The recent letter to the editor titled “Calls to defund Campus Police lack evidence” purposely does not address the necessity of police in upholding the carceral system of fear in our economic system that is marked by systemic racism.
Policing is a violent colonial institution, and the very presence of police, no matter their actions, enacts this violence. It is ahistorical to claim that the call to defund Campus Police lacks evidence when its very existence is evidence enough, and to stop this violence we need to abolish Campus Police.
In order to recognize the violent systemic racism of campus policing, and policing as a whole, we need to consider how they are used to to support the extractive education system we learn in. Looking back at policing in Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted police’s roots come from the genealogies of extractive capitalism and colonialism. We need to question the integral structure of the university, and criticize how it enforces a harmful system of labour and work, and is systematically racist.
An example that The Varsity recently published of unfair compensation for labour demonstrates this. Students are situated in this environment where the issue of insignificant financial aid, health resources, or jobs are compounded by concerns of health during a pandemic, work during a recession, and livelihood against the increasing costs of living. Students who need aid have to maintain their own well-being and continue to stay enrolled in classes just to expect a minor bursary or maintain good standing.
Yet, through all this there is a latent understanding that it is not safe to ask for help because Campus Police can arrest you under the auspices of mental health. Remember, there have been actual mental health-related deaths on campus because of the environment that the university enables — which Campus Police enforces.
However, it’s not just association with violence that makes Campus Police dangerous; it’s the fact that Campus Police and the police who patrol our communities are the same. We need to dispel that notion of difference immediately.
In Ontario, Campus Police have the powers of a special constable. Like real police officers, they can arrest you when on campus. Considering campus police officers to be glorified security guards hides the very real issue that bodily harm can be done under the auspices of the administration. This delusion removes the traces of colonial policing institutions that already inflict disproportionate harm on racialized people.
So where the letter to the editor argues that calls for the removal of Campus Police are unfounded, I only have to say this: we need to abolish Campus Police amidst larger calls for the abolition of police because it’s far more dangerous than it is being perpetuated to be. A reduction in the size of the Campus Police budget will not significantly free up resources to help students who just want an education. A body camera is not going to end extractive colonial neoliberalism. Our solutions for safety on campus require a total rethinking of safety that challenges the institutional racism of our colonial system.
The total abolition of policing and the dispersal of those funds into services that enable members of our community to get help if and when they need it and on their own terms is not the only solution, but it needs to be one of them.
Reform is not an option because training and monitoring the police isn’t enough; the entire culture of violence, which is a result of imperialism and genocide, has fostered the notion that the solution for safety is to monitor all bodies and produce fear in the hopes that those being policed will act up.
I don’t know whether that letter was written with the goal of notoriety or to start a genuine conversation. The point is that police are a racist institution no matter how it’s spun.
For those who still haven’t gotten the message, step out of the ivory tower and consider your position in relation to the extractive colonialism that has ingrained institutional racism into our societal structure, and understand that you cannot say facts matter and deny the reality that widespread lived experience of violence constitutes as a fact. The facts say that the very existence of the police is violent. It should be abolished.
Thomas Elias Siddall is a fourth-year international relations and contemporary Asian studies student at Victoria College. They served as the Victoria College director in 2019–2020.