It's time to start imagining a society that isn't dominated by police
José Martín posted this notion of a society that isn't dominated by police over at Rolling Stone the other day, and I hope it gets some traction, because there are ways to diminish or even eliminate police activity and presence in modern society. Many people have said we don't need them at all. We don't need police, we don't need prisons, we don't need the whole panoply of police/suppression/punishment under which we've been forced to live. There are other ways to deal with the issues of crime and punishment.
Martín's alternatives are as follows:
1): Unarmed mediation and intervention teams
Police are so often deployed in situations they are incapable of handling without use of force, violence and way too often, death. This is due to the way they have been recruited, socialized and brainwashed into believing that every encounter is an opportunity for Righteous Battle against Demons.
Nonviolent intervention is typically required -- when any action at all is required -- but police are the wrong agents. The problem is that in many locations, there are no alternatives. Calling 911 does not get an intervention team dispatched. It get's the police, and too often, the deployment of the police gets someone dead.
2): Decriminalization of almost every crime
Part of the problem with contemporary over-policing practices is that so many activities that weren't crimes forty or fifty years ago are now criminalized, and it seems that more activities are criminalized every year. It's out of control. Decriminalization is a necessary strategy to reduce the tendency to over-police. It works.
3): Restorative Justice
This is a key to reducing both policing and incarceration, and it is being used in some localities to accomplish both ends. Again, the problem is that too often there is no available alternative to police and incarceration, so restorative justice that respects human life and dignity isn't always possible.
4): Direct democracy at the community level
Direct democracy is a means of building community. When people know one another, work with one another, and have a sense of common purpose, the likelihood of anti-social actions is reduced. But direct democracy is hard, and it's so very much easier just to maintain the status quo.
5): Community Patrols
One of my suggestions has long been to forbid police from patrolling certain areas and to establish and maintain neighborhood/community patrols instead. This suggestion is fraught with dangers. Yet it may be the best way to curb the tendency of police to cause trouble rather than resolve it.
6): Mental health care
Perhaps the most obvious of all. So many of the current issues surrounding police misconduct, abuse, and murder have a direct connection with the absence of mental health care in our society. It's long past time to restore an appropriate and available level of care for those in crisis.
Imagine that these and other creative solutions to the problem of policing in this country were implemented.
Just imagine: Dignity, Justice, Community, Peace.