Defund the Police? Abolish the Police?

Decades of reform efforts have failed. Is it time for a radical solution?

"Defund the Police" by Peg Hunter is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0
“Defund the Police” by Peg Hunter is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

When I started seeing articles under the headings “Abolish the Police” and “Defund the Police” being tweeted out a few days ago, I dismissed them as silly over-reactions born out of understandable frustration.

It’s clearly more than than. And, yet, less than a fully-developed policy platform. Or, indeed, a single plan.

What’s common to all the strains of the movement is the idea that simply reforming the existing institutions won’t work. That, particularly in the African American community, police forces are seen as repressive and dangerous—akin to the secret police common in communist and authoritarian regimes. Decades of reform efforts, including efforts to racially integrate the force and countless hours of training on racial sensitivity, implicit bias, community policing, conflict de-escalation, and the like have simply not changed that underlying fact.

At the low end of the “Defund the Police” movement is a proposal akin to one that has been floating around but never really implemented in the foreign policy/national security space: devote fewer resources to armed forces and more to development and diplomacy. On the domestic side, the notion is that we over-resort to armed police forces for situations that would be better handled with drug counselors, social workers, and other specialists whose training and instincts are to help rather than to dominate. These people don’t want to literally defund the police so much as reallocate some amount of police funding to those other services.

Related is an even more modest proposal: “Demilitarize the Police.” That is, we’ve gone from SWAT teams being stood up for very specific crisis situations in the late 1960s and early 1970s to general police forces viewing themselves as an occupying army who view “civilians” in the community as a threat to be suppressed.

While admittedly not an expert on the topic, I’m absolutely in favor of both of those concepts.

At the more radical end of the “Abolish the Police” movement, we would literally have no police forces at all. While I’m amenable to the conversation, I don’t think anyone really knows how that would work. There are, after all, violent criminals out there and someone has to enforce the laws. In the case of cities with substantial problems with armed gangs, it’s unclear to me how we deal with that problem without some sort of police force, regardless of what we call them.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Police
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Liberal Capitalist says:

    I liked the police. It’s when Sting went solo that everyone went south.

    Seriously though, the blue stripe flag infuriates me… it represents a bifurcated America with the militarized police making sure that some folk stay on the other side of the tracks.

    I am ready for radical change to police funding.

    15
  2. Mu Yixiao says:

    At the more radical end of the “Abolish the Police” movement, we would literally have no police forces at all. While I’m amenable to the conversation, I don’t think anyone really knows how that would work.

    Badly (Montreal, 1969)
    Not so good (Baltimore 1974)

    4
  3. SKI says:
  4. Scott F. says:

    At the more radical end of the “Abolish the Police” movement, we would literally have no police forces at all. While I’m amenable to the conversation, I don’t think anyone really knows how that would work. There are, after all, violent criminals out there and someone has to enforce the laws. In the case of cities with substantial problems with armed gangs, it’s unclear to me how we deal with that problem without some sort of police force, regardless of what we call them.

    Can you point me to anyone more influential than a protester with a sign that is actually promoting the radical end? Of course, Trump and LOTS of other rightist partisans are claiming that is the intent of Defund Police, but every serious proposal I’ve seen looks like the two concepts you support.

    Defund Police is terrible branding, but the underlying premise is spot on and long overdue.

    13
  5. Joe says:

    When I see this conversation, I am reminded of a night many years ago when we called the police to help us sort out what to do with my older brother who was in the middle stages of early onset Alzheimer’s, still living at home, unable to sleep and behaving aggressively toward everyone around him, including my sister-in-law. She had called me and my other brother for help. It was clear that she wasn’t entirely safe, and my older brother was generally out of control. We called the police for “help.” We didn’t need to have him arrested, but it really brought home to me how the police were the receiving room for local social services questions. They came, were as helpful as they could be, evaluated that there was no “crime” occurring and gave us the few suggestions they had about available help. But we called the police because we had no idea what to do with this domestic situation. A social services expert would have been far more logical but they don’t have off hours phone numbers.

    7
  6. Lounsbury says:

    @SKI: amusing PDF right down to the Uni literature studies student rhetoric….

    100% fantasy world politics however and catastrophically bad marketing and branding.

    2
  7. James Joyner says:

    @Scott F.:

    Can you point me to anyone more influential than a protester with a sign that is actually promoting the radical end?

    Aside from the group @SKI links to and others, the Minneapolis City Council.

    4
  8. Scott says:

    On the domestic side, the notion is that we over-resort to armed police forces for situations that would be better handled with drug counselors, social workers, and other specialists whose training and instincts are to help rather than to dominate.

    To me this is one of the core arguments (the other is the police union power) of the entire discussion about law enforcement in this country.

    From the Harris County (Houston) Sheriff’s Office webpage:

    The Harris County Jail has been referred to as the largest psychiatric facility in the State of Texas. More than 2,000 inmates incarcerated are on psychotropic medications on a daily basis. Harris County leads the nation in correctional mental health treatment.

    At some point, these large organizations behave like any other. Even though it is not their core mission, they are loathe to give up their budgets once allocated.

    6
  9. KM says:

    Two major reasons we’re even having this conversation is because it’s too damn hard to get rid of bad officers and the police have taken up military cosplay as an expensive hobby in the last few decades. Addressing either issue effectively is impossible under the current system so we need to look outside the box aka the extremes for viable solutions.

    I’m in favor for disband / firing an entire police force, letting them reapply for their jobs and subjecting them to *strict* evaluations and conditions for rehire. It could be structured in such a way that it wouldn’t affect their seniority / time in service so their pension and benefits wouldn’t be in jeopardy. Body cameras always on are an absolute must – officers have the ability to temporarily black them out for privacy purposes (aka bathroom) but can’t turn them off and blackouts are extremely limited and must be justified. A camera that’s off and not immediately reported and addressed is instant termination, no chance of appeal. This will serve several purposes: rooting out the bad eggs, imposing new guidelines with no grandfather wiggle room, addressing physical fitness guidelines that may have been lessened as an officer gained seniority. Good cops with clean records and useful skills will not have to worry because there’d be an immediate need for their services. So-so cops will have the choice to rejoin the force and get their act together or reevaluate their careers and if this is where they want to be. Bad cops are out on their ear and blackballed, never to be hired for any police force again. Any company that hires them would then be hiring a known legal risk and make an informed decision about who’s on their payroll.

    I also think splitting the police into peace keepers and investigators has some merit. Cops often speak about how overwhelming and stressful their job can be; it makes sense to break up some of the duties we’ve imposed on them to smaller groups that can focus on their specialty. One could theoretically do the other positions so smaller towns don’t get screwed on the budget but there really needs to be some sort of separation between “we stop an immediate crime” and “we address a crime that’s taken place”. It also breaks up accumulated power and makes more people accountable – if a racist cop arresting a black man decides to try the “he had drugs” bit, his word is no longer gospel but get challenged by an investigator who’d treat *both* of them with the same level of skepticism.

    “De-fund the police” is a bad soundbit because it’s not instantly understandable. “Restructure the police” is better or perhaps “No new money till improvements” if you’re trying to push the financial angle. “Reform the police” is good but doesn’t have that edge that makes an angry protester want to chant it. We’re not getting rid of cops because frankly our system isn’t set up to survive that but we can and should have a viable police force.

    12
  10. Northerner says:

    @Scott F.:

    Can you point me to anyone more influential than a protester with a sign that is actually promoting the radical end? Of course, Trump and LOTS of other rightist partisans are claiming that is the intent of Defund Police, but every serious proposal I’ve seen looks like the two concepts you support.
    Defund Police is terrible branding, but the underlying premise is spot on and long overdue.

    How about some members of the Minneapolis city council, who have stated on twitter that they want to disband the police?

    The police should be de-militarized — which I agree is what most people saying “defund” mean, though as you say, its a terrible word to use, since defund usually means cut off all funding. And firing half of them and restarting is another great idea. But there are people calling for disbanding (ie abolishing) the police who have the power to do so (ie city council members).

    I have to wonder if the re-elect Trump campaign has snuck agents into left wing groups, because the call to disband the police is going to get him re-elected.

    1
  11. KM says:

    I think liberals are missing a chance to address this issue in conservative terms. The question should be: are they wasting taxpayer money due to police brutality and racism? We’re pumping hundreds of millions into various police forces across the country but is it worth the cost? Defund sounds bad because it’s implying stripping money from a needed resource. Protesters need to start talking about how much taxpayer money gets wasted every year due to bad cops causing lawsuits and subsequent social issues. Hell, Derek Chauvin’s single horrible choice has cost this country how much in terms of lawsuits, damages, overtime for officers, insurance payouts , etc.

    Cops are expensive and it’s the duty of the taxpayer to ask if they’re getting their money’s worth. We pay them and pay for their toys, only for them to turn around and use them on us when we protest them hurting us. They work for us, not the other way around. They are not entitled to your paycheck, nor is there a promise they will never lose funding. In a truly capitalistic society, that would mean money flowing to cops would be immediately decreased as that’s what the free market aka the public is demanding. Why should we pay full price for something that’s not benefiting us they way we expect?

    11
  12. wr says:

    @Northerner: “I have to wonder if the re-elect Trump campaign has snuck agents into left wing groups, because the call to disband the police is going to get him re-elected.”

    Hey, I thought some anonymous commenter on a blog saying Trump supporters were stupid was all it was going to take to re-elect him. I guess I’ll just have to add this to the ever-growing list of things that are guaranteed to get Trump a second term.

    4
  13. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    This crap will get Trump re-elected.
    Sure…these ideas may have credence…and nuance is required.
    But our politics aren’t about nuance. And Biden is already getting bludgeoned with this.
    Once again Democrats will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    3
  14. MarkedMan says:

    @Northerner:

    How about some members of the Minneapolis city council, who have stated on twitter that they want to disband the police?

    What the city council is saying is separate from the defund issue. They are saying that the Minneapolis police are so dysfunctional and resistant to reform that they should be stood down, a new structure put in place, and any officers that want to stay on would need to reapply and their records would be reviewed before they would be offered new jobs.

    Is it highly problematic? Sure, and it’s only been done a few times. But the Minneapolis police force is a truly dysfunctional organization. There are no good solutions, just less bad ones.

    8
  15. Kathy says:

    Why do the terms Glasnost and Perestroika seem to be very relevant right now?

    I’m not drawing a parallel, but there are some similarities. The police are, in part, a repressive regime not open to either transparency or oversight, much less reform.

    Perhaps some police departments can be reformed. But my bet is they need to collapse first.

    4
  16. mattbernius says:

    We’re in an unprecedented moment in terms of Criminal Justice reform. Police reform has historically been the third rail of this area (along with sentencing reform). Part of that has to do with the factors that have led to criminal justice reform in the first place: prisons were going to bankrupt States (or in some cases were bankrupting states).

    So the coalition that formed around prison reform was an odd mix of libertarians (economics and personal liberty), economic and social/religious conservatives (a mix of economics and a belief in personal redemption) and progressives. To maintain that coalition in most places all that was looked at was what happened after someone was convicted and also reentering society (there was also focus on things like special community courts [veterans court, drug court, etc.] and pretrial diversion programs). Policing was avoided for fear of decreasing public safety and being “soft on crime.”

    There probably was another reason why policing was deprioritized — it’s the most fragmented aspect of our criminal justice system. Corrections are a State level function. Policing is municipally controlled. There are 17,000+ arresting departments across the US with little to no centralized control. So generally speaking, each one needs to be reformed separately.

    Federalism means that beyond Federal Law Enforcement, Washington has little control over what happens in State and Local departments. And honestly, State governments have little control over what happens in your county or town.

    So while it’s amazing to see so many people thinking about defunding the police, the reality remains that the entire system resists change due to it’s distributed nature.

