Examining Anti Police Sentiment and Calls for Police Reform

Anti Police Meaning

After protests and killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others, calls to reform police departments or even defund them are gaining momentum. However, it’s important to understand that not everyone is speaking in good faith.

Their strategy is to pounce on any incident of police brutality and scream “racism!” before anyone can investigate.


The Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) is a Black-led organization dedicated to ending police violence against marginalized communities. They provide legal referrals, resources and opportunities for healing to families of people who have been impacted by police violence.

Katherine Bynum, an assistant professor of history at ASU who studies the history of Black liberation struggles, says that while policing is a relatively new idea in America, it has already had a long and complex history in marginalized communities. She points out that a sense of anti-police sentiment was one of the founding motivations for the Black Panther newspaper and other Black freedom struggles in the 1920s and 1930s.

The term “anti police” is used to describe a wide range of attitudes and stances against law enforcement, from excessive use of force to patterns of harassment of homeless people, youth, racial minorities or gay people. It is often rooted in the myth that poor, black communities will descend into barbarism without police intervention.


The term ACAB, a variation of “All cops are bastards,” has been sweeping through protest movements. It’s on signs, in chants, and on T-shirts. It’s popping up everywhere from the Utah State Capitol to the Churchill statue in London.

This antipolice sentiment flows from decades of activism, scholarship, and community organizing aimed at abolishing police and prisons. But it also reflects the fact that police are institutionally responsible for maintaining order in capitalist cities, and that this function is often abused.

The phrase has a long history, dating back to the early labor movement when British police cracked down on strikers. It was popularized in the punk rock scene and later by Black Lives Matter activists and others who viewed police as a threat to social order. The slogan may also come from the fuck + 12 pun, which substitutes letters for numbers, or it could be a reference to the police procedural television series Adam-12.


As a result of racial tensions, some communities see police as a tool of oppression. As a result, they feel it’s necessary to organize and fight back against police brutality and other forms of oppression.

For example, the Nvivo coding of interviews from police officers during the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that while they initially felt sympathy for the public’s need to comply with Government restrictions to prevent the spread of infection, by the end of the three lockdown periods there was growing discontent with the restrictions and a perceptible anti police sentiment. Revelations of corrupt procurement practices and partying amongst senior government officials further exacerbated these feelings (Weaver et al 2022).

It’s important to remember that people don’t have to be unequivocally wrong to be angry at police. Just because they’re doing some good things doesn’t mean they can’t be seen as having a dysfunctional culture and carrying out immoral acts. The truth is that there are ways of making communities safe and functioning without relying on police.


Examples of anti police sentiment include outrage over excessive use of deadly force, patterns of harassment of homeless people, young people or racial minorities (including aggressive “stop-and-frisk” tactics and the “broken windows” enforcement of petty offenses), and internal misconduct by police officers — including sexual assault of citizens, race or gender discrimination in hiring or promotions, and code of silence or retaliation against those who report abuse or support reforms. It’s also common to see anger directed at elected officials who support policies that shape policing in communities. Those who point out these issues are considered anti police, even though they’re not calling for the death of any particular officer.

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