A newly-formed group of activists are teaming up with Copwatch, an anti-police brutality group that records video of police conduct in their communities, to create “no-cop zones,” and maybe even disarm the police, through the use of direct action.
“Disarm NYPD” is a new collective seeking to immediately stop the New York Police Department from killing anyone ever again. The group seeks to monitor and pressure police, with the help of local communities and Copwatch groups, until they retreat from over-policed neighborhoods and then maintain these cop-free zones with alternative, community-based forms of conflict resolution. Along with that, the group also seeks the total disarmament of the police.
“We feel that the police have proven that they’re not responsible enough to carry arms due to the fact that they’ve been killing people so consistently for so many decades,” said a member of Disarm NYPD, who chose to remain anonymous. “We feel that they should be disarmed immediately.”
Along with stripping police of their weapons, Disarm NYPD wants to push the police out of neighborhoods entirely. Then, within these spaces, the group wants to help residents form conflict-resolution bodies to make police obsolete and to build councils and networks to enable local communities to organize their own lives.
Disarm NYPD originally got the idea for “no-cop zones” from the group Take Back The Bronx. After Take Back The Bronx formed in 2011, members would, for a day, take a corner and put up signs on heavily-policed blocks throughout the Bronx to let police know that they were not welcome, encourage residents to roam their streets unafraid of police harassment by creating a block party-like atmosphere, and raise consciousness amongst neighbors on how they could resolve conflicts without involving the police.
Take Back The Bronx, which is still active and in the process of opening up a space in the Bronx, would also open up the mic for anyone from the neighborhood to speak about the police and local issues. Residents were often very receptive to the no-cop zones and used the opportunity to rant openly against cops, as well as connect with their neighbors. Despite the lack of police during these events, the no-cops zones managed to maintain a jovial atmosphere and always happened without any incidents. From these small, temporarily autonomous zones, Disarm NYPD is seeking to expand the concept to include other no-cop zones around the city with the help of cop-watchers and community members.
On March 21, the group organized a panel in Bushwick, with the family members of people killed by the NYPD, to introduce the idea to people and get them thinking and talking about how to live life without police.
“We’ve all been organizing for years,” said the member of Disarm NYPD. “After Ferguson, we got really inspired and started organizing during the demonstrations. And we figured — since it’s getting warm, and especially since that Ferguson report came out — that we need to start taking more action. We can’t let things fall apart. We have to keep the pressure on the police.”
To create these no-cop zones, Disarm NYPD is teaming up with cop-watcher groups, like Jose LaSalle’s Copwatch Patrol Unit, in order to let the police know that they are being watched whenever they are patrolling communities of color. As the number of people watching the police increases, activists believe they will become more hesitant to abuse their power and even retreat from neighborhoods because they don’t want to be incessantly monitored.
“We’re not doing this just for ourselves,” LaSalle said. “We’re doing this because we want to create an impact on the community and empower the community.”
LaSalle recently finished training about a dozen new cop-watchers to be assigned throughout the city. He and Disarm NYPD also plan on holding more cop-watching training courses in the near future and further increasing their ranks, slowly making it impossible for cops to enter certain areas without a member of the community pointing a camera at them.
In addition, the groups plan on holding more local demonstrations in the communities most affected by police violence and staging small-scale direct actions at local precincts to demand that police leave these neighborhoods. Actions like refusing to serve police while at work, setting up Copwatch information booths across the street from local police stations, and finding alternative ways to resolve conflict without the help of police are also included in the repertoire of tools used to create these no-cop zones.
No-cop zones allow residents, especially young people, to openly congregate, candidly discuss their disagreements with each other in open view of the community, and focus on the good that could come from resolving their disputes — all without fear of police harassment.
Take Back The Bronx did this on a smaller scale during many of their no-cop zones by calling for residents to “unite our blocks” and getting people to focus on their common needs and oppression. During one no-cop zone event, they set up a large banner with the text “If all the gangs in the South Bronx unite, we could…” and asked young Bronxites to write in an end to the sentence. It was well-received by local youth who wrote in many responses that would decrease conflicts amongst neighbors, like “demand well-paid jobs,” “have a successful basketball tournament,” and most importantly, “get the police off our necks.” With the help of cop-watchers and locals, Disarm NYPD hopes to replicate these no-cop zones on a larger scale and even maintain them permanently.
“We want to use these copwatch patrol units … to keep the pressure on [the police] so they can back up,” one member of Disarm NYPD said. “And when they back up, we want to try to fill that space with something that can create new, revolutionary potentials. And we’d like everyone to take part in that.”
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While such a strategy might work for families or even a small community, I can’t see this as viable in a larger metropolitan area with gangs, drug dealers, prostitution and other big-league crime in play. Doing away with police is a bit too much like anarchy and is the polar opposite extreme of a police state. Extremes are generally never good. What is needed is better training (including conflict resolution and sensitivity training) and more ACCOUNTABILITY. Police officers need to be held personally accountable for their actions.
Prostitution and drugs can simply be decriminalized. There are some other problems that will be more difficult to handle, and those who want to replace the police need to think about how they’re going to deal with them. I’m speaking of unprovoked physical violence and major forms of theft and fraud, primarily. These go somewhat beyond the area of conflict between people of basic good will.
However, the idea of having people in the community keeping an eye on things and intervening to resolve conflicts without the use of weapons, force, or threats, is a good start.
So who is going to do this? Who will take the call? Who will go out to resolve the problem? Are you going to? Are you trained in crime scene preservation? First aid? Do you have the means to get an ambulance and other necessary emergency responders?
Will you take responsibility for meth lab clean up?
Do you have insurance?
What happens when a criminal element moves into the no police zone. Will you then take part in sanitation? If they refuse to go into bad areas with no protection.
Or will you just say it’s a good idea but someone else has to do it. That’s exactly how it will end up. Nobody will do any of this because a few pit heads get upset at cops.
This is amazing and yet it also kind of terrifies me.
I do believe this is much closer to the appropriate path communities need to take together to make that difference. But lots of communities with cops who do whatever they want, aren’t working together. Each community needs to build their strength from within for this to succeed.
Thank you for this! HOPE!!!
An unarmed police officer answers a domestic violence call for service. The officer arrives at the scene and finds a woman beaten half to death and a wild-eyed man wielding a gun. The man says he is going to kill the woman whether the officer likes it or not. Furthermore, the criminal is going to commit the murder in front of the cop.
Now, the questions about this scenario:
*Does the woman deserve to die?
*The criminal is armed, but the officer is not. How does the police officer stop the criminal? With his words?
*Even if the officer has a tazer, what if the man is hopped up on drugs and is not effected by non-lethal means to calm the situation?
Let’s take it a step further; what if this scenario happened in a cop-free zone? Who would advocate for the woman? How would you subdue the raging lunatic with the gun bent on killing the woman? How will you prevent situations such as this from even happening?
Regardless of what you want to believe, police are a necessary safeguard in our society. Without them, cop-free zones will become over-run with gangs who will set up defacto governments ruled by their beliefs. Those beliefs will be harsh, brutal and demand unwavering allegiance. Anarchy would reign, whoever has the biggest gun or is the most brutal killer will dictate the living conditions of those within his or her zone. No amount of well-wishing and pleading will stop it.
Here is a viable solution to the issue of police over-reaching their authority; criminals should stop their activities. Ethnic groups should strive to live peaceably within societal norms instead of crying foul when one of their own suffers consequences for their actions. Neighborhoods should shun thugs, drug dealers and other criminals instead of living in a ‘don’t snitch’ fantasy world.
Bottom line; if you do not do anything to bring scrutiny upon yourself, if you stop perpetuating stereotypes, the unwanted attention of the police will eventually subside. Instead of chanting, ranting, raging, and rioting preach toloerance, act responsibly and stop making everything a race war.
The NYPD should what there rule book calls for render aide to the victim. They have no obligation to pursue or arrest us if we break the law. Besides its the Bronx. Our own community will be our peers that sit in our trials. We will walk like everyone else does.
What? lololololololololol What? They don’t have an obligation to arrest you if you break the law? Are you kidding me? Do you hear yourself? What do you think should happen to criminals who break the law? Please tell us….this is what the problem is. You don’t feel like obeying the rules and laws of this country. You are incapable of not breaking the law. Incapable. You must have never been taught proper behavior or had any decent upbringing what so ever. That can be the only response to your ridiculous comment.
Can we start with Williamsburg? Then expand out to the rest of Brooklyn?
I know it’s nearly impossible to legally get a gun in the city, what would be acceptable armament? What’s the restorative justice way of dealing with a serial killer or rapist? What do we do long-term with a pedophile? Any answers would deb appreciated, as I think it’s the coolest idea.
Good luck with this. Although it seems to be a noble effort it won’t work. Human nature being what it is there will always be bad people. Some of those might respond to logic, most won’t. If cops are disarmed, even with the very strict gun laws New York has, the criminals will know they can have a field day because they will then be the only people with guns.