Democracy without Violence – A Participatory Policy Library on Law Enforcement

A cooperative toolkit for reducing violence in your community

CELDF staff have helped facilitate the creation of a “model ordinance” to offer a library of municipal policy changes designed to implement and move communities toward police abolition. Numerous abolitionist organizers across the United States contributed to the current draft. It continues to be a living document, and we are now soliciting broader feedback from interested individuals and groups. It’s already been used by communities advancing municipal change and we are now ready to offer it more broadly.

Other provisions include:

  • A legal framework to protect against state-funded violence by restricting access to tactics, such as no-knock warrants or “deadly exchange” training programs hosted by a foreign country, as well as special legal privileges like qualified immunity and those that allow police to obtain consent or a confession by presenting false information.
  • A transformative “right from” state-funded violence legal structure, with creative enforcement mechanisms.
  • Mechanisms that reallocate resources to community-based and public health services, and transfer power to community self-government.
  • Customizable limits on police activity and jurisdiction. For example to prohibit specific police activities such as patrols, their participation in social services, and outreach. Or to prohibit all police activity entirely, or except in response to 911 calls.

In addition to these and many other substantive provisions, the library includes a template with draft framing language to include in an ordinance. A preamble details the racist origins of police, names the specific and egregious harms police cause to Black and Indigenous communities, and explores the historic and ongoing role of police in enforcing laws that prop up systemic oppression along with race, class, ability, gender, and other lines of marginalization. Statements of law ground the authority for the Ordinance in the federal constitution as well as in fundamental human rights. “Authors’ notes” scattered throughout the library comment on the different effects each provision might have, explain the purpose of each section, and give tips on how the library might be used.

Working on a local campaign? Interested in participating? Want to read what we have? Contact our project leads:

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The project is informed by #8toAbolition and the Movement for Black Lives Policy Platform, as well as by numerous abolitionist organizers. This is a starting point for legal language, offered to support and not to replace or detract from organizing, protest, and people power.

Further, we offer this “model ordinance”—as it’s presented—not as an introduction, or overview, of police abolition theory but instead as a tool to support abolitionist organizing. We encourage everyone who hasn’t yet done so to explore police and prison abolition theory in depth. Many generations of Black organizers and Indigenous peacekeepers have dedicated their lives to building this movement and sharing their insights.

Finally, this is a nuanced policy area and this template “ordinance” must be customized for the needs and context of your community. Law enforcement has cemented its power into the foundation of our society through federal, state, and local laws, as well as police union contracts and municipal budget and planning documents. Sometimes a city charter or ordinance requires a police department. You should not submit this document in its entirety to your governing body, but instead, borrow from it and adapt it to the strategic needs of your campaign. Your town may have an initiative mechanism that allows voters to propose their own changes to the local law. Typically found in the charter are steps to circulate petitions and put them on the ballot for a vote by the entire community. CELDF has considerable expertise in direct democracy legislating, contact us if you need assistance.

Note: While some of these changes are more incremental, we have carefully and intentionally avoided including any “reformist reforms” (sometimes called “recuperative reforms”) in this library of lawmaking. We are only providing what we believe to be abolitionist reforms—changes that wean us off of modern policing and ultimately bring power back to the people, rather than changes that stabilize the oppressive system.

We are targeting reforms that move us toward a world with less violence, particularly less violence at the hands of the state. In contrast, reformist/recuperative reforms often recover the public legitimacy of violent state institutions and/or expand the power and scope of policing and prisons. We frequently see governments propose such reformist reforms following public unrest in order to appease the public. The line between an abolitionist and recuperative reform is not always easy to draw. If you think we drew it wrong, please do let us know!

Contact Terry for access to the current “model ordinance” and to offer feedback, or use the form below.

Defunding Violence Inquiry