International Day Against Police Brutality

Content warning: This post mentions police violence, anti-Blackness, racism.

March 15th is International Day Against Police Brutality. Over the past few years, we’ve seen relentless and horrifying headlines of police brutality all over the world — including here in Canada. [1]

Despite a reputation of being nicer and more peaceful than our neighbours to the south, Canada has a police brutality problem – and it disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, racialized, unhoused people and people with mental health issues. [2,3]

Police brutality made international headlines after land defenders faced escalating police aggression at Fairy Creek for months. [4] And police used excessive violence against unhoused people and their supporters in Halifax, Hamilton and Toronto this past summer. [5-7]

There have also been sobering moments where police have killed Black and Indigenous people, like Latjor Tuel in Calgary last month and Chantel Moore in New Brunswick in 2020. [8-9]

Politicians and police claim that reforms will fix the problem of police violence. But, there is overwhelming evidence that shows that reforms do not work. Body cameras, additional training, diversifying the police force, and so much more have been implemented — and have failed to stop police violence. [10,11] And cities from coast to coast have seen ballooning police budgets — many accounting for up to one-third of municipal budgets — even though crime has been decreasing over the last decade. [12-14]

Meanwhile, despite research proving their positive impacts on community well-being and preventing crime, funding for mental health supports, education, health care and community programming have gone down. The reality is, police actually only solve about 2% of major crime (including violent crime). [15] They also don’t prevent crime – they show up at the scene after a crime has happened.

The police serve and protect the status quo — whether that's corporate interests, like the fossil fuel industry and oppressive systems like white supremacy and colonialism. It’s not just a few bad apples – this is how the police institutions are designed. [16]

So what’s the alternative?

Imagine your neighbour has struggled with her mental health and is having a PTSD episode. Instead of calling the police, you’re able to call emergency responders who are equipped to support and soothe people in crisis. They arrive quickly and calmly de-escalate the situation.

Redistributing funds from the police towards research-driven solutions, like a basic income for all, supports for youth, funding for education and health care systems, and community safety initiatives, can help us build a more just and sustainable society.

On International Day Against Police Brutality, we honour the victims of police brutality and violence. We also honour the admirable work communities and organizers have put into trying to create a safer Canada for all.

We know another world is possible. A world where everyone can feel safe – no matter the colour of your skin, your income, your migration status, your housing or your mental health. Alternatives are bubbling up all over the country and around the world – we just need to support and fund them.

Sources and further reading: