There is as of late a great deal of hand wringing and misinformation about #DefundThePolice and police abolition. Ditto with various plans for reform, #8CantWait being the most obvious.
8 Can’t Wait: What’s Wrong with Reform?
These 8 suggestions have become a very popular rallying cry for a lot of people who want to see the end of cops murdering people. I get it because when I first saw it I was on board too. I ultimately want to do away with the police completely, but while I wait for that I’d like to see police murder fewer people. Seems reasonable, right?
Unfortunately, a lot. Here’s a discussion on Twitter about what the problems are, and they are many.
What it boils down to, for those of you who can’t stand Twitter, is that the authors of the study 8 can’t wait is based on confused correlation with causation. Yes, that age old problem. The second problem is that the 72% number is only true if a department has none of the rules in place. Why is that a problem? Well, virtually every police department already has some of these in place, and some places, like Chicago, have all in place. Choke holds were not allowed when Eric Garner was choked to death, and his murderer wasn’t fired for 5 years.
Okay, If Not Police Then What?
Well, there are a ton of different things we can replace the police with. In some cases like automated tolling we’ve already replaced them. No more is there a cop sitting next to the toll booth ready to chase someone who doesn’t pay. But mostly in the last few decades we’ve replaced other jobs with cops. Here in NYC every crossing guard is NYPD, instead of guidance counselors we have police stationed in schools. We saw some gross examples of this in the early days of the pandemic when cops attacked people for not wearing a mask instead of just giving them a damn mask.
And really, do we need a cop to hand out masks? Clearly not. Do we need a cop to talk to a homeless person with no place to go but the subway? No. The question that we need to be asking ourselves is not what we need the police for but what other people can do a better job of than a man with a gun.
No, really, What Then?
A lot of things. You replace them with social workers for homeless outreach. You replace them with guidance counselors and psychologists and nurses. For wellness checks you replace them with people who are actually trained to deal with people and who aren’t armed! The more we fund social services and other police alternatives the less violence we will have in our communities, not only because there will be fewer police but because so many things that drive violence that won’t be problems.
But Americans Won’t Support Abolition!
If you asked me two weeks ago I’d have told you the same, there’s no way Americans will support this sort of radical change to policing in this country. That was before 54% of Americans said they thought burning down the 3rd precinct was justified. I’ve said for a long time that I don’t think that violence turns off Americans unless it’s violence directed at them, so I probably shouldn’t be surprised by these numbers, but I am.
We live in a different world than what existed a mere three months ago. We all know that on one level or another, but for those of us who pay close attention to politics it can be hard to grasp. The right wing and corporations have known for a long time that crises are exactly the time to remake society. They seek changes that make this world a worse place, but we can fight back and push our own idealistic restructuring of the world.
Please go to 8toabolition.com to learn more specific proposals to abolish the police.