by Ross Nicoll

At what point do we admit that regular murder and assault are key indicators that police do not prevent violence? What’s the maximum number of casualties that we will accept as success, if the police exist to prevent more violence? At what point does reading the headline Serious Stabbing Incident in North Vancouver on http://www.vancouverisawesome.com finally look as ridiculous as it sounds?

When there is an attack on people, by people, we hear the same sentiments. “I grew up just 5 minutes from here,” or “It couldn’t happen in this neighborhood,” or “Thank god for the swift actions of *insert police department here* for preventing more violence”. 

When I read “Woman dead, six hospitalized after ‘multiple’ people stabbed…,” my first thought is not gratitude for the police. At no point does this narrative inspire any belief that this system of policing is working. I’d hope an organization that spends roughly $340 million each year arming and training 1372 officers (currently documented by their own website as of 2019) is capable of subduing and restraining one person with a knife. 

People refer to police as first responders. That’s a misnomer. They are the last responders, often the last resort. The first responders are families, teachers, elders, community members, neighbours and friends. 

This problem is systemic. The corrupted poison that is our current society starts affecting us the second we are brought into this world, and without proper support and attachment, it can slowly unravel even the brightest among us. 

We do not need more last responders in the form of an historically, and foundationally, racist militarized force with inadequate conflict de-escalation and mental health training. Imagine if $340 million each year went into affordable housing, with on-site therapists, mutual aid workers and community supports built into the model. 

Seriously, stop and picture what that could do. 

Please stop sprinting, full tilt, blinders on, waiting for expiring/weathered institutions to protect you. That’s not what they were made for. Look up the racist/colonial history of the NWMP/RCMP if you have any doubts. 

Preventive and restorative, not punitive, are the services and supports that we need.

Returning to the “It couldn’t happen in this neighbourhood” fallacy. Toxic masculinity, systemic racism and wealth disparity don’t care where the fuck you were born. “It” has happened on a bus in the prairies, on a lonely highway in the Maritimes, at a university in Quebec. “It”, whatever you think “it” is, it has happened within 5 minutes of where you were born. 

That spot you were born on has been around for thousands of years before you and will exist long after you are gone.

Blinders off, mask on, headphones out (unless you need them) and heads up. This is not a safe world we live in. Don’t leave your safety and the safety of your community in the hands of the last responders.

I don’t think I will ever go more than a day without wondering what might have happened if the fifty men had chosen to stay in the classroom at Ecole Polytechnique, rather than leaving their nine female classmates alone with a gunman who only had twenty-nine bullets in his clip.