Thematic Focus: Better Off Without the Police?

On Abolishing the Police Problem
by Benjamin Derin and Michèle Winkler

Against the background of the current debate on “Defund the police“, this introductory article discusses different critical perspectives on the police in Germany that focus on police use of force, racist practices of control, right-wing tendencies within the police, the expansion of police powers, or the increasingly police-based response to social issues. The different perspectives yield varying demands and approaches to solutions.

Alternatives to Criminal Justice and Police
by Helga Cremer-Schäfer

Interventions that focus on social assistance rather than on state-run punishment are commonly presented as alternatives to police and criminal justice. While welfare-based support is just another form of government control that does not question the context of power, the article argues for an abolitionist perspective that recognizes crime as conflict and places the responsibility for its resolution not with government in­stitutions, but with the affected persons and groups themselves.

Between Practice and Utopia
by Britta Rabe

The contribution outlines criticisms of prisons as racist, classist and sexist institutions, and deduces from them the necessity of alternatives. Three concepts are presented with reference to respective international case studies: Restorative Justice is practiced in New Zealand regarding youth crime and was utilized in the aftermath of the Ruanda genocide in the form of Gacaca courts. Transformative Justice and Community Accountability are implemented in the Mexican Zapatist regions, in Kurdish Rojava, and in the Global North, particularly in dealing with sexual violence.

Social Control by the Police
by Jan Fährmann

The dissolution of legal boundaries during the past decades has caused the police to evolve into an entity of general social control. Forefield res­ponsibilities, ambiguous legal provisions, and far-reaching criminal statutes are drawing the police into citizens’ daily lives. This expansion ag­gravates issues and is associated with additional discrimination and a weakening of the rule of law.

Autonomous Policing of Drugs
by Jenny Künkel

Alternative forms of policing are investigated utilizing the example of the Copenhagen district of Christiania, which is largely self-administra­ted since 1971 – including its cannabis market. It is emphasized that the alternative community’s informal governance is shaped by the context of the state’s drug prohibition and (criminal) policy. The article, stemming from the project, demonstrates the power effects of internal normativization, external normalization, and police action: hie­rarchies of illegal drugs, exclusion of heroin and community dealers, and intensified spatial struggles.

Wanted: A Different Police
Interview with Fabien Jobard

„In a state as centralized and authoritarian as France, the mere notion that we could do without the police is highly exotic”, says police researcher Fabien Jobard. Therefore, in the discussion on police initiated by the Black Lives Matter and Yellow Vest movements, such demands had been of scant significance. Instead, police demeanor in prefab housing areas on the edges of major cities and their equipment with “less le­thal” weapons has been paramount.

 Non-Thematic Contributions

A Bit Subdued Democracy
by Marius Kühne

In several federal states, new laws on the right to assembly are being enacted. While in Berlin, steps are being taken towards liberalization, the draft bill in North Rhine-Westphalia is characterized by distrust. It will implement unnecessary obstacles to registering and conducting de­monstrations and gatherings and expand the possibilities for legal restrictions.

Transferring Democracy Through Police Assistance?
by Fabian Bennewitz

Training and equipping police forces in other countries has long been part of the tasks of German police. Using the example of Central America, the article illustrates that police assistance provided in the name of democracy and the rule of law in fact depended on the federal government’s political aims, and was of limited impact.

Privileged Third Country After Brexit
by Matthias Monroy

With Brexit at the end of 2020, the United Kingdom has also left the previously applicable legal framework for police and criminal justice cooperation with Member States and agencies of the European Union. While this means that Britain will lose its access to the Schengen Information System and Europol’s databases, the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement that was negotiated at the last minute warrants a privileged partnership in many other fields of collaboration between police authorities and public prosecutors.


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