    3
  17. mattbernius says:

    @KM:

    I think liberals are missing a chance to address this issue in conservative terms. The question should be: are they wasting taxpayer money due to police brutality and racism? We’re pumping hundreds of millions into various police forces across the country but is it worth the cost?

    I’m not particularly optimistic about that as a line of agreement. First, getting most conservatives to openly admit to any form of systemic racism is difficult if not impossible. Ditto many libertarians. The default will always be to public safety.

    Further, the conservative mindset goes too quickly to the “one bad apple”/individual level. Which is the wrong level of analysis and resists seeing the need for systemic change.

    The two probably more productive areas for collaboration are: (1) ending qualified immunity (which at least libertarians are on board with and I think you can get some conservatives) and (2) public sector union-busting. Unfortunately, the latter one is an uncomfortable position for Progressives (out of fear that disbanding police unions will lead to going after other public unions).

    Additionally, on the topic of Unions, Law Enforcement Unions are major funders for candidates of both parties. And that funding does wield them a lot of power (for example, for as much as progressives love to go after private, for-profit prisons, corrections officers unions wield far more power and have historically done far more to prop up our system of mass incarceration).

    5
  18. gVOR08 says:
  19. Modulo Myself says:

    I think liberals are missing a chance to address this issue in conservative terms. The question should be: are they wasting taxpayer money due to police brutality and racism.

    Yeah, we could just show them the quicksand scene in Blazing Saddles and mention how expensive the handcart is.

    Or we could say that the police are 99% useless and everybody knows this. Imagine calling the police on anything and thinking that it’s going to help or that a crime will be solved. The police get called all the time for domestic violence and they nothing to stop that. We could zap out the police and their stupid toys and replace them with a bunch of social workers, therapists, safety inspectors, and traffic monitors, and a small team of inspectors authorized to carry guns or something so the babies won’t cry about who is protecting them, and nothing would change. Actual problems would get resolved.

    2
  20. Teve says:

    You don’t need public sector union busting, and that would be a terrible idea. You need to negotiate better rules with those police unions. I’m in a union. I couldn’t beat up somebody at work and keep my job. The union would laugh at me and tell me to get lost. In general, unions are pretty much the only thing that gets you a middle class. The problem here isn’t unions, it’s shitty cops, and solidarity among shitty cops. If shitty cops in the police unions are demanding that shitty cops be kept on, figure out how to renegotiate that shit.

    6
  21. Stormy Dragon says:

    The MNPD has already abolished itself: they’re not obeying orders, they’re attacking the public, and they’re failing to protect the property of the residents, and they’re deliberately escalating peaceful protests into riots. If you want to know what Minneapolis would look like without police: it would look like right now.

    The question is, should the taxpayers in Minneapolis continue paying for this failure, or should they try using the money for something else?

    9
  22. Teve says:

    If you think conservatives actually give a shit about saving money, you’re gonna have to explain to me why every Republican president in my lifetime has blown the deficit sky high.

    12
  23. mattbernius says:

    @KM:

    Cops are expensive and it’s the duty of the taxpayer to ask if they’re getting their money’s worth. We pay them and pay for their toys, only for them to turn around and use them on us when we protest them hurting us. They work for us, not the other way around. They are not entitled to your paycheck, nor is there a promise they will never lose funding. In a truly capitalistic society, that would mean money flowing to cops would be immediately decreased as that’s what the free market aka the public is demanding. Why should we pay full price for something that’s not benefiting us they way we expect?

    Oh, yeah, that gets to another thorny issue that is tied up in all of this — for-profit policing. To a large degree, in many localities, taxes are kept low, in part, by shifting funding of the police and courts onto fees and fines. If you have a police officer driving behind you for any period of time you can bet they are running your plates to see if you have anything outstanding (including inspection or vehicle registration). That’s largely a way for them to raise local funds.

    The extra nasty aspect of this is that communities with heavy police presence are typically low income. And the longer police are in an area, the more citations they write. This means that effectively, a low tax base is often being maintained on the backs of the community with the least capabilities of paying said fees and fines. To see this play out, just read through the Furgeson Report.

    So defunding the police (and following through and shifting those funds to other types of interventions and first responders) will also, most likely, negatively affect municipal income (in a period where municiple governments are about to experience a huge shortfall due to C19).

    Again, this is why the system resists change.

    8
  24. MarkedMan says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    The police get called all the time for domestic violence and they nothing to stop that.

    This, in a nutshell, is why this is such a difficult problem. In what way, exactly, does anyone think that police are going to stop domestic violence? There are probably months and years of disfunction, entire lifetimes of sad and bad situations and choices, that lead up to the moment where violence is actually being committed. The police are called to stop a crime in progress, and they are usually successful in that. But we castigate them because they don’t prevent the violence from happening in the first place. That is not their job.

    The defund movement, at its most sensible, is about reallocating money from the (typically) very well funded police department to the (typically) tremendously underfunded social services groups that may actually be able to reduce the number of incidents in the first place.

    3
  25. Northerner says:

    @wr:

    Hey, I thought some anonymous commenter on a blog saying Trump supporters were stupid was all it was going to take to re-elect him. I guess I’ll just have to add this to the ever-growing list of things that are guaranteed to get Trump a second term.

    Fair enough, but given that Trump has been an unmitigated disaster, can you at least understand why many of us are worried, and think that anything that encourages conservatives who are on the fence about him (and there is a growing number) to hold their nose and vote for him is a bad idea? Disbanding police departments (or even saying that’s the goal) probably fits into the category of things that will make people worried enough about their personal safety to do just that.

    Overconfidence rarely works out well.

    1
  26. Northerner says:

    @MarkedMan:

    The defund movement, at its most sensible, is about reallocating money from the (typically) very well funded police department to the (typically) tremendously underfunded social services groups that may actually be able to reduce the number of incidents in the first place.

    Exactly. And saying that is probably a vote winner. Saying defund (which usually means completely cut off funding) and disband (which usually means abolish) is an unnecessary own-goal.

    6
  27. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:
    Thank you, James. I had read about the Minneapolis City Council, but I’ve got to say that their early planning doesn’t match their rhetoric. Where they propose to end is a lot closer to some combination of the two other concepts on changing the role of police than to literally have no police forces at all. The paper shared by @SKI: I had not seen. Reads more like a dream of the future than a policy proposal, but it does seem sincere.

    2
  28. MarkedMan says:

    @Teve: Why is it that police officers continue to vote in the most vile of their members as union officials?

    1
  29. gVOR08 says:

    @mattbernius:

    for-profit policing

    For which see Ferguson MO. Which as of a few days ago has a new black woman mayor.

    2
  30. Kathy says:

    @mattbernius:
    @gVOR08:

    See also civil asset forfeiture.

    You’d think such a practice would have been ended years ago as blatantly unconstitutional, and yet it keeps going. I suppose because it is anointed in America’s peculiar brand of salvation: it makes money.

    8
  31. Slugger says:

    The tire slashing by Minneapolis cops would not endear them to me if I were on the city council.
    https://www.autoblog.com/2020/06/08/minnesota-police-slash-car-tires/
    I don’t understand how this contributes to order.
    I see some claiming that restraints on the police would leave vulnerable communities unprotected. At this time, is there a meaningful police presence in those vulnerable communities? When I lived in a large northeastern city, granted this was years ago, the “bad” parts of town were largely unpoliced.

    6
  32. Northerner says:

    @MarkedMan:

    What the city council is saying is separate from the defund issue. They are saying that the Minneapolis police are so dysfunctional and resistant to reform that they should be stood down, a new structure put in place, and any officers that want to stay on would need to reapply and their records would be reviewed before they would be offered new jobs.
    Is it highly problematic? Sure, and it’s only been done a few times. But the Minneapolis police force is a truly dysfunctional organization. There are no good solutions, just less bad ones.

    Don’t completely disagree, other than my experience in tech startups (much simpler than policing) leads to believe you still need experienced people in the organization unless you want to rediscover a solution to every problem not obvious to a newcomer.

