Dismantling (or defunding) police departments

June 8, 2020 • 10:15 am

One of the misguided goals of the recent protests ignited by the murder of George Floyd are the calls not just for “defunding” police departments, but to abolish them entirely. Now it’s often not clear what “defunding” means, but sometimes protestors conceive of it as diverting money from the police force to social programs.

In the disturbing video below, Jacob Frey, the impossibly young mayor of Minneapolis (he’s 38), is asked by a protest leader if he’ll commit to defunding/dismantling the city’s police department. When he says he can’t commit to that, he was booed and driven away (this despite his promises to make “deep structural reforms” in the police department and admission that the city’s police culture was imbued with systemic racism). This is what happens when you try to compromise with wokeness. There is no compromise, and perhaps a mayor can’t commit to stuff like that with a simple “yes” or “no” answer, as they demanded.


And indeed, Minneapolis is a city where the city council, weighing in with a veto-proof majority, has sworn to eliminate the police department entirely, replacing it with, well, it’s not clear. Here’s the NYT article on the issue:

The call here is not for reform, but for abolition:

Nine members of the Minneapolis City Council — a veto-proof majority — pledged on Sunday to dismantle the Police Department, promising to create a new system of public safety in a city where law enforcement has long been accused of racism.

Saying that the city’s policing system could not be reformed, the council members stood before hundreds of people gathered late in the day on a grassy hill and promised to begin the process of taking apart the Police Department as it now exists.

For activists who have been pushing for years for drastic changes to policing, the move represented a turning point that they hope will lead to a transformation of public safety in the city.

“It shouldn’t have taken so much death to get us here,” Kandace Montgomery, the director of Black Visions Collective, said from the stage at the rally. “We’re safer without armed, unaccountable patrols supported by the state hunting black people.”

The pledge in Minneapolis, where George Floyd died 13 days ago after being pinned to the ground by a white police officer’s knee, reflected calls across America to rethink what policing looks like. Protesters have taken to the streets with demands to shrink or abolish police departments, and “defund the police” has become a frequent rallying cry.

Officials in other cities, including New York, have begun to talk of diverting some money and responsibilities from police forces to social services agencies, but no other major city has gone as far in reaction to the protests as the Minneapolis officials have promised to do.

Council members said in interviews on Sunday that they did not yet have specific plans to announce for what a new public safety system for the city would look like. They promised to develop plans by working with the community, and said they would draw on past studies, consent decrees and reforms to policing across the nation and the world.

It seems to me that before you abolish the police department, you have to have a plan for what will replace it. The fact that these people don’t have a plan suggests that theirs is a knee-jerk reaction, not a thoughtful response (there have been thoughtful responses by others, though; see below).  It’s telling that although the council members don’t have a replacement plan, the New York Times tried to put words into their mouths—and into the mouths of others. Here’s one example where editorializing creeps into the Times’s news coverage:

Protesters’ cries to defund or abolish the police are often not meant literally. Rather, they are demands to rethink a law enforcement system from the ground up and to grapple with deeply ingrained issues, including employing officers who do not live in the city they police — as is done in Minneapolis — and sending armed officers to respond to situations that turn out not to be crimes, as when a mentally ill person is in distress.

Oh really? How does the New York Times know what the protestors mean? How do they know that the city council doesn’t want to abolish the Minneapolis police department? Answer: they don’t; the paper is trying to alter what the protestors are saying to make it more palatable to the paper’s liberal audience.

As for defunding, well, there are some reforms suggested by more thoughtful people in the body of the piece, suggestions like asking whether a 911 caller needs medical, mental-health, fire, or police assistance before dispatching help (don’t they do that already?), self-policing of communities, and so on (there really aren’t many alternatives mentioned).  What seems more sensible is a bottom-up and top-down reform of problematic police departments.

I have no idea whether there’s a lot of fat in police budgets, but unless you have an effective alternative to the current “style” (and I don’t mean brutal or racist style) of policing, it would be unwise to willy-nilly cut millions of dollars from police budgets without some heavy scrutiny.

The idea to completely replace conventional police with community policing or some unspecified alternative seems to me very unwise. I remember the Montreal Police Strike on October 7, 1969 (also known as the “Murray-Hill riot“), when the police, fed up with low pay and poor working conditions, went on strike for just one day. With no police on call, things went to hell. Wikipedia reports:

As the police were on strike, a crowd of disgruntled taxi drivers belonging to the Mouvement de Libération du Taxi appeared outside of the City Hall at about 6 p.m. supporting the police strike, carrying banners denouncing the Mayor, Jean Drapeau, as being corrupt. After the rally, the taxi drivers formed a convoy that were escorted by the Popeyes Motorcycle Club, the most violent of all Montreal’s many outlaw biker clubs. Joining the convoy were journalists and members of the FLQ carrying banners demanding independence for Quebec. On the street, the convoy encountered a Murray-Hill limousine that was forced to stop. The passengers and driver were allowed to leave, and then the car was smashed to pieces by the taxi drivers and the Popeyes.

The taxi drivers, Popeyes and FLQ congregated around the Murray-Hill garage in Griffintown, protesting against Murray-Hill’s monopoly at the Dorval International Airport. Attempts by the Sûreté du Québec to stop the procession towards the garage were stopped by striking Montreal policemen. Many of the taxi drivers were armed with Molotov cocktails as they were intent upon burning down the Murray-Hill company’s garage. At the Murray-Hill headquarters, various young people began to throw rocks and bricks through the windows, followed by Molotov cocktails. A sniper opened fire, leading one demonstrator to return fire. The fire came from the Murray-Hill security guards armed with 12-gauge shotguns, whose blasts left several people seriously injured. One young man managed to take over a Murray-Hill cab and drove it into a row of five limousines and three buses. The eight officers from the Sûreté du Québec attempting ineffectually to stop the riot were surrounded by the taxi drivers and as a journalist from La Presse wrote: “were shouted down, roughed up, had their caps thrown into the air, and their badges ripped off”.  During the melée, Sûreté corporal Robert Dumas was killed by shots fired from the roof by security guards and the owner’s son Buses were overturned and burned. As the situation at the Murray-Hill garage escalated, the bulk of the Sûreté du Québec officers in the city were ordered to go there, leaving the rest of the city exposed.

Crowds began to smash windows and loot stores. In particular, the crowds targeted a high-end restaurant owned by Drapeau, La Vaisseau d’Or, which was thoroughly trashed and looted. Also targeted were pick-up points owned by the Murray-Hill company, McGill university and the Montreal offices of IBM. Gangs of masked men armed with guns began to systematically rob the banks, through most bankers had made certain the day before that there was only a minimal amount of cash on-hand, limiting their losses. One branch of the Banque d’Épargne that failed do so lost some $28,845 dollars that day as three masked men smashed their way in.

The Montreal Gazette reported on 8 October 1969:

“Fires, explosions, assaults and a full-pitched gun-battle kept Montrealers huddled indoors as the reign of terror brought the city to the edge of chaos and resulted in the call for the Army help… Hundreds of looters swept through downtown Montreal last night as the city suffered one of the worst outbreaks of lawlessness in its history. Hotels, banks, stores and restaurants around the Ste-Catherine-Peel Street axis had their windows smashed by rock-tossing youths. Thousands of spectators looked on as looters casually picked goods out of store-front windows.”

Many of the young French-Canadians who looted the stores claimed to be striking against the economic domination of Montreal’s Anglo minority, leading them to chant separatist slogans. Despite this claim, the looters did not distinguish between stores owned by French-Canadians and English-Canadians. By the end of the day, over half a million dollars worth of goods had been looted from various stores while a hundred people were arrested.

