From the community | Demilitarize the police
Abolish Stanford is an autonomous formation fighting for the abolition of the police and the total liberation at Stanford University and throughout the peninsula. Through direct action, county-level advocacy, political education, and grassroots building, we are committed to defunding the police and reinvesting resources into the community and the institutions that truly keep us safe. Members of the group asked to remain anonymous for fear of academic reprisals.
On Thursday, March 26, the Santa Clara County Community Corrections and Law Enforcement Oversight Committee (CCLEM) meet review recommendations for the Sheriff’s Office Military Equipment Use Policy. Below Assembly Bill 481, law enforcement agencies are required to receive approval from their local governing body for the acquisition and continued use of military equipment. Among the military items and uses the sheriff’s office wants to approve are: the continued use of 280 Colt AR-15s and other assault and sniper rifles, a new $465,000 robot (in addition to the three already in inventory) and unlimited use of “less lethal” (i.e. rubber bullets) and chemical ammunition, according to the meeting agenda. This list does not include inventory held by the Stanford University Department of Public Safety (SUDPS). According to the agenda, The SUDPS alone has 32 Colt AR-15 rifles and eight Defense Technology 40mm launchers for “less lethal” ammunition, among other things.
As the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) pointed out at the meeting, these types of militarized equipment do not keep communities safe: they exacerbate the threat posed to black and brown communities because of the disparities that already exist. in policing, and they don’t keep communities safe. Studies show that they fail to reduce crime and or attacks on policebut that they do increase the amount of violence communities face hands of the police.
The AFSC also pointed out that the sheriff’s office’s proposed military equipment use policy violates state and county law. Assembly Bill 48 prohibits the use of kinetic energy projectiles (i.e. “less lethal” ammunition) and chemical agents to disperse any gathering, protest or demonstration, except in very specific circumstances (such as a threat to life or serious bodily harm). And perhaps most importantly, the Military Equipment Use Policy imposes few or no restrictions on its use of militarized equipment. There are no explicit prohibitions on the use of any of these, nor any actual limitations (most uses are defined as “including, but not limited to”).
Despite these shortcomings and community concerns, the sheriff’s office argued that this military equipment was needed to respond to incidents like the 2021 VTA shooting in San Jose. In effect, the police often invoke mass shootings as justification for their militarization, as well as their very existence. Sadly, over the past few weeks we have seen repeatedly how empty the promise of security through militarized police forces really is. In Uvalde, Texas, a gunman killed 19 children and two adults at a local elementary school. It’s hard to imagine a more disastrous police response: the shooter remained inside the school for about 80 mins, roughly 50 of which involved 19 police officers waiting in a school hallway, refusing to confront the lone gunman. Federal marshals and officers of the Uvalde Police Department reserved their violence for family members demanding action: a woman was briefly handcuffed, a father was thrown to the ground by an officer, another was pepper sprayed and another was given a taser. Meanwhile, the students trapped inside have done at least seven calls to 911 pleading with the police – who they could hear just outside – for help. In the end, it took a separate law enforcement agency receive a key from a school janitor before the shooter is killed and the children can leave.
The instinctive response to tragedies like this is to ask for more funding for the police. But that would be a mockery of people who have lost loved ones in recent weeks to police incompetence. Uvalde spends 40% of its budget on the police and has more than doubled the amount he spends on school policing since 2017, from about $200,000 to $435,000. In Buffalo, NY, a 911 dispatcher hang up the phone about a trapped grocery store employee being attacked by a white supremacist gunman. New York City increase the amount of law enforcement devoted to the subway system by 250 officers last May, just for the NYPD fails to prevent the attack or apprehend the shooter.
We have decades worth similar examples of police failure in the context of mass shootings. We also know that in the two years since the murder of George Floyd, the police went to kill more than 2,000 more peopleor around three people a day. Whether we want to admit it or not, we live in a death cult, largely because of this country’s obsession with the police. As writer, lawyer and activist Derecka Purnell writes in Become abolitionists“[S]structural violence, such as militarism and policing, can create and shape interpersonal violence, such as assaults, murders, and mass shootings. . . . Put simply, when the federal government uses law enforcement and the military to control concentrated wealth, property, and natural resources, it conditions ordinary people to accept violence, reproduce it, or rebel against it. . We must be among those who rebel against it.
We must work to end policing, war and militarization here and around the world. And there are many things we can do locally to be part of this fight:
- You can join us for a conversation with Derecka Purnell and Professor Matthew Clair on June 1 at 12:00 p.m. We organize it jointly with members of the Coalition Care First, Jail Last, who has been fighting for more than a year against the construction of a new county jail, and we will include more information about the campaign as well as ways to get involved.
- You can join us at the June 28 Board of Supervisors meeting to protest the Sheriff’s Military Equipment Use Policy. Overwhelming evidence from research and recent events shows that we are not safer with 32 AR-15s on campus, especially in light of documented SUDPS documents racial profiling practices. Follow us @abolishstanford on Instagram and Twitter for updates and complete this interest form join us in strategizing and mobilizing for the June 28 meeting.
- Join an organization explicitly committed to the defunding, dismantling and total abolition of the prison state.
A better world is possible, but not so long as the state increases its investment in death and destruction, at the expense of community resources and care. We cannot allow these recent and devastating tragedies to be used as an excuse to expand the militarized police state. We need abolition now.