CopDB is more than a police database, it is an explicitly abolitionist project. It is not intended to "root out the bad cops" because that implies there are good cops that would remain. It is only intended to "hold the police accountable" insofar as the information held in the DB helps shift the narrative that cops are a necessary social institution, which conclusively demonstrates why we must abolish the police. CopDB's primary goal is to act as one small part of a much larger political movement that sees genuinely grassroots groups come together to radically improve our society directly, not through the state-endorsed (read: ineffective) channels. The goal of documenting the most domestically violent part of the state is one that we view as both key to further exposing the real purpose of the state and providing valuable tactical knowledge that anti-state groups will need to be effective. We aim to present a project that is built from below, and which will not succeed without abundant and direct community support, which is the type of engagement that is required in the abolitionist struggle.
Despite the currently rampant police violence in the US, the abolitionist struggle has a rich history with a number of successes. One of the clearest conclusions that can be drawn from this history is that anti-police struggle must be rooted in community empowerment, and going further, building popular power. This is evident in almost any conversation where someone not-familiar with the abolitionist movement opens with the question "what do you plan on replacing the police with?" The answer is that the police should not be replaced with anything, as that implies they currently provide something useful to the majority of people.
Abolition is not simply about getting rid of the prisons, police or systems of surveillance and punishment; it is about what we build in their place.– Sarah Lamble, Abolishing the Police
That said, our current society is one where police have laid claim to providing things like "safety" and "justice", both of which are things a better world should have more of, not less. To provide these things abolitionists, among others, propose building a society where communities are able to effectively run themselves without systems of domination; as Emiliano Zapata said “Strong people don’t need strong leaders”.
The government abolishing the police would be sawing off the branch it’s sitting on and that’s something it will never do, regardless of how many bodies pile up below it.– Black Rose Rosa Negra: Turning the Tide
Like many abolitionists, we believe in order to fully realize abolition we will need a social revolution, and we see CopDB working towards that. Over the last few years we have seen massive popular revolt, targeted specifically against the police, have very little material impact. While the reasons these movement failed are numerous, we are building CopDB to help address two specific shortcomings:
- During the uprising many of the people in the street were newly activated and existing anti-police organizations were unable to help them avoid common pitfalls that ultimately unraveled the movement.
- The uprising had a critical lack of tactical knowledge about the specific organizations and people, specifically police organizations and police themselves, they were facing.
To help address these shortcomings, CopDB intends to build a durable, long-lived, anti-police organization where abolitionists can organize even during periods of demobilization such that when openings like 2020 occur there will be more people on the ground equipped with both a powerful theoretical anti-police critique as well as knowledge of their local police-context that can be used tactically.
From an organizational standpoint this means CopDB is, and must be, built in a way that encourages people to get involved and have decision making power. In its infancy, this means things like having an open chat server so users can learn how to add data and talk with, or become, moderators and developers. From a technical perspective it means building the actual database around the idea of open signups and community-sourced data input, the latter of which requires a lot of work to do safely.