There are some contested data showing that when New York Police decided to stop enforcing less serious crimes in 2014 and 2015, the crime rate actually dropped. But the causation is here is unclear. Nevertheless, that is not what these protestors are talking about.

If you’re going to deep-six police departments, you’ll have to replace them with something that has enough deterrent power to prevent stuff like this from happening. I hope people are thinking about that.


164 thoughts on “Dismantling (or defunding) police departments

  1. Well, speaking for myself I’ve moved closer to the “defund” end of the spectrum. There are so many obstacles to the kind of reform envisioned in your (PCC[E]) post that I have become doubtful that they can ever actually be accomplished. There are deep cultural features embedded in most police departments in the US. Policing, as it exists, is militarized. Police operate without oversight. Police unions have become unaccountable forces run by people with a strong authoritarian worldview.

    Before one can design the replacement one must come to the determination that what we have needs to be replaced. That’s where I am now. I don’t see how “bottom-up and top-down reform” will work any better than it has in the past without a goal that amounts to something totally different from what we currently have. Best to get on with the discussion of what the replacement will look like.

    1. I agree about the militarization of police especially only because it’s so obvious while the other things (which I also agree with) are less so…I just don’t think you can argue with the militarization part at all….it is particularly notable that police refer to citizens as “civilians” to separate them from police….and are police not citizens too? And the uniforms they where – must they always, in every situation, be armed to the teeth with so many things strapped to their person….campus police wearing body armour in the hot summer is a bit much I think. And that the military vehicles!!!! This just heightens the fear among citizens.

      1. It’s the militarization I’d love to see scaled down the most. I know they got a lot of the funding because of the war on drugs, then the war on terror especially. Let’s face it, though, most of the towns in America don’t need armored vehicles. How’s that gonna fight terrorism or drugs in the middle of Wyoming or Kansas or Tennessee or places like that?

        Knock the heavy hardware out of the budget and do training. Watch Beau of the Fifth Column’s videos about police training for a start. Dismantle the myth of the “warrior cop” and bury that paranoia that causes many cops to overreact to a situation. And bring back community policing so people get to know their cops and the cops get to know their people a helluva lot better. Harder to fear people you know.

        1. “Knock the heavy hardware out of the budget…”

          Under the federal 1033 program surplus military hardware is donated to police departments around the country at no cost. About a third of the equipment is new. One requirement of the program is that the equipment be used within one year or returned.

          1. Huh… I thought I read somewhere that the war on terror gave an increased budget for SWAT teams and armored stuff, but maybe this was actually it. Makes sense. In that case, return the equipment and maybe we can put some dents in that military-industrial complex most of us seem to hate.

      2. Militarization of the police is a separate issue. The cops did not kill Floyd with high tech weapons. None of the high profile police killing cases involved high tech weaponry.

        Moreover, for decades, there has been a serious downward trend in use of lethal force by police. To use just one example:

        “Shootings by Los Angeles police officers reached a 30-year low in 2019, with fatal shootings declining for the fourth year in a row, according to a new report on police use of force.

        Los Angeles Police Department officers opened fire on 26 suspects last year, compared with 115 in 1990.”

        The data from New York and other cities is similar. Giving cops more high tech toys has not resulted in an increase in lethal force. Whether they should have those toys is a separate question.

        1. Crime and police violence have both been trending down for decades. I don’t think a down trend in police shootings in major cities indicates that militarization of police doesn’t result in, or correlate with, an increase in use of violence and lethal force by police.

          Better I think would be to look for differences between police forces that have militarized and those that have not, all from the same era. This study, Militarization and police violence: The case of the 1033 program,
          found evidence of just such a correlation.

          “We find a positive and statistically significant relationship between 1033 transfers and fatalities from officer-involved shootings across all models.”

          Also, “militarization” is more than just adopting military equipment. At least to my mind. It includes adopting military doctrines, training and attitudes. All bad things for a police force. The military itself knows this very well. That’s why they get so grumpy when their civilian leaders put them in situations that require them to perform police duties. And it’s why they have military police units that are trained entirely differently than soldiers are.

          1. There’s also the decision by the police to use that military equipment. Originally, the acquisition was justified by claims that the criminals had bigger, better weapons than the police. However, once they got those weapons, they used them in more and more situations. They didn’t wait for the dispatcher to tell them the perp had a machine gun before calling in SWAT.

            1. Good point. I think SWAT teams are an excellent example of the militarization of police forces. I think there is a need to maintain specialized units like SWAT teams to deal with the relatively rare situations that require their specialized weapons and tactics. It used to be that there weren’t very many SWAT teams around. Only major population areas had them. But these days nearly every little township has their own SWAT team. Even my tiny little town has their own.

          2. Yes and training police to think of themselves as soldiers and the citizenry as enemy combatants.

        2. Militarization of police is not a separate issue when you look at how peaceful demonstrators were brutalized by police armed to the teeth. It is all part of the issue with policing in the US.

    2. The mapping police violence page has a chart called “there are proven solutions” that seems to indicate reform is both possible and effective. Not surprisingly, the things that work almost all fall into the general category of “training and doctrine that reduces the use of lethal force”.

      1. Without accountability there’s no amount of training that will stop authoritarian cops from acting as we’ve seen. I’m not seeing how serious accountability comes to be without “root and branch” replacement of departments.

        Case in point: Buffalo. Two cops arrested after obviously brutal misconduct. Fifty-seven officers resign from unit in sympathy with the offenders. That’s the entire unit. What’s the training program that is going to make that go away?

        1. Re.: Buffalo: I say good riddance. If that’s what they really think, let them go. The event also seemed quite egregious.

          I think applying a CAPA system to police forces (and using external auditing) can fix these issues. But applying the system thoroughly and external auditing are critical. The people in the system are included in the team to develop the solutions.

          1. It would be “good riddance” except that they didn’t resign from the force, just from the unit.

            Until police can be held accountable, externally, things won’t change. They need to be held to the same standards your or I would be if we did the action. They simply aren’t, for a host of reasons. They imagine themselves a military force occupying a foreign land. Their job titles are military. (Captain, Lieutenant, Sergeant, etc.). They train and operate as a military force, in military-style vehicles with military-style weaponry. It will take more than a bit of reform to change this.

            1. I don’t think they can be held to exactly the same standards as private citizens. Police are expected to go into dangerous situations and subdue dangerous people.

              However, they must be held to external scrutiny. This seems essential. (This is the reason licensed Quality Systems and externally audited.)

              1. We don’t expect them to commit crimes. Currently they commit assault and murder with complete impunity (and immunity).

            2. Put yourself in the position of a member of the unit. You are being sent to control a crowd where the potential for things to get ugly exists. You are told that if anyone accuses you of wrongdoing, you are on your own and will have pay for your own legal defense, which will cost a lot more than you can afford.

              What would you do? Who in their right mind would volunteer for that assignment?

              1. “Quit”, not “quite”, of course. My first sentence got all gnarled up. Oof.

          2. Always looking for the downside, I think it is likely that if there is rapid widespread firing, quitting what have you, of cops that a relatively significant percentage (compared to the general population) will become criminals. The ex bad cops won’t all suddenly change their normal behavior but they will no longer have the protection against legal consequences that they enjoyed as a police officer. Also, they will be bitter from being rejected and they will blame “civilians” for it.

        2. One that says that you’re accountable for what you do. You’re a watcher, you have a responsability that goes above that of others. It doesn’t mean that you’ve suddenly become Judge Dredd.

        3. Accountability is in there: requiring all shootings to be reported causes about a 25% reduction in police killings. However it’s not the only thing, and it appears you’re wrong on thinking anecdotally about dismissing training etc.

