At Vox.com Roge Karma reviews four ideas for “replacing traditional police officers”. The ideas are:
- Create a distinct unarmed unit for enforcing traffic laws.
- Use community mediators rather than the police to handle minor disputes.
- Create a mobile crisis response unit (rather than ordinary police officers—a “Sweeney”).
- Experiment with community self-policing.
There’s no guarantee that any of these suggestions will succeed across the board. When it comes to policing alternatives, even the best existing models haven’t been attempted at scale, and there’s no telling how different communities will respond to them. To implement any idea on this list would mean venturing into relatively uncharted territory.
That means there will be failures. Things will go wrong. Systems will break down. Programs will fall apart. Violence may temporarily increase in some places. Occasionally, a violence interrupter or mobile crisis worker will be seriously injured or killed.
But our current system already represents a kind of profound failure. We live in a country that has built the largest system of human incarceration on earth, where agents of the state kill unarmed members of the communities they are supposed to protect and terrorize those who are still alive. Where peaceful protesters are beaten in the streets.
The question, then, isn’t whether we are willing to live with failure; communities across the country already live with failure every single day. That failure, at least in part, stems from the fact that police officers in the United States are tasked with responsibilities — from traffic patrol to mediation to crisis response — that amplify the risk of unnecessary violence.
I’ve expressed my own views of the deficiencies of modern policing on a number of occasions in the past. For example, active policing does not seem to have a deterrent effect on crime. Chicago, for example, has the largest number of police officers relative to the population of any major city and also the highest rate of violent crime. Whether cause or effect you cannot reasonably conclude that more police means less crime.
I have only two additional observations. We are the largest country in the world with an ethnically, racially, and confessionally diverse population. As such we are bound to have special problems.
I’m also curious about something. If disarming or disbanding the police is such a good idea, why are the bodies that are doing it hiring armed private security guards?