Alex S. Vitale is a Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College and coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project. His book, “The End of Policing,” has been highly praised, and he has become a well-known figure in debates over policing in America. In this interview with Lee Camp, Vitale shares his insights into the recent events surrounding the murder of Tyree Nichols and the fight against Cop City.
According to Vitale, the issue of policing needs to be understood as a political issue. For example, during the Trump administration, Operation Relentless Pursuit was launched to target six American cities controlled by Democrats, including Memphis. The strategy aimed to reframe those cities’ social problems as ones of crime that needed to be managed by law enforcement. Therefore, instead of investing more in public health and support for those who are unemployed or have experienced trauma, the Democratic leadership of Memphis took all the money and beefed up policing, creating a Scorpion Unit to go after the “bad guys.”
These officers that killed Tyree Nichols had received all the police reform training and were operating under a bystander policy, but that did not prevent them from acting on the instructions of the city leaders to break heads.
Vitale argues that policing can be fixed with a few hours of de-escalation training – which these officers had already received – is ludicrous. Furthermore, while the mainstream media has focused on the bodycam footage of Nichols’ murder, he points out that such footage is rare in thousands of police killings.
Nichols’ case and the fight against Cop City reveal the problems of American policing, which are exacerbated by political leaders who focus on policing instead of addressing social and economic issues. Vitale suggests that instead of investing in more police and surveillance, local governments should focus on providing public services addressing the root causes of crime.
Vitale’s views are essential in the current context of America, where policing is a topic of heated debate, particularly after the murder of George Floyd. His perspective offers a fresh alternative to the dominant narrative that police reform, including de-escalation training, is the solution to policing problems. Instead, he suggests that American society should address the structural inequalities and issues of poverty, unemployment, and lack of education that drive crime.
Vitale’s views challenge the dominant narrative of police reform as a solution to the problem of policing in America and offer a fresh perspective that should be considered by policymakers and the public alike.
Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of Behind The Headlines’ new series: The Most Censored News With Lee Camp. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years.