          We need to follow the data in terms of implementing solutions, not just anecdotes or our own preconceptions. If the data shows doctrinal changes work, we should use them.

          1. Accountability is there? Do you actually think that is true? How many police officers are charged, much less convicted, following the killing of an unarmed person? It is vanishingly rare.

            1. Are you arguing that their data is wrong and that mandatory reporting doesn’t reduce police killings?

              Look, I get that the MPV data doesn’t match your preconceptions. But it seems foolish to not support measures that work simply because they don’t match our preconceptions of what we think ought to be done.

              1. I’m arguing what I think is obvious. Police accountability doesn’t exist in any meaningful way. When police can kill unarmed people, repeatedly, year after year, in community after community, and they are almost never charged, it is simply absurd to say “Accountability is there”. You nor I would accept that if we were talking about anyone else. If we kill someone and we are identifiably, it is near impossible that we would not be charged. The opposite is true for police.

              2. That answer dodges the topic of my response altogether. MPV’s information indicates that there are numerous policy and training changes that lower the rate of police killings. You have stated you think accountability is necessary: “Until police can be held accountable, externally, things won’t change.” So your statement and their data appear to be at odds. Either you are right or they are right, but not both.

                So do you think they are wrong? Do you think these measures don’t actually result in a decrease in police killings? If so, what data do you have to back that up?

                If you want to say accountability will in your opinion do more to decrease the incident rate, I’ll tentatively agree to that. If you want to say police morally and ethically ought to be held accountable – as a matter of equality and justice – I’ll agree to that too. But I think provisionally, until such time as you provide data showing they are incorrect, MPV’s findings indicate that things can change and the killing rate can be reduced even when police aren’t held fully accountable.

              3. Oy. You clearly don’t think there is much of a problem here. You point to some reduction (I’ll assume your data is correct) showing some decrease in offenses. You’re satisfied with that? The problem’s gone away! And there’s no reason to charge police with murder when they kill innocent people because things could be even worse under other circumstances. /foreheadHitsDesk

        4. “What’s the training program that is going to make that go away?”

          Mapping Police Violence tweets:

          ” There is no evidence that better police training programs or “implicit bias” training changes police behavior. The trainings vary in quality and rarely result in any accountability/changes in decision-making. Don’t put this at the top of your agenda.”

          Evidence-based policy changes follow this statement.

        5. Another case in point: Minneapolis! Alex Vitale writes in the Nation magazine:

          the President’s Task Force on 20th Century Policing, that laid out a host of reforms—which I and others criticized at the time. These reforms were rooted in the concept of procedural justice, which argues that if the police enforce the law in a more professional, unbiased, and procedurally proper way, then the public will develop more trust in them and fewer violent confrontations and protests will ensue. This concept ends up taking the form of interventions like implicit bias training, police-community encounter sessions, tweaks to official use-of-force policies, and early warning systems to identify potentially problematic officers.

          The Obama Department of Justice used this framework to bring a small number of pattern and practice cases against select police departments, such as the one in Ferguson, to compel them to adopt these measures. It also poured millions of dollars into training and community relations initiatives like the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, which included money for Minneapolis.


          I also don’t agree with abolishing police, but I do agree that serious surgery is required at this point.

    3. The BBC was talking this morning about how Northern Ireland did a remake of their police and how things got better as a consequence.

      1. They had to really. The PSNI’s predecessor – the Royal Ulster Constabulary – was perceived as the instrument of an occupying power. I don’t know how deep the reforms were in practice terms (the personnel were the same) but, even if it was only a rebranding, it certainly helped. It also helped that the terrorists have largely stopped murdering people.

  2. I heard this on the radio this morning and it sounded just ridiculous to me. That ‘instead of calling 911, you would just call your social worker or neighbor’. There has always been trained, ready emergency personnel. Neighbors, friends, emt’s and social workers aren’t trained to handle domestic violence, agitated people with guns, men on PCP, etc. Not only does this make your city more vulnerable for crime it makes other individuals more responsible for taking care of other’s needs in which they have no training. I can see if somehow (in a perfect world) we set this plan into motion to take effect in 20 years and started teaching emergency skills, deescalating tactics, etc. As necessary classes in high school and made taking care of neighbors a part of the fabric of existance it could work to some extent- but still not all people are brave strong and capable and let’s be honest, for example, I would not risk my life as a young mother of three if my elderly neighbor was getting robbed. Police are there to always help and always be available. Do they need to be regulated better? Yes. Do internal investigations need to be stopped? Yes. But the “bad” things they do is 1% compared to the 99% of good things, saving lives, stopping violence, risking their lives daily, that they never get credit for.

    1. Yeah. If you want to see what a failed state looks like, rely on your neighbour to help you. You’ll end up with “strongman” type set-ups that eventually turn into areas run by war lords.

    2. “Relying on your neighbor” is what the home owner did in the Ahmaud Arbery case. A recipe for disaster.

  3. Mob rule is hardly a good form of government. Whether it is from the left or right, it is still nonsense. Police forces were started in our history for a reason. Where people congregated (cities) they were created to keep the peace and law of the places they served. Today is just about the worst time I can think of to eliminate police departments. Now that we have made guns available to all citizens in large quantities we could just revert back to the wild west days and let things happen.

    It is true that police training is due for an overhaul and we may be asking the police to do things they are not capable of accomplishing. One of the least popular calls a policeman makes is domestic dispute. When they must go to a residence to handle fights or violence between family members. I wonder how these will turn out if there is no police? If houses are robbed how will that go?

    1. I think your understanding of the origin of police forces might need some updating. Read a bit about the history of the Minneapolis Police, for example.

      By 1876 The city administration and the police began operating as an organized crime syndicate, extorting protection money and “fines” from illegal businesses of various kinds.

      1. I take it you are considering the example of Minneapolis as the type of police history for the entire country? I suggest you do some reading.

        The downfall in Minnesota was the election of a specific cooked major in 1876. And to say the problems of the police force today in Minneapolis are due to this election in 1876 is just a little strange.

        1. The fact remains that across the country we have police forces that operate without accountability and that operate instinctively in an authoritarian manner. Look around. Protests against police brutality are repeated met by police brutality. There’s little value in arguing about policing in 1875. But it is indisputable, IMO, that generation after generation has been promised reform. The reforms don’t happen unless you think replacing dogs and fire hoses with rubber bullets represents reform.

          1. I certainly believe the police are in need of a huge overhaul and have said that before. Just as we need prison reform, we need a whole new idea of police and what they are for. But that does not mean you burn down all the prisons and set everyone free. Does not mean you do away with police. As usual we have two extremes in this country. An administration that wants to call up the military to police the cities and another mop who want to eliminate the police. The country is nuts.

            1. How much police misconduct are you willing to accept before concluding that departments must be completely replaced?

              1. You are presenting only the extremes. Either have no police or a corrupt department. That is foolish. Some would say extremist.

              2. I’m not, Randall. I’m asking how much misconduct you are willing to accept before you ware willing to completely replace an institution with something else.

              3. I’ll realte what I was told by leadership in the Federal Agency I worked in for a period of time:

                We have a great record [not suggesting the police have a great record]. Our job is the drive the number of errors ever lower, forever.

                We are starting at a level of error (F-ups, misconduct, crimes) that is not acceptable. We need to apply a system that enforces continuous improvement in those numbers. No level is, by that definition, acceptable. As long as the trend is correct and it continues, the system is working.

                There is no magic wand, only improvement. We can, I hope, make the slope very steep in the very near future.

              4. I think it would be useful if they had targets. Airlines have targets for how many deaths are acceptable I’m sure.

              5. They don’t actually. The only truly acceptable number is zero. Anything above that requires actions.

                That said, people realize the all things are run by people, who, as my boss in the agency uttered these immortal words, “people are basically fuck-ups,” zero isn’t realistic.

