fbpx Abolition of Policing: Intervention and Investment in Human Needs | Harvard Kennedy School
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Date and Location

September 27, 2023
4:30 PM - 5:45 PM ET


Abolition of Policing: Intervention and Investment in Human Needs Photo


September 27, 2023 4:30 PM - 5:45 PM EDT Click here to register for the Zoom

Since the modern police have existed, there have been forces advocating for reforming the police. Until 2020, widespread public discourse about responding to police brutality and police violence focused on reforms like individual officer accountability, diversifying police forces, improving police training, adopting new police technology like body cameras, and improving police-community relations. But in the uprisings that started in 2020 in response to the murder of George Floyd, a new wave of campaigns to defund the police took hold across the country, putting forth a different vision for community safety rooted in reducing police power and contact between the police and heavily policed communities and investing in community needs. Given that campaigns to defund and abolish the police have reached a new zenith and national platform, in this conversation we’ll explore what police abolition means and how communities are enacting initiatives to keep themselves safe. Joining us for this discussion are Alex Vitale, Professor of Sociology and Coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College and author of The End of Policing, and Tamar Manasseh, founder and president of the anti-violence organization Mothers and Men Against Senseless Killings (MASK). We’ll discuss to what extent there is an evidence base for common police reforms and how the nature of modern policing enacts and reproduces racial hierarchy and social control of marginalized communities. We’ll also discuss what kinds of initiatives—including legalization, restorative justice, community-led violence intervention, community investment, housing, harm reduction, living wages and basic income guarantees, and more—are backed by evidence and by community leadership and shown to lead to reductions in crime and empowerment of the most policed communities. 


Alex Vitale is Coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project. He has spent the last 30 years writing about policing and consults both police departments and human rights organizations internationally. Prof. Vitale is the author of City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics and The End of Policing. He is also a frequent essayist, whose writings have been published in The NY Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, The Nation, Vice News, Fortune, and USA Today. He has also appeared on CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, NPR, PBS, Democracy Now, and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Tamar Manasseh, an ordained rabbi, is the founder and president of anti-violence organization MASK (Mothers and Men Against Senseless Killings), which was established in 2015 as a way to put eyes on the streets, interrupt violence and crime, and teach children to grow up as friends rather than enemies. The organization works on issues of violence prevention, food insecurity, and housing. Manasseh has worked to build a childcare center to provide education and hot meals for the children of essential workers making minimum wage. Her initiative, We Are Jane, is a nonprofit dedicated to providing information about safe abortion and connecting communities to resources and care, in response to the burgeoning reproductive rights crisis.

Moderated by Katy Naples-Mitchell.


The Abolitionist Politics, Practices, and Horizons  speaker series is organized by Katy Naples-Mitchell, Program Director of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, and  Sandra Susan Smith, Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice; Faculty Director, Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management; Director, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy; Professor of Sociology; and Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute.​

Speakers and Presenters

Alex Vitale, Professor of Sociology and Coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College | Tamar Manasseh, founder and president of Mothers and Men Against Senseless Killings (MASK) | 


Additional Organizers

​Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management