First Congregational Church of Oakland recently made a decision to reduce their reliance on the police with the goal of not calling them, period. This is a statement they made to the media. We just had to share this.
First Congregational Church of Oakland is a multiracial church, and some of our own members have been followed, harassed, and even sexually assaulted by police officers. In addition, we live in the middle of an urban area experiencing an extreme housing crisis, so there are many unhoused people on and around our campus, some of whom struggle with mental illness and addiction, and the statistics show that Black and Brown people suffering from mental illness and addiction are among those most at risk of being shot by police even when unarmed.
Faced with this reality, in combination with the onslaught of stories about unarmed Black and Brown people being killed by police, we finally realized that we couldn’t claim to love each other or our neighbors if we continued to rely on an institution that was creating so much trauma in our communities. We recognize that Jesus himself was a brown-skinned man who was considered “crazy,” surveilled, targeted, arrested, and killed by state forces with the willing help of religious people, and that recognition called us to take a stand with Jesus.
What we are asking of each other, concretely, is that we get proactive about building a community network of individuals, congregations, and other organizations who will work together to keep each other and our larger community safe without relying on the police. Starting in July, we’ll be offering monthly trainings on various topics, including antiracism training, violence prevention and de-escalation, conflict resolution, restorative justice, mental health first aid, and self- and community-defense. In the meantime, we are reducing our reliance on the police with the goal of not calling them, period. So far, our larger community has been incredibly supportive and eager to join in. We have gotten a few critical calls, emails, letters, and Facebook comments, but Jesus himself warned that that would happen (Mark 10:29-31).
It’s important to say that we are not “anti-police” but pro-community. We recognize that police officers are human beings, many of whom joined the police force because they earnestly wanted to serve their communities. However, the role of the institution of policing is to “preserve law and order,” and in this country, the prevailing order that is being preserved is one that serves white people at the expense of people of color, and wealthy white people more than anyone. This is a horrible tragedy that we believe harms police as well as those they could end up harming. We love the human beings who wear police uniforms by working to dismantle the systems of white supremacy, including policing, that hold them and us captive.