THERE is, I believe, a temptation to dismiss the images of bleeding journalists and choking demonstrators as being a uniquely American response by police to the Black Lives Matter movement; something as foreign to the UK as stumping up serious cash for the treatment of a broken wrist or the electoral college.

Yet despite the thousands of miles between Scotland and the graves of black Americans like George Floyd, the phrase “All Cops Are Bastards” and what it stands for is as justified here as it is anywhere else in the world.

Much like calls to defund the police, the phrase ACAB has often found itself misrepresented by reactionaries and conservative pundits alike. The acronym, which has become synonymous with calls to end police violence, is not aimed at any one cop but rather is a criticism of the institution of policing itself. It’s not to say that every cop is a bad cop, but rather that every cop is complicit in upholding an unjust system that disproportionately targets some of the most vulnerable in our society.

When the call comes to wield the club on striking miners, or use the boot on the doors of refugees and asylum seekers facing deportation – often back to countries where certain death awaits – whatever personal identity a cop may have is entirely irrelevant.

The origin of the phrase ACAB is itself highly contested, though it likely started its days in England in response to the creation of the world’s first modern police force in 1829 under Robert Peel, whose name was the inspiration for the colloquial term “Bobbies”.

Peel’s force was largely inspired by the work he carried out to violently maintain British rule in Ireland, and the function of his police force was primarily to crush striking workers and protect the property of the ruling classes who needed their industrialised work forces brought to heel.

In a sense, not much has changed since 1829. Civil rights movements, environmental organisations and worker rebellions today that challenge the hegemony of the wealthy and powerful still find themselves in the crosshairs of modern policing.

At best the role of a police officer is that of an amoral automaton, just following orders issued by the state, hence why criticism is levelled at the institutional level.

At worst they are an individual with the power to commit acts of racism and bigotry under a system that will likely protect them.

In the UK, it is still the case that people of colour are disproportionately more likely to die in police custody than anyone else. The most high-profile case of this in Scotland remains Sheku Bayoh, who died in custody five years ago, and whose family are still waiting for answers as to what happened.

Earlier this year, in a report from Runnymede Perspectives, one senior police officer also spoke at length on issues of institutional racism within Police Scotland – a claim that was subsequently buried to avoid negative headlines in the press.

Fast forward to last week, when the Scottish Labour Students account tweeted “To be clear: ACAB” in response to news that the Met police in London had moved to disperse a trans pride rally early.

The resulting stooshie was as predictable as Gordon Brown’s latest hot take on federalism, with one Scottish Labour MSP ludicrously asserting that saying all cops are bastards was on par with making the same claim about black or Muslim communities – those who have frequently found themselves being profiled at the hands of police. Tone-deaf doesn’t even cover it.

Discussions around police brutality and how modern policing protects the status quo, at a time when radical change is necessary, cannot be bogged down by reactionary fluster and right-wing adulation. When we talk about defunding the police, it’s not with the aim to leave a gaping hole in our public services, but rather to disband and replace an ineffective and outdated institution which does not actually protect our communities.

Modern policing as a one-size-fits-all response to every situation is actually more likely to lead to events that spin out of control and leave bodies lying in the street.

In another report released last week, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland noted that officers responding to critical incidents did so while lacking emotional intelligence, self-awareness or perspective.

The police are not an organisation grounded in empathy. They are what they have always been; a tool to suppress social change and brutalise with impunity.

The reality of modern policing demands a conversation about how we can do better. That’s why I say ACAB – and why you should too.