The reimagination of local security and the police forces that typically provide it is equally necessary when developing a systemically actualized society. Policing around the world, but especially within the United States, has fallen prey to propaganda, politicization, and the influence and direction of the military industrial complex. The purpose of the police officer is intended to be that of a peacekeeper—an individual who performs the public service of ensuring the physical safety of those within a designated area. The militarization of the police has shifted the present occupation into an enforcer of laws. These two concepts differ greatly in how laws are applied within societies and to whom they are applied. There are two primary challenges facing the reshaping of our present police forces: the individuals inhabiting the roles and the systems surrounding our security verticals, which consistently push it to be more militant and independent from civilian rule. Policing as we understand it presently stands in stark contrast with the values we embrace to align ourselves with the single truth and the relational universe.
When we consider the role of law enforcement, we cannot do so without first understanding the context and values those laws represent. After all, a law enforcer seeks only to ensure the rules are followed. They pay no mind to whether the rules are just, only concerning themselves with compliance. What form that compliance takes differs by individual and often can result in violence and even death for civilians whose method of compliance does not meet the demands of the officer. In many ways, the failure of our policing institutions is indistinguishable from the failure of our education, public services, and legal and economic systems. Similar to the soldier, many police are trained to believe that every interaction with a civilian is a potential life or death situation—often to a point of fetishization.
Their fear of being on the receiving end of violence translates into being more proactively violent. It’s not just physical violence; there is tremendous economic harm done to the general population by police departments. Civil asset forfeiture is when the police seize the property of the civilian without conviction or criminal charges, subjective suspicion is enough to take from the innocent. Statistical evidence suggests an over 600 percent increase66 in seizure since 2002, to about 36.5 billion dollars in cash, securities, and other property—much of it from individuals who committed no crimes.67 Seizures of property must be contested in legal battles, which are expensive and typically target the poor and politically disconnected who lack the network and resources to fight against these thefts.
Now how should an institution designed to maintain peace and security invest these monies? Schools? Infrastructure or public services? No, the financial proceeds of these thefts are a major contributor to the militarization of the police force through expenditures on renovated jails, new police cars, exercise equipment, courtrooms, military equipment, and helicopter equipment. Through these actions, policing as an institution becomes an extension of the military industrial complex, parasitically taking from those it claims to serve in order to financially support weapons manufacturers. Consider the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. First developed in 1965 to combat a rash of bank robberies in Philadelphia, SWAT teams were intended to handle hostage situations, barricaded criminals or groups, hazardous materials incidents, and high-risk tactical operations and counter-sniper situations. These hyper-militarized police divisions rapidly spread throughout police forces in the United States, and with expansion came a rapid increase in SWAT raids. Today, the majority of SWAT team raids throughout the United States do not align with the group’s stated intentions. A study cataloging SWAT deployments from 2011 to 2012 demonstrated that 62 percent of all SWAT deployments were for drug raids, 79 percent of these raids were done on private residences, and only 7 percent were conducted for barricaded or hostage situations.68 Policing as an institution is proactively harmful to the public it intends to serve. Although many caring officers go out of their way to do good for their communities and the people they serve, their efforts will always remain in the shadow of terror the system casts upon society.
Policing as an institution is rooted in slavery. In 1704, slave patrols were invented to enforce Black individuals' oppression by attempting to quell their resistance and uprising through brutality.69 States such as South Carolina and Virginia formally organized slave patrols into state-sponsored militias, government entities sanctioned by law with the intent to subjugate a people.218 In the northeastern United States, formal municipal police forces began to spring up around the mid-1800s in response to increasing urbanization.70-72 Many had the primary objective of enforcing Jim Crow law. Plentiful evidence exists in our immediate present of the persecution of Black people through both policing,73 conviction,74 and sentencing.75 Much of this is supported by prosecutorial misconduct and knowingly false testimony.76 Policing is a system whose central purpose is to reinforce racism; it always has been. This is why it cannot be reformed and instead must become something new, different in its intention and direction. The relational universe ensures that these systems influence the individual inhabiting them. Through procedure and programming, they begin to reflect the very system they had intended to change. Even the most well-intentioned become oppressors through the design of their function.
