Berkeley Talks: Can you imagine a future without police?

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people stand on stage in front of big letters that say "defund police"

“Just scrap it all, just scrap it all,” said Erin Kerrison, an assistant professor of social welfare at Berkeley, of capitalism and police in the U.S. “We just need to do it. … Wilder things have happened and wilder things will happen still. It’s about having an imagination.” (Photo by Tony Webster via Flickr)

This Berkeley Talks episode features an interview on Who Belongs?, a podcast by UC Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute. Host Marc Abizeid, joined by co-host Erfan Moradi, talk with Erin Kerrison, an assistant professor of social welfare at Berkeley, about why she thinks the U.S. needs to dismantle capitalism and police, and build a new system free of crime and punishment.

“What is deemed illegal is not necessarily harmful — there’s a whole lot of stuff that wreaks havoc in people’s lives that is not illegal, that is not criminal,” said Kerrison. “So, that sort of construction, that needs to be thrown out immediately … when I say there’s a possibility that we don’t have to have crime, it’s so true. It’s so true because it’s a construct. If we didn’t have crime as such, because communities were stronger, then yeah, we wouldn’t need police because police respond to crime, which is, in large part, a symptom of much, much bigger and deeper social and structural ills.”

Fear, says Kerrison, keeps us constrained and unable to see other possibilities outside of our current reality.

“None of us are getting out of this alive and our fear has us so near-sighted around that,” said Kerrison. “We just can’t see beyond our next meal, our next day. … What would be a better use of our time, what would be a better way to devote our energy, instead of into panic, would be about collective health, collective safety and collective joy. If we were to devote our attentions to that work and to that kind of liberation, we would not need structures of control.”

Listen to the interview in Berkeley Talks episode #88: “Can you imagine a future without police?”