Reading Resources For Understanding The Debate Over Police


After more than a week of protests in response to George Floyd’s murder, there is now a growing chorus of activists, government officials, community leaders and citizens calling for the defunding of law enforcement in the United States. But issues of mass incarceration, structural racism and the police killings of black and brown men and women is not unique to America. In New Zealand right now there is mounting concern over the government’s proposal to arm police officers with assault rifles. 

With Māori people almost eight times more likely than Pakeha to be victims of police violence, and Māori and Pasifika comprising two-thirds of all those shot and killed by police, there is real concern that a move to arm officers would severely endanger the lives of Māori communities here in New Zealand.

But don’t just take my word for it – it’s not enough for us to screenshot something we see online and expect it to culminate in any meaningful change. We have to authentically and critically engage with articles that will further our education and we have to then draw our own conclusions. So here’s what I’ve been reading:

“The Whakapapa of Police Violence” by Emilie Rākete for The Spinoff. Did you know that in 1846, the New Zealand Armed Constabulary Force was established “to combat Māori hostiles and to keep civil order.” And in 1885, they changed their uniforms, changed their name, and became the New Zealand Police we have today? I didn’t. Rākete unpacks some of the ways in which Māori are still being unfairly targeted by law enforcement.  

“Criminal Justice System Inherently Racist Towards Aboriginal People” by Lucy Cormack for Sydney Morning Herald. Australia’s criminal justice system is still showing alarming signs of over-representation of Indigenous people, and with a distressing video recently emerging of a 17-year-old Aboriginal boy being violently arrested and kicked by a NSW Police officer, there are mounting calls to address the problem.  

An excerpt from Alex S. Vitale’s ‘The End Of Policing’ published on VICE. Vitale uses groundbreaking academic research to reveal the origins of modern policing in the United States as a tool of social control. He argues that the expansion of police authority is inconsistent with community empowerment and social justice – and in fact has come to exacerbate the very problems it’s supposed to solve. If you want to purchase and read his full findings, click here 

“The Police Are Rioting – We Need To Talk About It” by Jamelle Bouie for The New York Times. Bouie argues, “In effect, rioting police have done as much to stoke unrest and destabilize the situation as those responsible for damaged buildings and burning cars. But where rioting protesters can be held to account for destruction and violence, rioting police have the imprimatur of the state.” Which is to say: Their power has made them immune to consequence. 

“America’s Protests Won’t Stop Until Police Brutality Does” by the Editorial Board for The New York Times. Rather than arguing for the complete disestablishment of law enforcement in the States, this article puts forward practical recommendations for how the US could move to a place where citizens don’t live in fear of those charged with protecting and serving them. 

Header image via The New York Times