Okay, so I am all about Police reform. Clearly, given current events, something needs to change with the way we do policing in this country.
Before I start, I want to make it clear that I support completely the notion of police. We need a police force to enforce the law and to protect us from crimes against person and property. I’m not anti-Police or anything like that. In fact, I think this plan will be good for police and reduce the danger that they face on the job.
Here’s my four-point plan for reforming the police.
- “Unbundle” what Police do. We ask too much of our police. We ask them to be marriage counselors, mental health experts, child welfare workers, traffic experts, and all sorts of things. Police lose focus on the things that they should be doing. Police should stop concerning themselves with victim-less crimes such as drugs and prostitution, and focus instead on crimes against people and property. This would be a much better use of their time. Leave the victimless crimes to social services. Create a “Public Safety Patrol” (who don’t carry guns) to enforce traffic laws. Focus the Police on violent crime. Leave the rest either alone or to unarmed cadres of folks better trained to handle such situations. Many people killed by police actually need a mental health counselor, not a gun.
- End the War on Drugs. Right now. Today. Immediately. It has been a total failure. Despite billions of dollars spent, countless people incarcerated, civil rights restricted, and an endless expansion of government power, drugs remain plentiful and cheap. It has all been for naught. End it. This will reduce violent crime and let police focus on crime that people complain about.
- Demilitarize the Police. If your Police force looks like a standing army, you are doing it wrong. If your police have tanks and armored personnel carriers, you are doing it wrong. Police should not be armed forces that can invade neighborhoods. They should not look like the US Marine Corps. Much of the militarization of police has been in response to the War on Drugs. End that, and much of the need for the military-like response will go away. And for goodness sake, end the program of the Department of Defense giving old military equipment to police forces around the country. I hope we can see now that this is stupid.
- Diversify the Police. Look I’m all for diversity of thought and viewpoint. I’m not a big fan of quotas and set-asides or diversity in skin color just to have diversity in skin color. However, I think policing should be an exception. Police should look like the people they are policing. More effort should be made to recruit women and people of color to be police officers. Like it or not, people tend to trust people that look like them more that people that don’t. It seems to me that this is one area where the government should step in and create a more diverse force.
A couple of other thoughts:
- The police should assume that every protest and demonstration will be peaceful, and should only respond with force if it is not. I see peaceful protests being met with riot gear, and that is so unnecessary. Assuming that a protest will get violent and responding as such almost guarantees that it will. Police should be seeking to mollify a situation, not escalate it.
- Cops have a very difficult job. Let’s make it less difficult. Let’s remove a lot of what they are currently doing and have them focus on what really bothers and affects people: violent crime and crime against property. In other words, unless someone calls the police and complains, assume a crime has not been committed.
- Somehow we need to figure out a way to break the “Thin Blue Line”. Watching George Floyd be murdered by a Police officer was horrifying, but almost as horrifying is that three other cops stood around and let him do it. A culture that allows that kind of thing and punishes cops that try to stop a murder is seriously broken.
I don’t want to abolish Police forces as some are calling for. I want police to be there when they are needed. I just want them to be focused on what they can be good at and not at what they can’t be good at.