Passion for Justice

Sociology Colloquium Covers Alternatives to Policing

by Melissa Brooks

The Department of Sociology welcomed members of the Critical Resistance Oakland Chapter to talk to students about the failures of policing and how their work with the Oakland Power Projects seeks to address this issue.

Critical Resistance members Mauricio Najarro and Andrew Szeto said the goal of these projects is to help residents in the community identify and invest in practices, relationships and resources that will build the community’s power and wellbeing.

We can make our families and neighborhoods safe and healthy without relying on law enforcement.

The first Oakland Power Project is an Anti-Policing Health Workers cohort. Comprised of nurses, counselors, doctors, EMTs and other healthcare workers, the cohort will host a series of workshops called, “Know Your Options,” that people in the community can attend to understand what options are available in a crisis so they don’t have to involve the police. Najarro and Szeto said that in crises involving mental health, chronic illness, or acute emergencies, people’s instinct is usually to call 911. But the police often turn medical emergencies into crime scenes, which keep medical services out and often leads to death, they said.

Najarro and Szeto left ample time following the presentation for questions. The students enthusiastically engaged in conversation with the Critical Resistance members, firing questions about the organization’s ties to the Black Panther Movement, how its vision accounts for policemen and women interested in reform, how this vision accounts for perpetrators of serious crimes, what a dismantled prison system would look like, and how to get involved. Najarro and Szeto offered thoughtful responses to every question and gave every interested attendee an opportunity to speak in order to foster an open dialog and come to a place of mutual understanding. At the end of the colloquium, many students emphatically thanked Najarro and Szeto for speaking and exchanged emails to aid their own sociology projects.