Calls to literally abolish the police

June 13, 2020 • 11:00 am

There’s been some discussion about what the demand for “defunding the police” really means. To some it means cutting police budgets in ways to minimize their brutality, and the example often used is their acquisition of discarded equipment from the U.S. military, or more training in social work by cops. To others it means deeply slashing police budgets, although where the cuts are to go isn’t often specified. Often the slashed funds are to be diverted to social programs whose existence, they claim, will severely reduce crime.

And to others in the “disband the police” camp, it means, as adherent Mariame Kaba says in the New York Times op-ed below, the literal abolition of police departments. And that’s what she argues (click screenshot to read). There was a lot of criticism about what Tom Cotton said in his NYT editorial, because his call for putting the military in U.S. cities to police demonstrations was just dumb. Well, Mariame Kaba’s op-ed seems just as dumb to me, but it meets with no criticism because it’s woke.

Kaba is a writer, organizer, and activist advocating for abolition of the police and the prison-industrial complex.  Here are her arguments for disbanding the police:

1.) Most cops don’t spend their time going after bad guys, but writing traffic tickets, fielding noise complaints, ad other issues. She quotes someone saying “The vast majority of police officers make one felony arrest a year. If they make two, they’re cop of the month.”  This, of course, overlooks the deterrent effect of simply having a police presence. If there weren’t cops on the street, people would be running red lights and stop signs willy-nilly, and traffic accidents would increase. Likewise with crime in general, as the Montreal police strike of 1969 showed.

2.) The tendency of cops to “keep black and other marginalized people in check through threats of arrest, incarceration, violence, and death” does not create a safer society. To the extent that this is true (and tomorrow we’ll see a dissent by John McWhorter), this needs to be stopped. Police should not be treating people differently based on their race. But before we make this assertion, we need evidence that it’s the case. I suspect it is for many interactions between police and citizens, but it’s not so clear for things like cops killing people.  The solution is not to abolish the police, but to train them better, and to ruthlessly weed out the bad apples. Bodycams must be turned on at all times, and so on.

3.) “Police officers break rules all the time.” Kaba mentions slashing tires, shoving people unnecessarily, arresting journalists, and so on. Again, the solution is to instill police officers with a respect for the rules, which includes the threat of firing and, if they break the law, of arrest.

Kaba’s error here is to propose complete abolition of police departments in a naive faith that people who aren’t policed will act well, eliminating the need for cops. But if you live on planet Earth, this is palpably ridiculous. Alternatives to cops, she says, are more social work, health care, better housing, and so on. And yes, these are things we must do to eliminate the inequalities created by history, and surely will help eliminate crime, a lot of which stems from poverty. But not all of it!  We will still have crimes not motivated by poverty (this is assuming we can get rid of it, which is a long way off): murders, rapes, white-collar crime, terrorism, and so on. And of course many of these crimes have nothing to do with social inequality.

But here: read what Kaba wants:

But don’t get me wrong. We are not abandoning our communities to violence. We don’t want to just close police departments. We want to make them obsolete.

We should redirect the billions that now go to police departments toward providing health care, housing, education and good jobs. If we did this, there would be less need for the police in the first place.

We can build other ways of responding to harms in our society. Trained “community care workers” could do mental-health checks if someone needs help. Towns could use restorative-justice models instead of throwing people in prison.

What, no sequestration of dangerous people, sequestration that not only keeps the baddies out of society, but could also act as a deterrent and, in an ideal world (not the U.S.!) help reform people?  Restorative justice, in which offenders meet with those they’ve harmed and work out resolutions, can work in some cases of nonviolent crimes, but will it work with armed robbers, rapists, or people like the Unabomber, Timothy McVeigh, or other sociopaths? What would Kaba do with a serial killer, or someone who murders a bank clerk while committing a robbery? And even with restorative justice, how do you catch the offender in the first place without police? Are they just going to come forward and confess?

And what about rape or sexual assault, crimes not clearly connected with poverty? Kaba’s solution to this seems heartless; she simply claims “but cops rape, too, and, anyway, most rapists are never caught.”:

What about rape? The current approach hasn’t ended it. In fact most rapists never see the inside of a courtroom. Two-thirds of people who experience sexual violence never report it to anyone. Those who file police reports are often dissatisfied with the response. Additionally, police officers themselves commit sexual assault alarmingly often. A study in 2010 found that sexual misconduct was the second most frequently reported form of police misconduct.  In 2015, The Buffalo News found that an officer was caught for sexual misconduct every five days.