Like the military, policing as an institution is corrupted by profit-driven corporations. Consider the ethical abominations that are private prisons. The prison industrial complex partners with state and local municipalities to build, manage, and acquire prisons. In return, they demand minimum occupancy rates. This creates a cascading impact, requiring more police officers and more assertive policing in combination with aggressive sentencing to keep these prisons full—and our ever-increasing law enforcement verticals well-financed. Individual equity and equal application of the law cannot exist in combination with for-profit imprisonment. Our core values of relation and equity absolutely reject the perversion of justice for profit, and as such we must align over a reimagined process of reform. Torture in all its forms must be banned. So must forms of imprisonment that leave the individual idle and able to form groups reinforcing ideals incompatible with the single truth. Instead, we focus on decentralizing prison sentences with attention on labor and skill-building. Imagine an alternative to a centralized prison that consists of a distributed network of occupations that accept supervised, entry-level work. Individuals serving sentences work for no wages for part of the day and spend the rest developing their skills in said occupation. Prison guards would be site visitors monitoring the process, and at the end of the day, prisoners would be returned to secure dwellings separate from the general public—dwellings designed with individual dignity in mind to avoid dehumanization. The management and organization of prisons might fall under the civic core or be a separate public entity. Prior to and during the development of our reimagined approach to rehabilitation, we can focus on immediate reforms by modeling existing prison systems outside of the United States.
In Norway, about 20 percent of people who are sent to prison return there after their first sentence is carried out.77 In the United States, it’s more than half.78 Norway’s rehabilitation success is achieved through plentiful educational opportunities, private and personal dwellings, and small group cooking and eating. The maintenance of individual humanity and dignity throughout the rehabilitation process does wonders for reshaping the prisoner into a better version of themselves. But what of the ultra-violent individual? It serves us poorly to pretend that the darkest aspects of humanity do not exist within our immediate present. The time experience of deeply traumatized individuals has warped their understanding of the relational universe to a degree where taking the life of another is a means to an end. They seek to harm for no other reason than harming. There may be some who are beyond reform within our immediate present, who present an imminent danger to the collective and must be isolated. Even in these circumstances, there are still basic dignities that must be adhered to. At no point do we deny the individual the capacity to learn or receive counseling. Within a systemically actualized society, the collective never abandons the divinity within the individual—even if they have chosen to abandon it themselves.
There is another, more fundamental reason that we must reimagine the role of the police as peacekeepers. The primary purpose police serve in society is to reinforce the status quo, to uphold laws and norms established by those with power and means. Our institutions resist transformation by design, and the police add a layer of force and punishment to those who might attempt to diverge from what is. When the laws of a society intentionally oppress specific groups, the police serve as the enforcers of this discrimination. A system of security that leaves no pathway toward a peaceful resolution in the face of injustice provides no alternative outside of violent resistance. Consider the present global unrest, an inevitable result of rules and systems remaining static in the face of a rapidly evolving collective consciousness. Systemic actualization is a journey of aligning the individual with the systems surrounding them to create a more expansive self. The idea that a system or group should be able to resist change is incompatible with the single truth and therefore an unacceptable framework for self-organization.
So how do we reconcile the differences between our needs for personal and material security with core values that reject the current dominion philosophies that dominate our security institutions? We’ve already explored how the eight dignities carve a pathway toward alleviating many of the root causes of crime and violence by empowering the secure individual, significantly reducing the need for policing. With the reorganization of ourselves and our societies around the single truth comes the purge of laws and political practices proven ineffective or harmful to the majority. Repealing the laws, reversing the sentences, and banning the propaganda spawning from the “war on drugs” are examples of immediate changes that may be made to stem the traumatization of poor and desperate people. Presently, alternatives are being imagined that are proving to be successful, such as the division of police functions and personnel across different divisions of community policing. Take, for example, traffic enforcement as a separate and unarmed branch of policing. Eugene, Oregon, has been running a successful program for over thirty years, combining crisis workers, emergency medical technicians, and nurses to handle the first response to crises involving mental illness, homelessness, and addiction. Another example is removing police from schools and instead investing those monies into more teaching staff, counselors, and programs to support those struggling with instability. These only scratch the surface of how we might reimagine the role of policing within our communities to refocus the organizations on their core competencies of solving crimes and protecting the citizenry from harmful actors.
Reshaping policing challenges some of the most tightly held beliefs and values of many within the organizations. It is a difficult but necessary process toward alignment with the single truth and the relational universe. Policing as it exists within our immediate present sits in direct conflict with the core values necessary to develop a more transcendent humanity. Like all systems, policing inherits a past it cannot deny or escape. It cannot be reorganized or reformed because both options are simply different forms of the same intention. There is a place for all participants whose occupations will alter within systemic actualization, but no place for the occupations as we understand them today.