [00:15:44] Where were you when you heard the story about them suckers getting served by Wade’s dance crew? 

Shamira Ibrahim [00:15:50] You know, it’s crazy that you mention this. So as a New Yorker, right? Everyone knows where they were. Oh 9/11 Right. You know, couple of years later, Right. 2003. Everyone hears about this crazy moment in a boxing ring because that’s where dancers duke it out, right, in boxing rings. 

Panama Jackson [00:16:07] If you could say something to Ricky right now, what would you say to him? 

Monique Judge [00:16:12] Ricky, you should’ve never got that girl pregnant. You knew I had a crush on you. You should have got with me instead. 

Panama Jackson [00:16:16] Moments in Black culture examined like never before. Join us each week as we dive into the Black moments that changed us. That changed the world. Make sure to subscribe to Dear Culture so you never miss an episode.