Got it? Because there’s still rape, police are useless against the crime.  True, it’s hard to catch and successfully prosecute rape, but, according to the Department of Justice, “About 234,000 convicted sex offenders are under the care, custody, or control of corrections agencies on an average day.” 5% of the U.S. prison population consists of sexual offenders. What would Kaba do about this? She has no solution.

Instead, she counts on people’s goodwill to ensure that a world without cops would largely be a world without crime. I think she’s sorely mistaken. And her palaver about “restorative justice”, and the feel-good sentiments below, don’t make a good case for abolishing the police. By all means reform police departments, and by all means ensure that more money flows to the root causes of crime, including inequality, poverty, and lack of opportunity. But seriously, abolish the police? Who would you call if you were raped, or if someone is trying to break into your house? A social worker?

When people, especially white people, consider a world without the police, they envision a society as violent as our current one, merely without law enforcement — and they shudder. As a society, we have been so indoctrinated with the idea that we solve problems by policing and caging people that many cannot imagine anything other than prisons and the police as solutions to violence and harm.

People like me who want to abolish prisons and police, however, have a vision of a different society, built on cooperation instead of individualism, on mutual aid instead of self-preservation. What would the country look like if it had billions of extra dollars to spend on housing, food and education for all? This change in society wouldn’t happen immediately, but the protests show that many people are ready to embrace a different vision of safety and justice.

Holy Kropotkin, Batman! A vision entirely without police? Does any country in the world lack police? I don’t think so—even the most progressive ones, and even countries far more racially homogeneous than the U.S. Until I see a convincing case for why a country without police would be better than one with police, and some concrete plans for how we replace the cops but ensure people’s safety, I’m not signing on.

By the way, this is also happening at the University of Chicago (and other schools as well), where some faculty and many students want the large University of Chicago police department to be disbanded. There was in fact a demonstration for this yesterday, and you can read their “demands” on the Facebook page below (click on screenshot).

This won’t work either, especially because they explicitly say that they’re not trying to replace the University of Chicago police with the City of Chicago’s police. No, they just want no cops on or around the campus (the U of C police patrol an area much larger than the campus, and although some of them have harassed black students, by and large they’re a potent force keeping our campus safe. Without them, we’d suffer an attrition of faculty, staff, and students, who depend on campus police to help keep the area safe.  Sometimes I wonder if people who make demands like this are thinking clearly. No, let me be a bit stronger: I think people who make demands like this are not thinking clearly, or perhaps are involved in some kind of performative virtue-flaunting. I will have no truck with them.

But no worries: our University is not stupid enough to get rid of its police department.

98 thoughts on “Calls to literally abolish the police

  1. On the poster against UCPD, the picture of a police car in flames is an incitement to violence.
    (I agree to the call to disarm and disclose, but not the rest of it.)

  2. It seems there’s little consideration of, if the proposed “plan” is enacted, what might fill the place of police – that is, how do we know vigilantes will fill the police-shaped-hole?

    1. Private security companies will partially fill that void. They will be paid for and used by the rich, and will almost certainly be worse than the police.

      And for those who have been wronged but can’t afford to hire someone, there’s always the option of a private vendetta or clan feud.

      1. Yes, on the frontier, where there was no police force, matters were “settled” with , feuding, duels, and lynching. How did that work out for minorities?

        Eliminate the cops, and gun nuts will begin stockpiling even more weapons, and countless George Zimmermans and Travis McMichaels will take to “patrolling” their neighborhoods.

  3. I absolutely hate this “Defund the Police” slogan. Whoever came up with it needs to be fired!

    To make things even more confusing, disbanding the police may be a reasonable option. Camden, NJ disbanded theirs and created a new police force based on reformed principles. Of course, “Defund the Police” would still be a bad slogan for such a plan.

    1. “Because it’s symbolic of our struggle against oppression!”
      Obligatory Life of Brian quote.

  4. I’ve never understood why people think anarchy might be a good idea even in the abstract, since it’s so easily shown to be a disaster by simply thinking through its implications for a couple of minutes: in the absence of law (or in the ability to enforce law, which amounts to the same thing), power concentrates in the hands of the most forceful, the most violent, those with the greatest will to control and manipulate others, those with malicious intent. There are no mechanisms to stop such people. Even the most socially benevolent and well-funded societies that have probably ever existed in human history, those of present-day Scandinavia, do not find they can do without a police force.

  5. Unfortunately, all too often policies are advocated and decisions made based on anecdotes and emotion. Such is the case with the call to abolish the police. We do not know how many are racist and out of that number, we don’t know how many can be induced to change their attitudes. Certainly, there are probably “bad” cops in any police department except perhaps for the very smallest. They need to be rooted out. Most importantly, police culture needs to be changed. The viewpoint that it is “us against them” must be extirpated. The police need to understand that they are not a branch of the military. Some functions of the police, mostly those not requiring the potential of force, can be handed off to others. This would include handling domestic excuses or issuing traffic violations. Yes, reform efforts have failed in the past. But, that does not mean that it cannot work now, if there is a will to do it.

    Ms. Kaba is a prime example of what I wrote about yesterday: movements that start with moderate and worthwhile goals are targets for takeover by those who possess a more radical vision. Based on her op-ed, she appears to be a typical ideologue: certain of her views that will not brook dissent, relentless and determined to get her way. There is little chance that Ms. Kaba will have immediate success. But, she will not give up, and over time her movement may gain many more adherents. Thus, it is imperative upon those who believe in sensible and achievable reform not leave the megaphone to Ms. Kaba. They must speak out early and often. The message must be this: reform is necessary and urgent, but abolition of the police is a social experiment that is much too risky to try.

    1. “Most importantly, police culture needs to be changed.” This is not a new idea by any means, but so far as I know no one has figured out how to do it effectively. (I speak as a former police executive and police lawyer, now retired.)

      1. Jeff, I agree. I have a child in a CPS High School and we happen to like having the CPD present at the school. Not just to be the best able to handle a school shooting, but to be the one that a child being bullied by others, overlooked by teachers may notice. I also think the lack of their being present may pose other problems. Not all CPS kids ever see a CPD in their day to day. Knowing that they are there, and actually care about them and are there if they need to talk to someone that has no control over their grades, I think the CPD being present should be a choice the students, parents,LSC and teachers should decide. I know that my CPS student wants the CPD to remain.

  6. Is Mariame Kaba really so naive that she thinks that with the dissolution of the police authorities all people will become better and that we will live in a kind of paradise?

    What will she do if she should become the victim of a crime (which I certainly do not wish for her)? Will she shrug her shoulders and say: “But at least it wasn’t police violence.”

    1. Yes, she is exactly that naive (± other intellectual barriers to common sense). The twentieth century was filled with utopianists, believing in the perfectibility of the human race. And each time it was tried, millions died. I predict equal success for this little bit of purported paradise. Long live Utopia!

  7. I have mentioned looking at history just a bit before when we talked about this subject but that just got me someone pointing at a crooked department. So forget the history, just exam the present. As long as the legal system is screwed up, looking at just the police department is kind of a waste of time. We can’t even agree to let marijuana be legalized in the country. No we have a few states doing this and others doing that. Nearly all the laws and how they are handled is done by 50 different states. So almost nothing is going to happen nationally unless the states want to give up some of their authority. We love to talk about these things as if the federal govt. is going to handle it but that is not how it works.

    Just try to reform and reorganize the police in one state the way you like it and then we will all move there. Of course we will all have to get new drivers licenses when we get there and pay different taxes and get use to totally different school systems but it will be fun.

    1. An example of this type of disparity is in the states handling of medical crime. A doctor might have a license revoked in one state but by moving to another able to practice again, without restraint.

  8. You have a Chicago university police department? You have cops to patrol your campus? For you to feel safe?

    Wow, US society is more screwed than I gave it credit for.

    1. Lots of American campuses have their own police department. What do you think they’re there for? We have crime around campus, and we’d have more without campus police. Blame the criminals or the guns, not the campus.

      1. It might even be a shock for some to know that they have city police, county police and state police. So that is three levels before you even get to federal. Who is it that gets defunded?

        1. Chicago is in Cook County. The Cook County Sheriff’s Police only patrol the unincorporated ares of Cook County. The Cook County Sheriff also has two other branches – one for the Department of Corrections (i.e. jails) and other for the courts – bailiffs and court house security. Note that if you are on trial in state courts, they are run by the counties.

          The Illinois State Police only patrol the highways. In Chicago, only the interstates. The ISP also provides services for smaller jurisdictions – like crime labs.

          The UCPD has full police powers – they can arrest you. They are not security guards. Their patrol area extends north to 37th Street (about 2.5 miles north of campus), south to 64th Street (half a mile south of campus), east to Lake Shore Drive (a half mile or more east of campus), and west to Cottage Grove Avenue (the western boundary of campus). They cooperate closely with CPD.

          In the 1950s, there was discussion of moving the University out to the suburbs. UofC decided to stay put and acted aggressively. Still somewhat controversial. They began to buy up Hyde Park real estate. There used to be over 50 taverns on 55th Street between Cottage Grove and Lake Michigan. The number was reduced to two. A large police force was part of the plan. UofC decided what its neighborhood would be like and sealed itself off from the poor in the surrounding neighborhoods. The areas to the north and south are being gentrified. The west, still fairly depressed.

          1. Though maintaining a ‘permanent’ job up here, I did live in that Hyde Park area of U-Chicago twice way back around 1967 and 1969, once as PD there, and once as visiting prof up at U-Illinois (soon after the famous police riot outside the Dems convention to nominate Humphrey).

            There was a humorous, but slightly morbid, joke relating to Southside crime and ‘timid’ academics:

            This mathematician was strolling along Midway Plaisance (Sp?) when he noticed a couple of men just up ahead sitting under some bushes. Despite fearing getting mugged, he was too close to turn around. As he passed them, his relief was palpable as he heard one say to the other: “Now let H be a graded non-commutative Hopf algebra, not isomorphic to the symmetric functions, but….”.

      1. Well I don’t know where Peter Alexander comes from, but in the UK, university campuses don’t have or need police forces. When I first found out that US university campuses have their own police departments I also thought it was crazy.

        1. I’m not sure when it dates to, but when I was at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) in 1968 the University police force already existed. There are University police at all of our State’s public University campuses. They are all officially State Police.

        2. Well, the term “need” is a tricky one, since such things are rarely an absolute necessity, but university police forces can certainly be useful…and they might be useful in some larger UK universities as well (perhaps not).

          The University of Chicago, for instance, is in Hyde Park, on the South Side of Chicago, legendary in song and literature (and in fact) as a difficult and sometimes dangerous area (Perhaps the UK has no such places). Setting aside crime that might tend opportunistically to overflow FROM the city into the university (with its comparatively wealthy, comparatively naive population) it’s simply a fact that CPD will often have too much on their local plate to consider U of C crimes a high priority.

          But in a large campus with many students of many differing backgrounds, most of them young and thus often with comparatively poor judgment, crimes will happen. In a coed university, of course, some of the most concerning of these are crimes like rape, domestic abuse, stalking/harassment and the like. A locally dedicated police force, focused on and more specifically trained and experienced in dealing with concerns within the university community and not pulled away from it, literally or figuratively, by the comparatively more numerous crimes taking place in the “baddest part” of a very big town can be both comforting and beneficial, and may be more efficient than requiring the CPD to be the solely responsible police force.

    2. There are police forces on Canadian university campuses. They have much less power then the ‘real’ police. They never carry guns.

      I suspect they do at UChicago, but surely are less free for many actions than the city police.

      Ideally, no police anywhere carry guns except in very exceptional circumstances. But regular Canadian police do, a needed change here.

      Being a former slave state is perhaps a permanent exceptional circumstance. But approaching 200 years since then, hopefully they can soon improve their social circumstances. However, since the election of Nov. 2016 in US, I’ve been woken up to the fact that the number of white trash assholes among USians is an order of magnitude larger than I thought.

      I did read that op-ed this morning. Obviously ridiculous. The writer quite likely does good work, even related to that. But NYTimes is pretty stupid giving her fantasies a large audience (and not even letters responding AFAIK).

      1. Actually, a good proportion of the Roman Catholic population seems to have taken up white trash assholiness in the last 20 years, a new development I think.

        1. I grew up in a white ethnic (i.e. catholic) neighborhood on the northwest side of Chicago. Called Belmont Cragin. I had twelve years of catholic “education” from 1962 to 1974. The white trash assholiness was always there.

          1. Martin Luther King led open housing marches throughout Chicago in 1966. It was not pretty. One went two blocks from where I lived. Probably the ugliest thing I ever saw with many of my good catholic neighbors screaming and throwing shit – literally in brown paper bags – at the protesters. I imagine they are all Trump voters today.

            Note: MLK was not at the march down Fullerton Ave near my house. That one was led by Ralph Abernathy.

      2. By law, the UCPD have full police powers in their patrol areas. They are no different than Chicago Police. Most (maybe all) were trained at the Chicago Police Academy. Most of the leaders come from CPD.

  9. “A vision entirely police?”

    Something is missing, perhaps: “A vision of a society entirely without police”?

    1. I see it’s been changed to read ” A vision entirely without police?” Now I understand.

      The woman does live in cloud cuckoo land.

    1. Yes, without Dillon you have the wild west. Not so much survival of the fittest but survival of the fastest. Dillon not only mowed down the gunslingers he often just knocked them into next week. When they woke up they were sent out of town in a hurry. You could quickly leave town or leave feet first.

        1. He was a real person on Gunsmoke but reality, no. James Arness was the real name. And Dodge City, Kansas is a real town. The marshal was a force of one to handle all the lawbreakers. Probably had a salary of $30 a month.

  10. I’m afraid it’s still wrong to assume “abolish the police” and similar proposals are meant in good faith, whether or not the wording should be taken literally.

    From my understanding, in practice:

    * abolish the police -> replace police with unaccountable personnel chosen for no other reason than political loyalty. Don’t expect them to investigate any serious crime unless it immediately threatens the woke, but do expect them to harass law-abiding citizens more severely than ordinary police do. Someone has to investigate all those problematic tweets, after all…

    * prison reform -> drastically reduce the prison population, without any regard for how many crimes will result

    * bail reform -> abolish bail without replacement, again to make it harder to punish criminals (unaffordable bails as currently practiced are mostly intentional and meant to keep dangerous criminals off the streets)

    * restorative justice -> cripple punitive sentences by pressuring crime victims to agree with alternatives that impose no costs on the offender (there are a few advocacy groups for crime victims, and they are generally quite critical of the concept as it is currently practiced)

    Making the police more competent and less corrupt also conflicts with making it more diverse. Entry standards have been deliberately lowered for the latter purpose.

      1. Great and poignant talk. Thanks for that.

        I wonder how much of the drop in crimes during the ’90s and onwards has to do with ‘Roe vs Wade’. [Note that most Western countries also legalised abortions from the ’60s onward and also had drops in crime rates in the 90’s].

        1. Steven Pinker rebuts the connection between legal abortion and lower crime rates in “The Better Angels of Our Nature.”

          1. I’m aware of that, and -as usual- he makes a strong argument. And of course there are several other factors into play such as eg. the de-leading of petrol. Yet, I’m (unusually with Pinker) not fully convinced it is as yet a closed case that it didn’t play a role.
            That is why I put it in a question-like form.

        2. I think some of that decrease can be attributed to lead free gasoline. I recall reading something about that several decades ago.

    1. I was thinking of ‘community’ examples where a common lifestyle enabled ‘no police’. Yet the Amish rely on shaming and the kibutzim have largely moved away from a communal agricultural lifestyle.

      And then you step up into large towns and cities and alleged criminals can just fade into obscurity without being personally ‘known’.

      Since it is estimated that 50% of the world’s population is urban I wonder how the ‘no police’ bunch are going to support the vulnerable. Our ‘village’ of 10,000 has one policeman and a couple of Police Community Support Officers (PCSO). How many community mediators would you need instead, particularly if alleged criminals fled across community boundaries?

  11. Not to worry. Virtuous organizations in Minneapolis and Eugene, OR have solved the problem of what should take the place of the police. To wit:

    “The first question people often ask about dismantling police is: “But what about ‘violent criminals’?” MPD150 created a resource to answer some of those worries. Locally, Domestic Abuse Project has a program for people who have used violence, as well as a victim/survivor program. Last year, the city created a working group about 911 calls to assess if the city could respond to any of these calls without relying on the police department. The idea is that people who are trained to respond to specific emergencies would be dispatched instead of police. For example, CAHOOTS in Eugene, Oregon, is set up so that a medic and a crisis worker respond to mental health emergencies. This is just one response model; in other communities, neighbors have established skill shares so that as many people as possible are trained to quickly respond to various kinds of emergencies.”

    There you have it. In the brave new world,
    if you call 911 because an armed burglar is breaking into your house, they will send a social worker and a Diversity Consultant.

  12. Instead of abolishing the police, why don’t we simply demand for the police to do nothing for a couple of months and see how it goes?

    1. Steven Pinker, in The Blank Slate, the chapter entitled Violence (p. 331 in my edition), reports an “experiment” of this kind; it took only a few hours, not months, for the results to be reported. Anyone advocating for the elimination of police should at least be able to respond to the arguments made in that chapter.

  13. This is one of the dumbest arguments I’ve ever read, mostly because it is a complete departure from reality and human nature. I feel embarrassed for her.

    She should at least try to imagine what organized crime would grow into without a police force. Remember, organized crime is just that: organized, experienced, entrenched, savvy. Ironically, one of the mob’s tactics is to pay off police officers to look the other way. She’s worried about single acts of crime and isolated incidents, but has nothing to say about how professional criminals would take immediate advantage of a police-less city/state/nation. The mob would become a syndicate infinitely more malignant and powerful than any government institution. Sounds like a fun place to live…if you’re a mobster that is.

  14. I look forward to John McWhorter’s rebuttal. I have watched several interviews with him and he seems thoughtful and pragmatic about issues like this. I agree 100% with demilitarizing the culture and arsenal of police departments. I’m no expert, but the UK and New Zealand models are an example of unarmed/lightly armed patrol. But the US is a gun culture, so for us that is unrealistic. The US has 120 civilian firearms per 100 population (as of 2017), compared with 26 in New Zealand and around 5 in the UK. We can’t ask cops to patrol unarmed when there are > 390 million guns in the country.

      1. Thanks for the link. I’ve been suspecting this (police killing too many people, regardless of race) for some time now. I think this needs to be explored and discussed more, especially now. We need to be asking ourselves, what kind of police do we want?

  15. There’s room for vast improvement in law enforcement in these United States. But this piece is pie-in-the-sky utopian drivel.

    Without some mechanism for enforcing the rule of law, we’re in Lord-of-the-Flies land.

  16. Who says the NYT is biased? How much fairer can it be than printing an op-ed from the lunatic right (Tom Cotton) and then the lunatic left (Mariame Kaba)?😊

      1. Yes, that’s the point and that’s the NYT’s bias. Two employees were fired over Cotton’s editorial. Will they fire anyone for not vetting this piece of bilge? Don’t count on it!

  17. Ms Kaba, be careful what you wish for.
    Maybe we should crowd-source for a short holiday in Somaliland for her?

    1. She seems to live in Chicago, possibly on the South Side.

      Perhaps she would like to volunteer to do without any police in her own neighbourhood. Let Somaliland come to her!

      1. This, from last weekend, received almost no coverage. Don’t think even the Chicago Tribune reported it. (If someone has data that contradicts these numbers, please bring it up.)

        “18 murders in 24 hours: Inside the most violent day in 60 years in Chicago

        ‘We’ve never seen anything like it at all,’ said Max Kapustin, the senior research director at the University of Chicago Crime Lab.”

  18. Abolishing the police is not a “woke” idea. It has a long tradition in leftist thinking, mainly because of the role the police plays in suppressing labor movements.

    It’s also not an obviously silly idea, considering that nothing of the kind that we’d recognize as police today existed in the US until ~1830, or even later (depending on who you ask). Before that there were locally elected sheriffs. Their organization was much less centralized, they had little political clout (compared to police unions today), and were more directly accountable to local communities. The system wasn’t perfect (obviously) and it *would* be a silly idea to try to revive it exactly as it was, but I don’t see why something like that cannot be a viable alternative to the police we have now.

    1. What you’ve said is that the concept of a sheriff as it was practiced 200 years ago isn’t viable today. So when you say “something like that” could be a viable alternative to what we have now, you don’t specify what exactly would replace the police. Would there be trained law enforcement agents with police powers and weapons? If so, what’s the bloody difference between them and the police.

      And “sheriffs” are not what these people are talking about.

      1. For those communities that do end up reinventing the police, perhaps they need to change their name, uniform, color of their cars, etc. to signify that they are not the old “police” even if they still really do the same job and have re-hired some of the same officers and now call them “constables”. They better come with a fresh attitude though.

      2. You bet there is going to be some bloody difference.

        If you want something slightly more specific, here are some proposals (none of which are invented by me, but have long existed in one way or other in anarchist writings):

        – Replace cops with a neighborhood version of security guards. Thus, instead of NYPD we have a Midtown guard, a Harlem guard, and so on. (The proper size of a neighborhood is debatable, but it’s certainly a lot smaller than 8 million.) The person in charge of a neighborhood guard is directly elected by residents.

        – Guards are funded by the residents they serve — the way public schools are funded (but shouldn’t be, but that’s another discussion). Poor neighborhoods may get subsidies, but only at their own request. The NYC mayor cannot decide on his own that Harlem needs more policing.

        – Local residents decide what weapons to equip their guardsmen with.

        – Guardsmen have the power to arrest, but residents decide what crimes that power should apply to. They may decide, say, that guardsmen cannot arrest people for drug possession.

        – If anyone feels that what his community has democratically decided is enough law enforcement is not enough for him, he is free to hire his own bodyguards, or move somewhere else.

        The general point — what I take to be the fundamentally good point behind the call to abolish the police (whatever other stuff people say under the banner, with which I don’t always agree) — is that law enforcement should be subject to direct democratic control. It should be clear to everyone who wasn’t born yesterday that the police are not subject to such control, or they would have reformed already. They are also not meant to be, for they are also (even, as some argue, primarily) meant to enforce the will of a few against the will of many: crush labor movements, crush environmental activism, keep the prison industry going. Both in its origin and in reality, the police is a fundamentally anti-democratic institution.

        I don’t much care whether you call the replacement of anti-democratic police with democratically controlled neighborhood guards “abolishment” or “radical reform”. That’s not an important difference.

          1. Technically no, because he was employed by a store, so more like a private bodyguard than a neighborhood guard. The same thing could happen to anyone enforcing any kind of rule, though. So I don’t know what your point is.

        1. ” Replace cops with a neighborhood version of security guards”

          I assume vigilante justice is part of the plan

  19. This is off topic a bit, but after reading that Cotton’s “… call for putting the US military into cities to police demonstrations was just plain dumb”, I thought I should read the original op-ed to which Kaba’s piece is a counter-point of sorts.

    It was bit surprising to discover that Cotton did not argue for the military to police demonstrators, though numerous criticisms claimed he had. Instead, he argued for the use of the military as a back-up after the police (and National Guard, if called upon)were unable to control riots and looting. Cotton explicitly distinguished peaceful demonstrators from law-breakers.

    1. Yes, people mischaracterized what Cotton said. Still, I think it was a bloody bad idea to suggest sending the military into US cities. They didn’t need it, and the military didn’t want to do it.

      But it’s no dumber an idea than eliminating the police.

      1. I wonder what’s going to happen now that the police chief in Atlanta has resigned in the wake of the police killing of Rayshard Brooks, a black man, last night, another murky, senseless incident.

        The chief of police has resigned and Atlanta is burning (shades of “Gone with the Wind”?)
        How do police function without a chief, especially in this kind of situation? I know there’s a deputy chief and a chain of command but will that suffice? H have no idea. Will Trump send the military in? I have no idea about this, either but it just might be the excuse he needs.

    2. You do know that using the military for duty in the streets of America is against the law in nearly all cases. They can only be sent into a U.S. area if local/state officials request it and can justify such an action. It is stupid to suggest doing it in any of the current demonstrations/rioting and it has not be asked for by any states.

      The military is not trained for this kind of thing and that is another reason it makes no sense. To put the military in such a position is against everything they stand for. When you go into the military service you take an oath to protect and defend this country and the Constitution. Not go to war with it’s citizens. Cotton of all people should be a lot smarter and know all of this. He was once in the service himself.

      1. RS, your points seem quite reasonable to me, a non-American and non-lawyer, and I suspect a confrontation between the military and rioters would cause more problems than it would solve.

        But while reading generally about the riots and then today, reading lots of ledes of criticisms of Cotton’s op-ed while tracking it down, I was struck by the willingness of some politicians and influential people to excuse lawlessness and ignore the looting and arson, their apparent indifference to the long-term effects the destruction of businesses and housing will have on cities and individuals – especially the poor, the unlikelihood that criminals will be brought to justice, and the repeated mis-statement of Cotton’s views.

        On a side note – will the riots increase or decrease rates of gun ownership?

  20. Vision? Well… say it is possible to predict by genetic influence your propensity toward criminal behaviour.
    If “Blueprint” (a book mentioned here) by Robert Plomin is a reference, this is not out of the question, individuals could be monitored and guided to a more productive and so, rewarding life.
    If you get the gist of this and expand it, you can see how this would effect societies and in regards to the post, reduce the heavy dependencies on keeping a large armed police force.
    Perhaps even whittling out those who are not suitable for the job.
    A self regulating populace to some extent would rise with a well vetted, trained police force picking up the slack.

  21. The more time that passes, the more I give credit to Paul Bloom for his somewhat controversial stance regarding the perils of empathy-based decision making. We are not, from what I can tell, creatures who evolved to make decisions based on statistics. We evolved to make decisions based more on highly emotional scenes that we witness. The problem is that in a large society connected mostly by various forms of media, our intuitions about what we are witnessing are easily manipulated and skewed. If we see footage of aggressive police encounters over and over and nothing else, people empathize and it leads to calls to abolish the police – until people inevitably see heart-wrenching footage of victims of crime, and then we swing back to ‘tough on crime’. With this approach, I think we are destined to swing back and forth between extremes forever, or, as I’ve predicted before, to resort to uncomfortable levels of surveillance, that do not stir an immediate, emotional response, but can still be problematic. You’re not going to get exciting news footage of cameras with facial recognition technology sitting on every corner – that would be an extremely dull video. But it affects people’s psyches nonetheless.

    Of course, there are cases when, even when we take statistics into account, empathy still trumps numbers, and I respect that – but I think it’s important to make sure that this is what’s really happening, and that people are not making naive or living-in-a-privileged-bubble, disconnected from reality assumptions. For example, when considering the most severe punishments – the death penalty, life in prison, etc. – many people are ok with the idea of letting some guilty people go free for the sake of limiting the chances that an innocent person is convicted. That probability can never be moved to zero, of course – there is always some chance of an innocent person being convicted. But I think people are generally (in theory, if not always in practice,) in favor of erring towards letting some percentage of guilty people go free in order to protect better against an innocent person being convicted. We are human, not robots, and our emotions, intuitions, and subjective preferences are of course important in decisions about how we want the world we live in to be structured. We may well want to limit things that are particularly horrifying to us, regardless of the numbers – and again, I’m fine with that. But that is a different story than having totally unrealistic expectations that simply set the stage for a future backlash.

  22. I want a democratic, lawful society and can’t understand how you expect that without a police.

    That said, somewhere within the media mess of recent days someone mentioned that in US police has been given lots of other social tasks that could be transferred elsewhere. I did not understand the context, but mention it for what it is worth.

    Meanwhile, Minneapolis is disbanding its police [ ].

    “The Minneapolis City Council has voted to dissolve the city’s police organization and replace it with a new type of community safety organization.

    What a new security arrangement can look like will now be investigated.”

  23. Part of the problem is that we are discussing this as though the revolutionary cadre are making arguments in good faith, but it is just not their nature to do so.

    They don’t want to abolish the police. They want to be the police. More specifically, they want to be the Stasi.

  24. Incredible. I suppose we need to hear from the crazies on both sides, the above and Tom Cotton’s idiocy.
    Clowns to the left, jokers to the right…

    One thing though – as a fmr defense atty in NYC I’ve got to say, we’d all be better off if they ended the insane drug war. THAT would help. But abolish the cops? I”ve spent time in Lebanon where the state was useless and mainly absent…… It doesn’t work out well.

  25. Check out Seattle’s CHAZ. Got rid of the police in the station. Promptly set up own “police”, masked men/boys carrying semi-automatic weapons. Also built a Wall!), only let in bona fide BLM supporters, Have set up a “farm” that only allows Black and Native Americans to work in it.

  26. “If there weren’t cops on the street, people would be running red lights and stop signs willy-nilly, and traffic accidents would increase.”

    From my limited observations, running stop signs is strongly trending will-nilly. Mobile senses of entitlement.

    From listening to the latest Christopher Lydon “Open Source” podcast, and per,
    the DA for Suffolk Co./Boston has determined that the following infractions in her jurisdiction generally will no longer be prosecuted:

    “Charges for which the Default is to Decline Prosecuting (unless supervisor permission is obtained).

    Shoplifting (including offenses that are essentially shoplifting but charged as larceny)
    Larceny under $250
    Disorderly conduct
    Disturbing the peace
    Receiving stolen property
    Minor driving offenses, including operating with a suspend or revoked license
    Breaking and entering — where it is into a vacant property or where it is for the purpose of sleeping or seeking refuge from the cold and there is no actual damage to property
    Wanton or malicious destruction of property
    Threats – excluding domestic violence
    Minor in possession of alcohol
    Drug possession
    Drug possession with intent to distribute
    A stand alone resisting arrest charge, i.e. cases where a person is charged with resisting arrest and that is the only charge
    A resisting arrest charge combined with only charges that all fall under the list of charges to decline to prosecute, e.g. resisting arrest charge combined only with a trespassing charge


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