                But that does not stop one forever striving for it.

              6. It zero is a number. You need a number of screw ups that trigger an action. And deaths I guarantee aren’t all the indicators that are acted on. Simply trying to improve with no idea of what good looks like is useless.

            1. From Chicago’s not to distant past: (Chicago Tribune, Sept 21, 2018) “There are many ways to measure the legacy of disgraced Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge. There’s the alleged torture suspects suffered — a means of forcing confessions — at the hands of officers under his supervision. And the years those who were wrongly convicted spent behind bars. Taxpayers have paid a hefty price, too, as the city county and state settled lawsuit after lawsuit.”

              The methods were horrific. He was fired in in 1993. Cost to the city, roughly $214 million, cost to the trust of the black community in the police, incalculable.

          2. Someone once suggested having malpractice insurance for police, just like we have for doctors. So that a doctor who can’t seem to do it right has to pay those higher premiums. And their record follows them, they can’t just transfer to another city or state to avoid their record.

            Don’t know if this is feasible either, but we better try something. Now.

      2. Police in Rio de Janeiro are deeply involved in protection rackets and illegal building on public (for example, park) land. Power corrupts, absolute . . . : You know the rest.

    1. Or rather based on the true premise that things are not improving *fast enough*? Killings in major cities may have decreased (only slightly, I should note, and only for a 6-year period; not a very convincing trend if you ask me). But the underlying disease remains just as bad — in fact much worse than many Americans have before realized — as the cops have eagerly demonstrated in the past few days.

      And why the focus on major cities instead of the whole nation? From the article you cite: “… the nationwide total of people killed by police nationwide has remained steady, the numbers have dropped significantly in America’s largest cities, … Those decreases, however, have been offset by increases in police killings in more suburban and rural areas.”

      1. “Or rather based on the true premise that things are not improving *fast enough*?”

        In order to answer that question one needs to stipulate what the appropriate metric of police error is. It is easy to say unlawful killings by police should be zero. But that is wishful thinking like wishing all murder and rape would magically disappear. Urban police are human beings operating in dangerous environments under high levels of stress. Taking that into account, what would a good result look like?

  4. Steven Pinker has an anecdote about what happens when you dismantle the police in his book “The Blank Slate”:

    As a young teenager in proudly peaceable Canada during the romantic 1960s, I was a true believer in Bakunin’s anarchism. I laughed off my parents’ argument that if the government ever laid down its arms all hell would break loose. Our competing predictions were put to the test at 8:00 A.M. on October 17, 1969, when the Montreal police went on strike. By 11:20 A.M. the first bank was robbed. By noon most downtown stores had closed because of looting. Within a few more hours, taxi drivers burned down the garage of a limousine service that had competed with them for airport customers, a rooftop sniper killed a provincial police officer, rioters broke into several hotels and restaurants, and a doctor slew a burglar in his suburban home. By the end of the day, six banks had been robbed, a hundred shops had been looted, twelve fires had been set, forty carloads of storefront glass had been broken, and three million dollars in property damage had been inflicted, before city authorities had to call ni the army and, of course, the Mounties to restore order. This decisive empirical test leeft my politics in tatters (and offered a foretaste of life as a scientist).

    (p. 331)

    I grew up in Harlem in the 80s. Due to how poorly the police treated us, you basically did not depend on the police to help; you only called the police as an absolutely last resort. Because a lot of the time, the cure was worse than the disease.

    Meaning that, if you want to prevent getting robbed, jumped, etc. you had to be the sort of person that was quick to punish any sort of disrespect with violence. Lots of people in my neighborhood would get into fights for stepping on their new sneakers or any other perceived slights. It’s an honor culture.

    This is the same reason why there is so much violence associated with illegal activity (drugs, prostitution, etc.). If you can’t call the police to settle disputes in your illegal activity, you have to do so yourself.

      1. If you think the Montreal Police strike was bad read up about the Province-wide general strike three years later. I had the pleasure of being isolated in my town for several days while armed gangs of syndicalistes drove around looting, assaulting and even killing. Town police were powerless and the Armed Forces at the local base were confined to base for the duration. Finally the QPP relieved the siege – we were really happy to see those guys! Not an experience I want to repeat nor would I wish it on anyone else. There are plenty of bad actors out there and the police are the only thing between you and them. So if you abolish the police be ready to defend yourselves because no-one else will.

    1. “Lots of people in my neighborhood would get into fights for stepping on their new sneakers or any other perceived slights. It’s an honor culture.”

      I gather that, had community-police relations been sufficiently better, a community member would have been more inclined to call the police should his honor be besmirched by someone (accidentally) stepping on his new sneakers.

  5. I’m glad you brought up the 1969 Montreal police strike. I’m surprised how few people are aware of that experiment.

    Police exist because civilized societies need them. Otherwise, you have gang/thug rule.

    Obviously some improvements are needed. I have written to my local politicians suggesting, among other things, application (and enforcement) of the CAPA process for police departments. (I’ve already outlined how a CAPA system works on other threads on Jerry’s site.)

    Successful prosecution of miscreant officers is needed. I think we’ve crossed that Rubicon in Minnesota.

  6. I heard the head of the Minneapolis City Council interviewed on (national) NPR this morning.

    The interviewer asked: If you are going to get rid of the police department, what are you going to replace it with?

    What followed was bluster, non sequitors, and hand-waving.

    As I told my wife, I won’t be setting foot into a Minneapolis that lacks a police department (or truly effective substitute — I’ve yet to hear a realistic suggestion for that).

    1. I would think that most people really oppose the practice of lynching as barbaric.
      But that is exactly what you get when gangs or groups of “concerned citizens” take on the role of enforcing the law.

  7. They could start by ending the program that transfers surplus military equipment to local police. Armored vehicles, weapons, tear gas, shields– over the last 20 years, over $7 billion worth of military equipment has gone to state and local police, including almost $300 million last year. It’s no wonder that there is a war zone mentality by police. Obama cut back the program in 2015 after Ferguson, Trump reversed that in 2017.

    1. Don’t use the words “abolish” or “de-fund” if you actually mean reform. When those words are used, they should be taken at face value and not sugarcoated.

      1. ‘Don’t use the words “abolish” or “de-fund” if you actually mean reform. When those words are used, they should be taken at face value and not sugarcoated.’

        Have recently seen a political cartoon showing an interaction between an (apparent) old white guy (OWG) and a non-old white guy protester (P) holding a sign saying, “Defund the Police!”:

        OWG: “The Floyd video opened my eyes, but if that means eliminating the police, COUNT ME OUT!”

        P:: “It means a reassessment of law enforcement methods and priorities, emphasizing accountability, enacting reforms, & redirecting resources where appropriate, thereby refocusing on the mission to serve & protect.”

        OWG: “Oh, why didn’t you say so?”

        P rolls his eyes in response, as if the OWG is clueless, and as if his sign did clearly say so.

        What, if any, differing and clarifying remarks would P have made to OWG had his sign instead said “Reform the Police!”? None, because OWG would not have said anything, because from the get-go OWG would have understood that “reform” ” . . . means a reassessment . . . .”

  8. What they mean by ‘abolish’ is unclear, as I keep hearing references to Camden, where they dismantled the existing police department and then just rebuilt it from the ground up, which is a very different project than abolishing the police all together.

    If it’s the former, well that is a surprising reversal on unions by the Left (as one of the major points of such a project seems to be doing away with unions, or at least current unions.) I take the more conservative stance on unions so I don’t necessarily disagree, it’s just, again, surprising.

    If it’s the latter, well, that is so jaw-droopingly out of touch that it makes me think people need to experience the consequences of their actions in the real world in order to beam back from whatever fantasyland they are currently residing in, because that level of disconnect by the people making decisions cannot possibly be good for society. The problem with tough love natural consequences, unfortunately, are that people get very hurt in the process. So hopefully any experimentation in that direction could be a a controlled situation and not a free-for-all, but either way, I think both will result in people reconnecting with reality real fast.

    1. From what I’m hearing here in the Minneapolis area: They literally mean abolish. And replace with … very, very unclear. But it will be great.

      We all know how easy it is to stand up a public service organization from scratch and in a new, untried model. (/sarcasm)

      I will be very, very surprised if anything like this can be done without a major legal motions (there is a legally binding contract with the police union, for instance). Wholesale firing of officers who have not misbehaved will clearly result in lawsuits.

      “All police are bad” is just as silly as “all black people are [X]”. (Fill in the X.)

      1. I don’t think that there are many who would say “All police are bad“. It is obviously stupid. But it is another question whether the institutions can be reformed instead of rebuilt.

        1. I agree: It is a question whether each body can be reformed; and the results will vary for each department.

          I think some push from the federal level (as the Dems are working on) and applying models that enforce self-correction (e.g. CAPA systems) are places to start.

          I’m trying to think of an example of a large social institution being eliminated and replaced. Maybe you have an example. We have many examples of reform within institutions (desegregation of the US military springs to mind).

          (I see lots of “all police are bad” in the news and on social media. Lots. And from people I think are (or are most of the time) intelligent.)

          1. IMO, the “all police are bad” comments you are seeing are a response to the “a few bad apples” metaphor. The whole point of the apples metaphor is that the whole barrel gets ruined. And the barrel here is the police union environment that enforces a militaristic “us vs. them” attitude towards the communities that employ them. It is perverse and it makes “good cops” keep quiet about and defend “bad cops”.

          2. “I’m trying to think of an example of a large social institution being eliminated and replaced. Maybe you have an example. We have many examples of reform within institutions (desegregation of the US military springs to mind).”

            According to Wikipedia: President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 in June 1941 to prohibit ethnic or racial discrimination in the defense industry. Thousands of blacks worked in the shipyards, etc. even though they were still discriminated against in regards to housing and where they could live. (Example: Kaiser Shipyards in Portland, OR.) Desegregation of the U.S. military was initiated by President Harry Truman (Executive Order 9981) in July of 1948. Sammy Davis Jr was an Army soldier in WWII and writes in his autobiography about discrimination in the military and the beatings he received. Having been protected by his father and uncle in the entertainment industry prior to that, he hadn’t experienced prejudice and hate before. Segregation in the military didn’t end until the Korean War (1950 – 1953). Until then, black units were segregated. In July 1963, Robert McNamara issued Directive 5120.36 “encouraged” “military commanders to employ their financial resources against facilities used by soldiers or their families that discriminated based upon sex or race.” Despite all that, I’m certain there’s still racial discrimination in the military.

            If we start “defunding” police departments now, will it take 15 or 20 years or more to take effect? And, will discrimination still occur? Look at Camden, NJ, Compton, CA and Washington State and their existing attempts to institute change.

              1. No. What I was trying to say is that desegregation of the military took 15 to 20 years to accomplish, and I’m not sure it’s as desegregated in 2020 as it needs to be yet. With enlistees being drawn from all over the country, there may be great diversity of Blacks, Hispanics, Orientals, Pacific Islanders and, of course, Whites drawn from different regions, many of whom have not interacted with people of other cultures much before. I happen to know a young White woman from the Panhandle of Idaho who went into the Marine Corps directly from high school. When she was observed looking closely at a Black person in formation early on, she was asked if she’d never seen a Black person before. She answered honestly that she hadn’t. I may be wrong, but I believe that our military has
                many of the same unfortunate flaws as our police departments. Both need change.

                I hope it won’t take long to modify the police forces of our country, but chances are, it will not go quickly or smoothly.

                From what you’ve shared with us here, I can tell that you have much more knowledge in this area than I do. I look to this forum to learn more from my betters and am grateful for everything new I learn. So, thank you.

    2. Even if they somehow managed to transition to an alternative to what we think of as the municipal police department, it would still be composed of (managed and staffed by) humans. They would, therefore, be corruptible, and would eventually become corrupt.

      It seems to me that fixing what’s broken would be a better goal than trying to create a new system from scratched based upon some utopian fantasy.

      1. Yes, they would be humans. But the rules of the institution would (presumably) be different.

        We’ve been “fixing the broken system” for an awfully long time. How long do you think is reasonable before concluding it is best to rebuild from ground up?

        1. Much like the Challenger example (in my opinion), I think this event (group of events) will drive a much harder look than in the past. At least I hope so.

          External scrutiny of police policies and practices is critical.

          I have hope (and some confidence) that police departments can be reformed. The right motivations and auditing must be applied. New policies and practices need to be defined and then enforced (external auditing). It will have to be enforced from top to bottom.

          It seems that some of the protections of the officers in the collective bargaining agreements need to be changed. I don’t know the details; and each one will be different. So I can’t say if there’s room in the existing CBAs for proper disciplinary measures (and are just not being applied).

    3. I guess the left has taken a leaf out of the GOP’s playbook: “repeal and replace” means getting rid of a useful but flawed solution to society’s ills and replacing it with nothing, letting people fend for themselves.

  9. There is no question that protestors chanting to defund or abolish the police is from the political perspective the height of stupidity. As others have noted, they handing Trump a gift. The vast majority of people want, I am confident polls will show, do not want to abolish the police – they want better trained police that among other things would require that a police officer must demonstrate a psychological makeup that avoids violence as much as possible. It does seem that some advocates of defunding police are now claiming that the term doesn’t actually mean what it sounds. One such person is Georgetown law professor, Christy Lopez, who has posted an op-ed at the Washington Post. Here’s what he would like to see:

    “To fix policing, we must first recognize how much we have come to over-rely on law enforcement. We turn to the police in situations where years of experience and common sense tell us that their involvement is unnecessary, and can make things worse. We ask police to take accident reports, respond to people who have overdosed and arrest, rather than cite, people who might have intentionally or not passed a counterfeit $20 bill. We call police to roust homeless people from corners and doorsteps, resolve verbal squabbles between family members and strangers alike, and arrest children for behavior that once would have been handled as a school disciplinary issue.”

    Now, these proposals make sense actually. It would relieve the police of engaging in tasks that they are not particularly trained for, what they themselves do not want to do, and could be done better by people specifically trained in these areas. So, as a general rule, this is what a well-trained police force should do: respond to and investigate incidents where it seems a crime has been committed that would require an on-scene arrest of the perpetrator and/or violence is taking place. Other functions that police forces have traditionally been involved in can be handled better by others.

    So, indeed, yes, police forces need to change. This means changing their cultures, a task difficult to do, but must be done. The inanity of screaming that police forces must be abolished, must stop. These people are unpaid agents of Trump, although they don’t realize it and may not care if they did know.


    1. Thanks for the link. Those are sensible and more importantly, most are possible.

      There is no way abolition of the police is ever going to fly; as pissed off as people are this simply will not be accepted. But the Law and Order types will seize on demands for the abolition of police forces and it will become a cudgel which they will use to beat off any attempt at reform.

      Activists need to drop the abolition demands now or they will cause us to lose everything we may have gained by the uprisings.

      1. What gains are those? Here in Milwaukee our Chief of Police thinks that the police are the victims. You know, like Jesus being crucified.

        1. I did say “may” and anyway by “gains” I meant a broad public willingness to do something real and significant about police brutality. People across the political spectrum recognize (now, at least) that there is a real problem. The protests have had a significant impact on that realization. IMO, of course.

          Demanding the abolition of police departments undermines demands for reform.

          1. I disagree. I think such demands make explicit that there must be an alternative to reform promises that go unfulfilled.

            The question I would pose to you, and anyone else who wants to rule defunding off the table, is this: Is there any limit to the amount of police misconduct that will accepted before it is worth abolishing and replacing departments?

            1. Where did you get the idea that I was against “defunding” police deartments? I am against demanding the abolition of the police – and some activists are demanding just that.

              I’ll let those who oppose “defunding” the police answer your question.

              1. There are few people who want to abolish without any replacement. A fringe, sure, but very few. It is, IMO, a bit of a straw man.

              2. fercryinoutloud GBJames, I was commenting on an article Historian linked to which said, among other things;

                “In that context, “defunding” means shifting resources to entities that can better deal with these problems.”

                That’s the kind of defunding, I think we should enact. It’s one of many reforms, that the awareness and enlightenment that these protests have instilled in us we can actually do -shockingly, others can even be done simultaneously; we don’t have to pick only one-

                You’re right that few activists are calling for abolition of police departments but since when has a “red herring” stopped politicians from using them to subvert reform? That’s the risk – one the left never seems to learn. Political foot-shooting is what they are best at.

              3. I think you’re making a false dichotomy. This is a problem of the left? This is simply a fact of life. On any issue there is a range of opinions and there is by definition going to be someone out on the fringe. But is isn’t somehow a feature of “the left”. Have you never seen a right wing nut? Do you think that raging over the fact that fringes exist is going to contribute to a solution?

            2. I also view it as a an initial bargaining position. We are going to remove the department: Now, tell me what you are going to do to make that not necessary.

              1. Nonsense. It is a lousy bargaining chip because it is a total non-starter and it will fail for that reason wherever it is tried. No community will tolerate the abolition of their police department. It is the pipeist of pipe dreams to think any would; those Minneapolis council members are in for s surprise if think they can. It is a fools game and everyone knows it . Except the fools, of course.

                I suspect some are playing a rhetorical game here (I mean right here) where they pretend that deep reforms and restructuring the police are the same thing as those demanding dismantling -abolishing- them. If so that’s an intellectual shell game and I’m not interested.

              2. Unclear what you mean by “it is a total non-starter”. The Minneapolis Common Council (or whatever they call the City’s governing body) seems to disagree with you.

              3. Edward, I didn’t say I agree with it. I’m saying that’s what it appears to me. I think it is being used that way.

                I agree that the Minneapolis CC has no plan (none) to replace the MPD. But they are playing to the crowd and applying pressure.

                I was worried when Jacob Frey was elected; but he seems more sensible (than the MCC) in this case.

                I’m not seeing that conflation in terms here; but maybe I’m not paying close enough attention. I just see some feeling more forcefully that “fire all and make them reapply for their job” is the way to go here (I don’t).

    1. Here is another thought. In small towns all over the country, they have voluntary fire departments. Maybe they find the money to hire a fire chief at most and the rest are volunteer. Maybe they could do some of the policing with volunteers. I would say it would only be the parts that could be done without guns. Traffic control or just patrolling. In small towns the police department can be a very large part of the city budget. The really small towns have no police department but maybe pay the county sheriff to drive though two or three times a day.

      1. I grew up in a community that relied on volunteer fire fighters. After two houses across the street from me burned to the ground one night, I understood why they were nicknamed ‘cellar savers.’

        1. Yeah, that’s a good one. Pretty good bet you never were a volunteer fireman, eh John
          Maybe a volunteer nothing.

      2. They already do that to some extent. My summer job as a HS senior/college freshman was directing traffic as a police adjunct.

        IMO this will do nothing to lower the rate of police killings, because the George Floyd case notwithstanding, the majority of police killings of civilians are shootings. We need to reform, retrain, etc. the folks who carry guns, because right now they appear to use them as a first or second etc. resort rather than a last resort.

  10. When the cat’s away, the mice will play…
    Where there is no cat, the rat is king…

    Nothing is more unrealistic than the naive anarchistic belief that the police is an unnecessary social institution.

    If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?
    Ghostbusters?…eh, no, the Police!
    If there’s something weird and it don’t look good, who you gonna call?
    Ghostbusters?…eh, no, the Police!

  11. “It seems to me that before you abolish the police department, you have to have a plan for what will replace it.” How dare you, Jerry! All those people, many in tough black neighborhoods, who call the cops every day in situations of domestic violence or armed robbery or home invasion or sexual assault — can you not see that they would better off with no police to call? That should get you scarlet-lettered with a big fat “R”.

  12. Anarchist movements have always sought to abolish the police. Invariably it leads to more authoritarian government. The French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and so on. Trump is waiting in the wings.

  13. I agree that “defund the police” sounds awful on its face. However, I do recommend the piece by Christy Lopez in today’s WaPo (link below; unfortunately likely to be paywalled. She’s a law professor at Georgetown and co-directs their Innovative Policing Program. A few of her points are

    1. Police are asked to do way too much in society. Examples she mentions are dealing with drug overdoses, rousting homeless people, and dealing with disciplinary problems of children.

    2. In that context, “defunding” means shifting resources to entities that can better deal with these problems.

    3. Reform is certainly necessary – better training, ban on chokeholds, etc., and a recognition that police should be guardians, not warriors.

    4. Finally, many of the problems in police departments are but reflections of broader societal issues.

    Finally, a couple of personal comments. First, I think the transfer of military hardware (and the military mindset) to police departments needs to cease. And second, I happen to be reading Michele Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow”, which carefully documents the impact of the “war on drugs” on the African American community, and how it has led to erosion of everyone’s constitutional rights and the era of mass incarceration. It is painful but necessary reading.


    1. As EdwardM says above, it sounds like another case of liberals eager to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. With enormous good will right now across racial lines, think of some perfectly reasonable proposals, and then mask them behind a headline/hashtag that is sure to alienate the 70-80% of unwoke electorate.

  14. House Democrats announced wide-ranging legislation on a blueprint for policing policies. Highlights of the bill, from CBS News, are here. Full text of the bill is here.

  15. John Oliver explains what “defunding the police” means. Hint: it doesn’t mean getting rid of police departments:

    1. I agree that defunding the police doesn’t necessarily mean abolishing the police. It seems to have several possible means including the shifting of certain tasks that the police have traditionally engaged in to other entities better suited to deal with them. But, here is the problem. When long explanations are necessary to explain the term then Trump has won. He will equate the term with abolishing the police and will use it as club to scare people into believing that the advocates of defunding the police are radical leftists bent on leaving helpless folks unprotected and at the mercy of ruthless marauders. Perception is more important than reality in this case.

      1. Yes. This is the problem I’ve always had with the more progressive left: their total contempt for realpolitikal calculus.

        If you really want to win power you have to factor in optics, as boring and un-idealistic as that sounds. You have to measure your principles against the electoral gravity.

        The identity politics crowd either don’t understand or don’t care that every time they talk the way they do they put off an enormous number of voters, and do so simply because they use a kind of divisive political language that could easily be replaced with something more conciliatory.
        The same goes for people who want to put defunding the police at the top of the agenda five months before one of the most important elections in world history.

      2. “When long explanations are necessary to explain the term then Trump has won.”

        Nothing of the sort. It doesn’t take much to see Trump as a fool and horrible leader. People are waking up (for how long? dunno). Trump is floundering like a beached whale; he’s winning nothing. A complicated situation isn’t lost on the American public; nor is a failed response to tragedy. Legislation is coming forward, minds are changing, Bunker Bitch’s White House “wall” is becoming a symbol and memorial of his ineptitude and demise. Trump and winning for the time being is an oxymoron.

