The Rutgers Part-Time Lecturers Faculty Chapter (AAUP-AFT Local 6324) stands with the mass uprisings across the country in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. These rebellions are a response not only to ongoing state-sanctioned killings in Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities, but to long-standing systemic white supremacy in all aspects of life in the United States.
We also condemn the violent police assaults on protesters, what scholar and commentator Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor rightly calls a “national police riot.”
Police violence is not about the biases of individual officers, lack of training, or specific department policies. Rather, it results from the nature of institutionalized policing in a racist society, where law enforcement is, in the words of The End of Policing author Alex S. Vitale, “a tool for managing inequality and maintaining the status quo.”
We therefore stand with those calling for:
Centers of education must sever all ties with the police, whose history of anti-Black violence, as Angela Davis reminds us, connects “all the way back to the days of slavery, the aftermath of slavery, the development of the Ku Klux Klan.” Moreover, Black and Brown students comprise between 20 and 46 percent of Rutgers enrollment, depending on the campus. Police departments by their nature pose a threat to the well-being and, potentially, the lives of those students. So do corporate-run private security companies, which merely reproduce the racist structures of state policing.
Police “unions” have never played, and can never play, a progressive solidarity role in the labor movement. On the contrary, they have historically been used to attack and undermine labor struggles. Indeed, these organizations only exist to make police a more effective — and more lucrative— tool of oppression, and to indemnify their members from accountability. There is no place for them in organized labor. A 2015 resolution from United Auto Workers Local 2865 has helped point the way forward, calling for the AFL-CIO “to end their affiliation with the International Union of Police Associations” on the basis that this organization “is inimical to both the interests of labor broadly, and Black workers in particular.”
Attempts to “reform” police have signally failed, and as long as the underlying role police play in propping up a system of racist inequality remains unchallenged, the killings and the oppression will continue. Nothing short of dismantling the police/carceral system in its current form can help bring about the radical changes needed to make the lives of People of Color matter. As Critical Resistance cofounder Rachel Herzing explains: “If one sees policing for what it is—a set of practices empowered by the state to enforce law and maintain social control and cultural hegemony through the use of force—one may more easily recognize that perhaps the goal should not be to improve how policing functions but to reduce its role in our lives.”
Capitalism produces broad-spectrum social dysfunction, and many understandably wonder how safety and security can be maintained on campuses and in our communities without police. But putting to one side the manifest threat police themselves present to safety and security, a vigorous discussion of alternatives to policing is being carried out in social justice organizing spaces. We should not, nor cannot, make a detailed plan for police abolition a condition of our support for these alternatives in principle.
In solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives, we say: #DefundPolice #InvestInCommunities can’t wait.
In solidarity and struggle,
The Officers and Board of the Rutgers PTLFC-AAUP-AFT Local 6324