Black geographic visions and practices of community beyond policing

Authors: Celeste Winston*, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Topics: Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Black geographies, community policing, police abolition, marronage
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: 8216, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Community policing is one of the most celebrated appropriations of “community”—with a variety of actors, including police officers, government officials, scholars, and church leaders supporting the rescripting of community as a police-made panacea to crime, racial police violence, and unrest about policing. Community policing, which was popularized in the 1980s, comprises a set of practices whereby police attempt to gain trust and encourage cooperation from the policed through tacking onto their roles what are thought of as benign ways to build relationships with residents. However, in working to bolster relationships between residents and police and encouraging more residents to call upon police, community policing initiatives work to fragment the forms of community that keep people from calling the police in the first place.

In this paper, I present a radical Black praxis of community, rooted in marronage—the practice of flight from slavery. I focus on historically Black communities in Montgomery County, Maryland, located along the northern border of Washington, DC. The freed and escaped slaves who established these communities developed institutions and practices of safety and security that have continued today. Across generations, residents have fostered relationships of care and accountability that often preclude their need to rely upon police. In contrast to community policing initiatives, such relationships sustain, rather than disrupt, community safety and security. Operating outside of policing has enabled local Black residents to maintain their communities as spaces of liberation. Their communities point toward new possibilities that can come to be when we stop calling the police.

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