        Where are these marauders? Trump can have delusions, but his delusions still need to be seen to believe. Also, his people supposedly have the guns; why are they afraid of ruthless marauders. They probably welcome these fable people.

  16. The people who call for “dismantling” the police appear to have heard of neither Thomas Hobbes nor The Purge movie franchise.

    “It seems to me that before you abolish the police department, you have to have a plan for what will replace it.” +1000

  17. Should they choose to curtail or dismantle the police force, many officers will switch to private security companies and similar paramilitary operations, which will undoubtedly become a lot more popular under shop keepers and house owners.

    From then on, you’ve lost what oversight you still had on them.

    1. This reminds me of something out of a dystopian novel, defund the police and reduce the trust in public institutions that help everyone and only the wealthy will have security and safety.

  18. Yesterday, I passed a little group of young, white wokies carrying signs that read Defund the Police. They were not, thankfully, blocking the street, for two reasons. (1) There weren’t enough of them to successfully block traffic. (2) If they had tried, the police would have subjected them to the awful brutality of arrest for blocking traffic.

    When there were enough of them, in the 1999 WTO riot, they were able to paralyze several Seattle bus routes. As a result, that afternoon disabled individuals at a Seattle sheltered workshop I know well were unable to get home by bus after work. I am sure that not one in a hundred of the demonstrators gave this a thought, when they got in their cars and drove home, deeply satisfied with their exciting afternoon of idealistic protest.

    1. “Yesterday, I passed a little group of young, white wokies carrying signs that read Defund the Police.”

      Seriously? ‘Wokies’? A group of young people, carrying a sign about defunding(not abolishing) the police? Doesn’t sound too awful to me.

      The level of reactionary dislike for young progressives from some people here is getting more and more depressing. I’m a millennial(just). I wouldn’t call myself ‘woke’ necessarily, I’m more moderate, but the vast majority of ‘woke’ people I know are, at their absolute worst, a bit condescending.

      Nothing I say is going to make any difference I know, but just a little bit more understanding for younger liberals and a little less constant highlighting of their flaws would not only be a more realistic reflection of the real world it’d also help bridge a generational empathy gap that seems to me to be getting worse and worse.

      A generation will just stop listening if you talk about them that way.

      1. If the ubiquitous calls to defund the police do not aim for abolition of the police, the assumption must be that the police will carry on voluntarily after defunding, without pay. It could also mean that “defund” campaigners are not thinking very hard about what they demand.

        1. The call to “defund the police” is misleading at best. One would assume it means to reduce their funding to zero while still requiring them to do their job at the same staffing levels. It sounds like they are saying “If we take their pay away completely, perhaps they’ll shape up.”

          What they really mean, of course, is that they’re going to reduce the police’s budget and work out exactly what that means in terms of their assigned tasks and staffing levels. At the same time, they plan to spend the money on social programs that will reduce the need for policing (they hope).

          How did we get stuck with such a stupid, thoughtless slogan? I hope some investigative reporter is on the case.

    2. Minneapolis/St. Paul mass transit was shut down for many days.

      We drove through the devastated area in St. Paul Saturday. Many local businesses such as pharmacies are now gone. The only pharmacy in the neighborhood. And the only grocery store in the neighborhood.

  19. Actually abolishing police departments and the chaos that would ensue would be a wet dream for tRump supporters. Fortunately, even in Minneapolis it wont happen. They might take enough money away from the police to cause problems locally. It could be a great object lesson as to what’s out there in the real world.

  20. I wonder if the 9 Minneapolis city council members who passed this idiot dictate will get re-elected.

  21. There are a lot of more moderate voices saying that the cries of “abolish the police” are not to be taken literally. But many of the people shouting mean exactly that.

    And the reason that they mean what they say is that they hold a set of beliefs about the past and present of this country that are just not true. They really believe that cops see it as “open season” on Black people, and that a great many Black people are executed by police every year.
    But the data does not support that at all. Pretty much across all categories, approximately twice as many White people than Black people are killed by police. That includes when the victim is unarmed, or when they have a toy or replica gun.
    And while every shooting is a tragedy, the numbers of those shot by police are very low.

    In 2019, there were 15 unarmed Black people shot by police.
    I looked at each of them. In 3 cases, officers were found criminally liable and charged.
    Five of them were shot while fighting with police. One of those had taken the cop’s taser and used it on him.
    Two were trying to run over police officers with cars.
    One man was shot after a car chase, when he reached for a gun on the floor.
    One man was shot during a hostage/ domestic violence situation. He was unarmed, but had previously shot a cop.
    One man was shot when he was being served a felony warrant, and was apparently given contradictory instructions by officers. That one is still being litigated.
    Of the fifteen, nine happened while the person shot was committing a violent felony.

    Several of these could well have been avoided. Should have been. Probably every one could have been handled without loss of life, if all the facts were known at the time of the shooting, or if the officers were trained differently.

    But the small percentage of those fifteen that were unjustified does not constitute “open season” on unarmed Black people, in a country as large as ours.

    1. But the data does not support that at all. Pretty much across all categories, approximately twice as many White people than Black people are killed by police.

      Taking your numbers as given, there are 5-6 white people for every black person in the U.S. Which means even according to your data, blacks are killed way more often than a random or unbiased distribution would predict.

      1. Comparing it to a random distribution is a poor measure, since the implicit assumption is that all races commit the same types of crimes at the same rates, have the same criminal histories, resist arrest and/or attack police at the same rates, etc., none of which is the case.

        Comparing to the races of people killed by police to their proportion among violent criminals (especially serious violent criminals such as murderers and robbers) or among those who attack and kill police, etc. blacks are significantly underrepresented, not overrepresented. And as for unarmed people shot by police, well, it’s more common for unarmed whites to be killed, both in absolute numbers and per attempted arrest.

        Blacks are about 13% of the population, 25% of people killed by police, about 35% of those who kill police, almost 40% of violent criminals, and more than half of serious violent criminals. It seems to me that police kill fewer blacks than would be expected.

        1. That last is probably correct. I don’t think there are good statistics that can fully answer that question but I have seen this framed in the wrong way (or at least uncritically) in many places.

          Often the wrong denominator is used. You sometimes see the killing rate expressed as a percent of the population. But that makes no sense for more than the reasons you cite. It really should be denominated as risk of death per encounter with police. Think of this way; who is more at risk from a shark attack, a surfer in Hawaii or a farmer in Dubuque? A group of people more likely to interact with police is also more likely to have disproportionate outcomes.

          But therein lies the problem; it isn’t just the killing of blacks by police but the fact that blacks come into contact with police relatively more often than whites. And that is central to the racial problems we have today; blacks are targeted by the police. But not just the cops, but also rednecks in pickup trucks and urban racists in a dog park.

          We all see it. We all know of it. Most of us have been much to quiet about it for far too long.

      2. Not only did I make a grammatical error, I omitted the source, which is the WAPO.

        There is no random distribution. If FBI data is to be believed, the average US murder victim is a non-Hispanic Black male, between the ages of 25 and 29. The average perpetrator of those murders is a non-Hispanic Black male between the ages of 20 and 24.
        Looking at the FBI tables, the only category of crime that I saw where percentage of offenses matched closely to population percentages is DWI offenses. But even there, males seem to account for 76% of offenders.

        I suspect that a large part of this is really about single-parent families, but that is really only an opinion.

    2. Yes, data and statistics are powerful ways of mitigating so called disparities. Stats are only as good as the information. You think crimes on minorities are actually documented to an extant that is credible? That’s the fallacy of believing in statistics I suppose. In shit, out shit. I simply don’t believe in the numbers you believe in.

