On a media tour to promote his new book, Temple University Professor Dr. Marc Lamont Hill shared his thoughts on police brutality and his solution — to abolish the police — during an interview on the popular radio morning show “The Breakfast Club.”
Hill is a professor of media studies and urban education and the author of the book “We Still Here: Pandemic, Policing, Protest, and Possibility.”
His latest book is “Seen and Unseen: Technology, Social Media, and the Fight for Racial Justice.”
During his May 9 interview on The Breakfast Club, Hill talked about police brutality and the need to attack crime, among other things.
There are several ways to effectively address crime, and adding more police is not among them, according to Hill.
One way is to get to the root of crime and fix the problem, he said. “The root cause of most crime is poverty — it’s inequality. Most people don’t rob people just to rob people. Some people do, but most people don’t. When people have jobs they commit crime less, when people have libraries they commit crimes less, when they have school access to music and art programs, they commit crime less.”
Having a society that provides for the needs of people would encourage a safer society, he said.
“We have to re-imagine what safety looks like … We can have our own neighborhoods and community watches and things like that. We can have public safety forces.”
Instead of calling the police in all cases, there could be community watches that can step in, for example, to handle public drunkenness, Hill said.
Hill admits that people have a negative reaction when he suggests abolishing the police. But he argues that policing doesn’t drive down crime rates. Decriminalizing certain things does.
“Decriminalizing drugs, decriminalizing gambling … by shrinking the people who go to prison,” Hill said, “I think we are moving toward abolition. The language of abolitionism scares people. The language of defunding (the police) scares people, but we’ve been defunding for a long time” by decriminalizing crimes.
He continued, “Abolition is less about what we don’t want … it’s more about the world that we do want. It’s about saying, ‘What does the world look like when all of your needs are met?’.”
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Hill shared his thoughts on law enforcement with Philadelphia Magazine.
“I say that for the last few centuries, we invested more and more in policing, and it hasn’t made us any safer or less drug-addicted or less vulnerable. We need a new way,” Hill said.
“Every year in government, we take money and move it to different places. We reallocate money to use it more effectively and efficiently. In the case of police, they are now being asked to be social workers, crisis-response teams, therapists and tax collectors,” Hill added. “So even if you believe in police, you have to admit they’re being asked to do jobs they aren’t trained for and don’t have the capacity to do. So take money from the budget and hire therapists and social workers. That’s defunding. It’s not ‘Everybody’s gettin’ shot, so let’s fire the police and hope everything works out.'”
Abolition has been a belief of Hill’s for a while. He made a case for abolition after Philadelphia police shot Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old African-American mentally ill man, when they responded a domestic dispute call on Oct. 26, 2020.
Police should not be called in cases involving mentally ill people, Hill told Democracy Now in 2020.
“If all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail, right? If the only solution we have is policing, then we’re going to have a militarized … and criminalized response to the problem. For decades what we’ve seen is a sort of raid of the social resources. We no longer have access to mental health, schooling, housing, education. All these things are taken out of the public good and replaced by more militarization, replaced by more policing. And so the police become the response to all of our social problems and crises,” Hill said.
He pointed out that “the police aren’t equipped to do this. The police aren’t equipped to handle a situation for mental health … An abolitionist vision, of course, ultimately is a world without policing and prisons.”
Photo: Reflecting on the Dream, MLK/ Dr. Marc Lamont Hill delivers the keynote speech at an African American History Month Celebration (NASA/Goddard/Bill Hrybyk, https://www.flickr.com/photos/nasa_goddard/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ Background photo of police: (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)