Apologies for the bad shoop, but the cover of the original book works so well in this context.(If anyone knows where I can find the Cartoon typeface without paying out the nose…)
This is a serious question. Do we need specific people who are paid by the government to maintain “law and order?” If we do need these people, do they need to be armed as a matter of course? Do we need them to have special rights or immunities? What would, ideally, police mean to you?
The Rolling Stone has some suggestions for a world without police, including some that I think might get some broad approval here:
The decriminalization of almost every crime
What is considered criminal is something too often debated only in critical criminology seminars, and too rarely in the mainstream. Violent offenses count for a fraction of the 11 to 14 million arrests every year, and yet there is no real conversation about what constitutes a crime and what permits society to put a person in chains and a cage. Decriminalization doesn’t work on its own: The cannabis trade that used to employ poor Blacks, Latinos, indigenous and poor whites in its distribution is now starting to be monopolized by already-rich landowners. That means that wide-scale decriminalization will need to come with economic programs and community projects. To quote investigative journalist Christian Parenti’s remarks on criminal justice reform in his book Lockdown America, what we really need most of all is “less.”
Other suggestions seem more dubious.
An article in Truthout calls for us to start living a cop-free lifestyle right now:
Resolving not to call the police inspires us to consider the alternatives. Instead of calling the police to complain about a loud party at your neighbor’s house, you could address your neighbors directly with the intent of having a constructive conversation about each other’s needs. Talking with our neighbors about taking responsibility for keeping our communities safe and happy helps us learn from each other and establish trust, the first steps toward building relationships that are strong enough to confront more complicated problems such as bullying or domestic violence.
Violence is the most serious challenge. If you feel that your safety is threatened, and the best option to avoid being harmed is calling the police, you should do it. Resolving not to call the police is not a rule, just a way to think outside the box. Rules are for the cops, not for us.
It’s somewhat lacking in real details, highlighting either a basic need for police or how captive we are to the current system, depending on how you choose to see it.
An article from the Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies doesn’t exactly call for an end to policing in explicit terms, but it sort of does. It talks about using a kind of social work to eliminate or reduce police militarization:
Today’s existing models of policing—even the heralded community policing—oftentimes create an unequal power dynamic and strains relationships between communities and police. In contrast, street outreach workers (SOWs) leverage street knowledge and social work to approach individuals and groups on a peer level.
Granted, I am not advocating that SOW groups replace law enforcement—as police officers are necessary to do just that: protect people and property by enforcing the law. Instead, there are a number of benefits of having SOWs part of a general law enforcement strategy when it comes to gang, gun, and other sorts of violence.
This article strikes me as interesting because it has the suspect premise that police,
protect people and property by enforcing the law
Do they really? And whose property at what expense? Here we seem them tromp right through someone’s property to… what again?
So that’s the discussion. Do we need police, and what do they do for us that we cannot do without them?
(Also, let’s not turn this into Yet Another Gun Thread, please.)
Previously on the BBS: