The Urban Issue: To police or not to police?

Well, Uniter readers, I write this in a bittersweet mood. This is our last weekly issue of the academic year. As always, our final issue is The Urban Issue, a recurring special edition in which we choose a theme to explore a variety of topics impacting Winnipeg and its people.

This year’s theme is To police or not to police? So many news stories of the past year have focused on issues of policing and security. There does seem to be a legitimate crisis of safety happening in Winnipeg, and most major Canadian cities. We’re seeing this play out in public transit, in libraries, grocery stores, the broader issue of police funding and so many other public spaces.

The public response in many of these cases seems to be to increase the presence of police or security personnel. Many community groups argue that increasing security fails to address the root causes of these issues. These arguments touch on key problems of police violence and overreach. But they can often ignore the calls of workers in these institutions, who are often the ones requesting increased security and saying that they feel legitimately unsafe doing their jobs.

We feel there’s an interesting push and pull to explore here, and it ties into a broader political and cultural discussion about social attitudes toward things like crime, poverty and addiction. Why is it so much easier to advance measures that are punitive (like militarizing police) or moralizing (like abstinence-only drug policies) rather than those that uplift the community (like social welfare or harm reduction)? Is a security apparatus that’s uplifting or supportive even possible? Or are these structures inherently hostile to vulnerable people?

I don’t claim to know the answer. But we’ve done our best to explore these topics for readers. I extend my thanks to all of our readers over the past year. Stay engaged with your community and stay informed. We might be away for a few months, but don’t stop reading the news!

Published in Volume 77, Number 24 of The Uniter (March 30, 2023)

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