Sunday, December 21, 2014


[The killing of two NYPD officers in Brooklyn yesterday has captured the news cycle; it's a tough situation for NYPD, the city, and the families of the men who were killed -- the killer himself is dead as well, and according to reports, he shot his girlfriend in Baltimore before heading up to New York.) Blame is being cast on the protests against police murder and impunity and on the protesters, as if somehow they caused the death of the two officers, and the bloody, murderous actions of the police themselves had nothing to do with it.]

It's time to start imagining a society that isn't dominated by police

Radical, I know.

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.


  1. As a commenter on another site paraphrased the idiom: Protestors don't kill people; people kill people.

    1. Indeed. The efforts to blame the protesters parallel the efforts to blame the victims of police homicide. It's a means of avoiding culpability that is starting to unravel. The way forward isn't entirely clear, but the patterns of the past will have to change.

      I'm more of an abolitionist than I sometimes let on...;-)

  2. The call for more lapel cameras and dashcams on cop cars has resulted in the inevitable.

    How about this? One police dept is looking for a few good hackers to alter dashcam videos; ostensibly to blur the faces of innocent bystanders to "protect the public". You see where this is going?

    1. Dayum... knowing how Seattle po-po approach their jobs and the absolute impunity with which they insist on committing their atrocities, it's pretty chilling.

      But then, I suppose it was bound to come.

      Cracks are forming in some police departments (NYPD is notable) and the Thin Blue Line is unraveling here and there. Seattle may turn into the national laboratory of police contempt for the People. They have nothing to lose but their uniforms...

      Merry Christmas....