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Kristian Williams spoke and answered questions at the Continental Club on 12th Street in West Oakland on March 31st. A member of Rose City Copwatch of Portland, Oregon, he is the author of "Our Enemies In Blue: Police and Power in America" and "American Methods: Torture and the Logic of Domination."
Kristian Williams largely chose not to speak about the history of policing in America, from early slave patrols to modern day police forces, one of the main subjects covered in "Our Enemies In Blue." Instead he spoke, with Oscar Grant and Lovelle Mixon in mind, about another topic methodically examined in the book, police and the violence that results from their role in maintaining racial and economic inequalities. "The threat of violence is implicit in every police encounter," he said, and police use force over 400,000 times every year in the U.S. He debunked several of the widespread beliefs about police, such as the efficacy of racial profiling as a crime-fighting tool, that the primary role of police is to fight crime, that police work is one of the most risky professions in society, and that reform is enough to curtail systemic police brutality. He emphasized that those interested in resisting police violence need to look beyond focusing exclusively on "awful case after awful case" and seriously look at the institution as a whole and the role of police as enforcers of state control.
After his relatively short talk, Kristian Williams involved those in attendance by answering questions for well over an hour, including relating some of his experiences and learnings from Rose City Copwatch when they confronted a police murder in Portland. In response to another question, he lays out what might await society beyond police forces as we currently know them -- he describes successful and unsuccessful community justice systems organized in Ireland and South Africa.
Full audio including Q&A session here. Kenna and Geo speak first and introduce the venue and Kristian Williams: