One of the core public rationales for policing is that it provides a necessary institutional response to protect citizens from crime and to maintain order. This is a powerful rhetoric that plays on people’s fears and insecurities, even where they have witnessed or experienced police violence or the failure of police to provide protection or assistance. This chapter considers perhaps one of the most contested points of argument in calls to Defund the Police: are police necessary to ensure the safety of women against harassment, violence, and sexual assault, and do they provide these outcomes? It is argued that the evidence shows that police as an institution fail to protect women and this particularly (although not exclusively) impacts on specific groups of women from Black, First Nations, Brown, racialised, poor, and other minoritised communities. Rather than protecting women from violence, there are significant failures by police in taking violence against women seriously – through the failure to record reports, to act on information, to investigate serious crimes and through the use of demeaning stereotypes of racialised women. In addition, police are a major source of violence especially for Black, First Nations, women of colour and other marginalised women. The chapter discusses the problems with carceral feminism which underpins the public policy approach to violence against women and its reliance on stronger policing, criminalization, and penal sanctions.
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