ACAB Explained: Why all cops are bastards?

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Breonna Taylor was a 26 years old emergency medical technician living with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker in Louisville, Kentucky. Breonna and Walker were asleep in their bed when three plainclothes officers decided to do a warranted search in a drug case. As Breonna and Walker both believed that it was a break-in, Walker called 911 and fired his licensed arm. Taylor was shot eight times, while unarmed.

George Floyd was a 46-year-old Minneapolis security guard at a restaurant called the Conga Latin Bristo. He lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota. George was accused of using a forged cheque. When the police came on the scene, they insisted that he was resisting, which caused one of the officers to pin him to the ground and kneel on his neck as the other stood guard. For the next 9 minutes, George can be seen on video as he is begging for help, stating multiple times “I can’t breathe” until he eventually passes out, resulting in his murder.

Rayshard Brooks was a 27-year-old restaurant worker living in Atlanta, Georgia. Rayshard fell asleep in his car while he was in a drive-through at a fast-food restaurant. When police showed up, they talked more than 40 minutes to Rayshard about him falling asleep at the wheel of his own car. The officers accused that he had too much to drink, which led to them attempting to restrain him. When he fled, the officers shot him twice in the back, leading to his murder.


Breonna, George and Rayshard are just a few examples of the countless lives that had been lost at the hand of American Law Enforcement. Racism and the justice system have been interconnected in the American government for the past century. As time went by, the tension between law enforcement and civilians grew exponentially. This resulted in a civilian uproar and demand for law enforcement reformation.

As a result, the term ACAB has started to be used nationally as a symbol of the wish to bring down the corrupt system. This term had been used in many ways, some very aggressive, which resulted in the idea that ACAB is a very bold and overcharged movement.

But what is ACAB really? What does it mean? To start off, one has to understand what racism means. Racism, specifically in the USA, has been around since the colonial era. Racism is the idea that a group of people believe they are inherently better than others based on skin colour, ethnicity and/culture. Because racism is so deeply integrated, groups of privileged people can benefit from more rights, better education, citizenship and many other factors. BICOP (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) have faced continuous discrimination through American history. Significant examples of how racism can be manifested in the USA is through genocide, slavery and segregation. Racism has caused a constant set of restrictions regarding the political, social and economic history of the group who are not identified as caucasian.

With this information in mind, we can now analyze what police brutality is. Police brutality or police violence is legally defined as the violation of civil rights by an executioner of the law -such as a police officer- who uses undue or excessive force against a civilian. This can be physical/verbal harassment, physical/mental injury, property damage and even death.

Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, are cases of police brutality that instigated protests for reforming the law. Over time, these protests continued since the public felt unheard by the justice system. The negligence that the American justice system showed with these 3 and countless other police brutality cases over the years stirred up the ACAB movement.

Now, what is ACAB? ACAB is an abbreviation for “All Cops Are Bastards”. As new as it sounds, this term has been around since the first half of the twentieth century. ACAB is used as an expression of anti-authoritarian authority solidarity. For example, we see ACAB terms in a YiddishAnarchist song “In ale gasn/Hey, hey, daloy politsey!” which translates to “Down with the police!” from the early 1900’s. After the Second World War winded down, there was a lot of instability in Russia due to the imperial government. In 1905, the Jewish Russian population revolted demanding political reform. Hence, this song was created and was used in the ACAB movement. Despite it’s good intentions, ACAB can also be used aggressively, which is usually the interpretation that is stirred up in the media.

The term ACAB has recently started to be used during the protests against police brutality, as mentioned above. As demand for justice increased as more lives were taken at the hand of the American justice system. But what does racism have to do with police brutality? Well, some people tend to believe that there is actually no connection since more White-Passing-Americans are killed in America than African-American. Which is true, because there are more caucasian people living in the USA than black people, making only 13% of the USA population. What is important to note is the disproportional rate between black and caucasian civilians being killed in the hand of police. The number of police killings disproportionately affects AfricanAmericans. Black-Americans are killed at a rate of two and a half times more than their caucasian counterparts. As an example, in Utah, the disproportionate rate of African-Americans being killed by law enforcement is at a ratio of 9.21.



This directly shows a correlation between law enforcement and racism, proving the idea that the law enforcement system is corrupt. Policemen abuse their power and feel entitled to prosecute as they please, which results in them overusing their authority and performing misconduct on the field.

ACAB is referring to the legal system rather than cops as individuals. It is not that all cops are bastards, but that all cops are bound by a corrupted and unjust system that is inherently oppressive. ACAB wishes to reform the justice system, bringing a just system that is not tied around racism and oppression.

An important phrase that should be mentioned is “Defund the Police”. This phrase is interconnected with the ACAB movement since it is the main intention of it. It indicated that finances need to be rearranged in the law enforcement. Accordingly, it indicated that finances need to be rearranged in the sense that officers need to be taught to deal with sensitive cases. As well as, being snapped out of the current racist mindset that overpowers the current law environment.

So, what can there be done? Unfortunately, change can only happen in the long run, as an entire system has to be reformed. However, that doesn’t mean that change is not bound to happen, there needs to be a commitment to solve this issue. Due to the protests, the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) defunded police by 5%. If this change would become a constant rather than a change based upon the current uprising alone, in the long run, the system could be transformed entirely.

What is happening in America is and will eventually affect the entire world due to the immense influence that the US has. ACAB is just a way through which one can recognize the injustice in the system and the demand for justice. Already, countries in Europe had been inspired by the movement in America which resulted in protest and demand for change. What everyone can do, even you, is to speak up and not be quiet. You and every other citizen cannot show ignorance until there is change. We cannot stop demanding change until it happens.


By: Alexandra Ioana Irimia


Alexandra is a first-year ICM student. She was born in Romania; however, since a young age she had been moving around the globe. Alexandra has lived in countries such as Germany, Qatar and UAE which gave her the ability to gather a lot of life experience. She decided to join Collective to be able to use her passions to aid in the spreading of awareness of important topics and help others in their own selfactualization.


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