“Policing in the United States of America Today Represents a Profound Failure”
(This is the third of 5 short selections from an interview with Waging Nonviolence co-founder Nathan Schneider. You can read the first installment of the interview series here and here.) Nathan will be the featured guest for BPF’s monthly phone call on October 27th.)
We can’t talk about nonviolence without talking about police — partly because many nonviolent movements choose to push or break laws in some ways, also because there’s always this question of the “legitimate use of force” from the police, and state violence in general. As a proponent of nonviolence, what’s your take on policing as an institution, and what have you learned about police and policing thanks to your deep study and advocacy of nonviolent movements?
Policing in the United States of America today represents a profound failure from the perspective of nonviolence. Our fear and social isolation has caused us to heap ever more resources into militarized policing and an incarceration system that represents a grave crime against humanity.
I think it’s important for communities to have experts trained in deescalating conflict and intervening when necessary. In some cases, that’s what police officers do. But by setting up incentives for departments to amass more weapons and for governments to amass more prison beds, we’ve ensure that this is the exception rather than the rule — both for how police treat political protest and how they treat supposedly non-political crime. A nonviolent approach, obviously, would seek to design a system that required fewer police, fewer weapons, and fewer prisons, but that’s a goal our political system seems incapable of embracing. It is up to social movements to make this politically possible.
Nathan Schneider is a co-founder and editor of Waging Nonviolence. His first two books, both published in 2013 by University of California Press, are Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse and God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet. He has written about religion, reason and violence for publications including The Nation, The New York Times, Harper’s, Commonweal, Religion Dispatches, AlterNet and others. Visit his website at TheRowBoat.com.
* Top photo: Police on Horseback. Mayday 2012 Rally. Minneapolis, MN. All photos by Nathan G. Thompson