On Policing: A Reading List
The death of George Floyd in Minnesota on May 25, 2020, has spurred widespread movements to defund the police. There have been many protests against police violence in the United States, Canada, and across the globe. Toronto has seen a series of protests about Toronto police. Protesters are calling to defund the Toronto Police and redirect funds toward community programs. Further deaths, such as those during police wellness checks in Canada, have continued to drive these demands.
Responses to these calls include a document from the Canadian Chapter of Black Lives Matter. In the document, the group outlines a detailed list of demands. In June, Toronto city council member Josh Matlow brought a motion to the June city council meeting calling to reduce the police budget by 10% in 2021. The motion failed to pass by a vote of eight to sixteen.
In light of these events, more Canadians are becoming aware of and concerned about racism in our society. There’s a lot of information out there, but where do you begin?
In 2018, the Ontario Human Rights Commission published an interim report, A Collective Impact. This report examines racial profiling and discrimination of Black people by the Toronto Police Service. For a local perspective, it's a good place to start.
Below is a recommended reading list on the criminal justice system, policing and racism in North America. Some of the books included deal with the broader context and history underlying these issues. With more conversations happening around defunding the police and racism, these books offer a bigger picture, beyond social media and news headlines. They tackle answers to questions such as:
- What is the history of policing in Canada and the United States?
- Does Canada face the same systemic racism in policing and the criminal justice system as the United States?
- How can communities be safe if we defund police forces?
- What will it take to see real change when it comes to racism and policing?
- What is the difference between defunding and abolishing the police, as planned in Minneapolis?
- What policing policies have led to our present day system?
- Are there alternatives to the criminal justice system as it is today? What alternatives are being proposed?
- Have past reforms to policing worked? Why or why not?
The End of Policing by Alex Vitale.
How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney.
I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street by Matt Taibbi.
The Fire this Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race edited by Jesmyn Ward.
Who Do you Serve, Who do you Protect: Police Violence and Resistance in the United States edited by Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré and Alana Yu-lan Price; foreword by Alicia Garza.
The Colour of Law: A Forgotten History of how our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein.
The Condemnation of Blackness by Khalil Gibran Muhammad.
Race After Technology: Abolitionist Technologies for new Jim Code by Ruha Banjamin.
Articles and Interviews
Most of the books mentioned above have holds on them. So here are some relevant interviews and articles to explain a bit more about wellness checks, what defunding the police could mean and more. They're useful reading or listening while you wait for your books.
- Ruth Wilson Gilmore makes the Case for Abolition. The Intercept. June 10, 2020. Two-part interview with Geographer and Prison Abolitionist Ruth Wilson Gilmore. Gilmore is one of the world’s preeminent scholars on prisons, carceral punishment and policing.
- Desmond Cole and the case for defunding the police. Toronto Star. June 9, 2020. Interview with the author of The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power. Part of Toronto Star’s Podcast "This Matters".
- Mark Gollom, Calls to defund the police gain traction with some Canadian policymakers. But what does it mean? CBC. June 10, 2020. A discussion of varying proposals around the #defundpolice movement.
- Sean Boynton, What does 'defund the police' really mean? Experts say confusion harming progress. Global News.ca June 18, 2020.
- Brooklyn Neustaeter. What defunding the police could look like in Canada's largest city. CTV News. June 10, 2020.
- Jonathan Forani, 'A better way': This is what alternatives to defunded policing could look like. CTV News. June 26, 2020.
- Vik Adhopia, It's time to rethink police wellness checks, mental health advocates say. CBC News. June 04, 2020.
This isn't an exhaustive list of books or articles on policing Black lives. If you have other recommendations, please share them in the comments below!