Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah spoke to Mugglehead News in response to US House of Representatives suggesting that the War on Drugs was responsible for increases in police violence, particularly against Black people. While the US resolution called for greater accountability, Professor Owusu-Bempah argued that reducing the funding and scope of responsibilities of the police would more effectively reduce police violence. We have included an excerpt of the article below. Professor Owusu-Bempah is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, with teaching responsibilities at the UT Mississauga campus. His research focuses on the intersection of race, policing and justice.
US House resolution points to war on drugs as contributing to police brutality
Best way to reduce police violence is to scale back funding and amount of responsibility police have, says criminology prof
Michelle Gamage June 2, 2020 16 min
A new resolution condemning police brutality was introduced in the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, citing the war on drugs as contributing to “the systemic targeting of and use of deadly and brutal force against people of colour, particularly black people.”
The resolution calls for increased police accountability, following recent police killings of George Floyd in Minnesota and Brennoa Taylor in Kentucky. The deaths and a history of unarmed black citizens being killed by police have sparked protests and riots in the U.S., as well as demonstrations worldwide, with many demanding the officers involved face criminal charges proportional to their alleged crimes.
But creating more oversight isn’t the best way to reduce police brutality, says Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto.
As an expert on the intersection of race, crime and criminal justice, Owusu-Bempah says the best way to reduce police violence is to scale back the funding and amount of responsibility police have.
“For centuries we simply asked the police to do more and more and more,” he said. “They are primary responders in issues involving homelessness, mental health and a whole host of other social ills — and of course related to substance use and addiction. I don’t think police are the right institution to be engaging in those areas. I’d rather see a culture of less policing rather than police oversight.”
Owusu-Bempah recommends demilitarizing the police and diverting funds from law enforcement to other social services.