      1. Yeah, statistics showing that blacks commit more crimes than others aren’t all that convincing when the numbers are coming from the records of police departments. The charge is that police discriminate against black people. Whether that is an accurate charge or not, using data generated by those same police departments to determine validity is not convincing.

        I don’t know what planet these people arguing that there is no significant racial discrimination problem and or no use of force problem among our police forces are from. There are many other problems in addition to and that contribute to these, all interrelated.

        1. Relying solely on police data would be a mistake but we have very few sources of independent data collection. The counted project by the guardian and other sources have tried to fill the gap but we still don’t have a complete picture.

          The main reason I’m responding however is the shifting of the topic in question.
          Disparities in use of force aren’t the same thing as disparities in shootings.
          The whole of his post was about shootings not use of force rather than generic use of force and while police may profile and target blacks there are conflicting studies on whether or not they actually shoot more blacks.

          One study finding no difference:
          One finding he opposite:

          So the original posters focus on unarmed shootings is relevant because the general framing in the media is that cops are gunning for unarmed black citizens going about their day not doing anything to justify use of deadly force.
          Since we can now find different studies on this we need to ask the right questions and figure out what how we can work with the data to get answers that will improve the situation. Do police use deadly force when non-deadly force should be used more often with black people? For example in some of the cases described by the max blanke above it is clear that deadly force was not required which could indicate bias.

  22. I noticed on the NBC Evening News a few days ago they went out of their way to explain that “defund the police” meant diverting some of their budget toward social programs. While it is a terrible slogan, it does sound like an excellent idea. Also part of the plan is to take away some tasks currently left to the cops and give them to people who are better equipped to do them.

    Although it’s a lousy slogan, perhaps Biden will be somewhat insulated from its direct effect since policing is mostly a local affair. With any luck, locals will be familiar with their particular interpretation of “defund the police” and local politicians will be judged accordingly.

    1. I understand where it’s coming from, but I think focusing on taking funding away from police departments is a poor way to go about fixing the problems. Rather, forget about funding for the moment. The issue is how to achieve the kind of police departments we want. Figure out how to do that by looking at things that have seemed to work. Whatever that costs is what it costs. If it costs more, oh well. If it costs less, great.

      It seems pretty obvious to me though that it would cost less. At least in the medium to long term. Instituting the necessary changes may cost more in the short term though.

      1. AFAIK, the proposals aren’t just taking funding away from police departments. I’m sure some of the protestors even talk about abolishing the police entirely but that’s not going to happen. Instead, mostly they seem to be talking about not relying on police for so much and getting other kinds of professionals involved. Sounds like reform to me. This “defund the police” is just a bad slogan.

        In some cases, they are talking about disbanding their current police department and starting fresh. My guess is that this is a good way to go when the police department is too far gone. Still, that’s not going without a police department.

        If only we could ditch that stupid slogan! I am encouraged by the fact that Biden has distanced himself from it. I’m also encouraged that the evening news (NBC at least) has prefaced every segment about “defunding the police” with an explanation of what it actually means.

          1. Thanks for the article. Clearly it’s no panacea. It will be interesting to see an assessment five years from now, say, of the fallout from this “defund the police” effort.

    1. The lede: “Police themselves often complain about having to “do too much,” including handling social problems for which they are ill-equipped. Some have been vocal about the need to decriminalize social problems and take police out of the equation. It is clear that we must reimagine the role they play in public safety.”

  23. I see Trump is now going to restart his re-election rallies, justifying them by pointing to the crowds at the BLM / George Floyd protests. And if there’s a surge in Covid-19 cases in the UK, Boris Johnson will similarly point to the rallies here as his “get out of jail free” card. Condemning some mass meetings (say in churches) while ignoring others is a recipe for disaster; a viewpoint that even The Guardian has acknowledged: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/08/we-often-accuse-the-right-of-distorting-science-but-the-left-changed-the-coronavirus-narrative-overnight

    1. I also found it pretty hypocritical and damaging to their credibility for public health experts to give their blessing to mass protests with the excuse that police brutality is an overriding danger to public health. Even if every single police killing was murder, Coronavirus would still be killing more people – including more black people – by several orders of magnitude.

      It’s even less justifiable for these protests and riots to be sanctioned by public health experts in European countries with lots of Coronavirus deaths but hardly any problems with police brutality…

  24. This is how I would imagine today’s New York Times would explain the Murray Hill Riot:

    Heaving Molotov Cocktails and setting property afire are often not meant literally as crimes. Rather, they are demands to rethink a law enforcement system from the ground up and to grapple with deeply ingrained issues, including sending armed officers to respond to situations that turn out not to be literal crimes, as when a protestor is merely heaving Molotov Cocktails or setting property afire as a figurative protest.

  25. Out here in the sticks, we have very little need for police. They technically exist for the county, but we rarely see them unless we drive into town and seek them out. Even then, it is my experience that the dispatcher is the only one there, and she has to call one of the officers, and arrange a meeting.
    I was always taught that the first rule in any emergency is that “Nobody is coming to save you”.
    They will come in a day or two to file a report, but are no help in the short term.

    But what works for us in a law abiding, super low population density area would lead to chaos in an urban or suburban area.

  26. So anarchists (or not) can consider – even get promises – of abolishing law enforcement, but no one will consider abolishing guns!?

    That’s crazy.

    1. Nobody is going to manufacture a bunch of illegal cops in their basement. Or at least I hope that is the case.

    1. BLM and its “minions” don’t make the laws. Most of these proposals and more are included in the House Democratic bill unveiled today. Congress is where reforms will come from.

    2. “I already support abolishing police unions and qualified immunity for police officers.”

      I contemplate what if any “carrots” remain to prompt someone to become a police officer.

  27. Defund the police? Abolish the police?

    Lets hope not.

    I the huge numbers of people in jail are anything to goby, there are huge numbers of people who would love for there to be no police ‘force’.

    There really are a lot of really mean people around and the meanest will end up heading gangs and a warlord type scenario would follow.

    1. An important consideration is how much crime is directly avoided when criminals are incapacitated because they are imprisoned.

      “Steven Levitt (of Freakonomics fame) and Thomas Marvell and Carlisle Moody found that each additional prisoner contributes to reductions ranging from 15 to 30 serious “index” crimes—which include murder, rape, aggravated assault, armed robbery, burglary, motor-vehicle theft, larceny, and arson.” according to https://www.city-journal.org/html/what-criminologists-dont-say-and-why-15328.html

  28. Who has bothered to measure the actual impact of social workers on crime rates? It might well turn out to be almost nonexistent or even to be inadvertently crime-increasing.

    I suspect that many advocates of abolishing the police follow the penal harm narrative that is critiqued very well at

    “[…] incarceration took minority men out of their neighborhoods, stripped them of voting rights, destabilized families, and sapped already-paltry economic resources from struggling communities. Such claims could seem plausible only if one believes—contrary to evidence and common sense—that career criminals contribute positively to their neighborhoods, enjoy stable and functional families, vote, and work. What they did, in reality, was to prey on their neighbors.”

    Of course, the truth might well be more sinister. An Antifa-like progressive group could be turned into a replacement for the police that ignores most violent crimes. It would instead arrest law-abiding citizens for hate speech and crack down on any efforts on their part to protect themselves.

  29. I expect the militias up there would love to see the PD abolished.

    And re. police stikes, then-Governor Calvin Coolidge’s handling of the Boston Police Strike of 1919 was what brought him to national attention, particularly with his statement, “There is no right to strike against the public safety, anywhere, anytime.”

  30. European countries have far lower rates of officer-involved killings. It seems that they represent some useful models of how policing reform might occur.

Leave a Reply