Why Derecka Purnell went from police reformist to abolitionist: ‘It’s so we can get more free’

The lawyer, writer and advocate has shifted her position from one rooted in reform, to one focused on total abolition

Six years ago, if you had asked Derecka Purnell what could be done about police brutality, she might have suggested body cameras, or more diversity within policing. Growing up in a community where folks would call 911 for everything from asthma attacks to gunshot wounds (everything except snitching, of course), the lawyer, writer and advocate has since shifted her position from one rooted in reform, to one focused on total abolition.

That journey from reformist to abolitionist is the subject of her first book Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom. In the book, she fleshes out her argument that brutality isn’t a bug in the system of policing, it’s a feature that was built into it to keep poor, racialized and “foreign” people disenfranchised.

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