    Starting from scratch is always tempting — a clean slate and all that, this time we’ll do it right. But I think most of the time if the underlying conditions haven’t changed it won’t be as straightforward as theory might suggest.

    The Minneapolis police department seems like a great candidate to test though, given how bad it is. And maybe the citizens will do well without any law enforcement agency at all (there is a call for that there). Tests cases are great, at least if you’re an outside observer. If it works there we can use it here, etc.

    However, I was just replying to Ski, who wanted to know if anyone with power was calling for dismantling police — it turns out there are.

  33. KM says:

    @MarkedMan:

    The police are called to stop a crime in progress, and they are usually successful in that. But we castigate them because they don’t prevent the violence from happening in the first place. That is not their job.

    This. There’s a difference between peace keeping, security and issue prevention, yet we expect one force to do all three on the fly.

    -Peace keeping is settling disputes or small disturbances – what people see when they watch Andy Griffith and think of Mayberry. Welfare checks, rescuing people, dealing with neighbors arguing over property disputes, assisting a stranded motorist, etc would all fall under this. This is where the image of the “good” cop comes from because they’re actively helping the community and being a visible benefit. Everyone likes a peace keeper because they view the citizenry as people to be taken care of, not potential problems.

    -Security is community protection and enforcement- stopping thieves, dealing with drunks, breaking up fist fights. Security is necessary but becomes problematic because the police start viewing the public as potential sources of unrest. Conflict arises here so here’s where our focus on reform should be.

    -Issue prevention refers to things that would require long term intervention or monitoring like drug issues, domestic violence or orders of protection. This is where cops fail because they aren’t designed to deal with ongoing issues. Others services need to be brought in to address the problem so it’s seen as a police failing when really it’s not their job. The police should be handing off these kinds of issues to the relevant authorities ASAP or just not dealt into them in the first place.

    We treat the police as a one-stop shop for dealing with “problems”. Much like the time before recycling and everything just went in the trash can, it ends up being a huge mess that ends up unworkable. Instead, we need to learn to sort out our problems and send them to the appropriate place if we want to have decent results. Keep piling crap in the landfill and you shouldn’t be surprised when the crap overflows into the streets….

    8
  34. SKI says:

    @Northerner:

    However, I was just replying to Ski, who wanted to know if anyone with power was calling for dismantling police — it turns out there are.

    While SKI is a Scott, it was Scott F. who stated that.

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    But our politics aren’t about nuance. And Biden is already getting bludgeoned with this.
    Once again Democrats will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    Counter-point: Biden isn’t “getting bludgeoned”. He is being attacked by the right (which would happen regardless) but has publicly explicitly stated that he opposes “Defunding” but instead supports “Police Reform” – and that is how all the news sources are reporting it.

    Having this big movement on his left allows him to be seen as a moderate and for “police reform” to be the middle path. It is actually a big win for him politically, even if it doesn’t play that way on twitter. He isn’t “soft on crime” but a sensible moderate leader rejecting calls to disband police.

    6
  35. KM says:

    @mattbernius :
    Good point. Has anyone come up with any proposals or ideas to deal with the income loss defunding police would cause? I’d be curious to see how they plan to make up for the shortfall.

    1
  36. MarkedMan says:

    @Northerner:

    you still need experienced people in the organization unless you want to rediscover a solution to every problem not obvious to a newcomer.

    My understanding of the NJ effort was not to get rid of all the existing police, but to hit reset so their records could be considered on whether to keep them on. It was more about circumventing the union and the pro-police laws that made it impossible to weed out the bad apples.

    1
  37. wr says:

    @Northerner: “Overconfidence rarely works out well.”

    You know what works less well? Being so terrified you’re going to lose you never stand for anything.

    That’s been the Democrats’ number one play for decades, and it has never worked. If you believe something is right, then you say so and you fight to change people’s minds.

    That’s what Republicans do. You think people just naturally believe cutting taxes on the rich will make poor people’s lives better?

    I actually think the left is handling this very well. The fringes are calling to end the police, thus dragging the center of the conversation leftward. That allows Biden and others room to come out for major structural reform, and yet still claim the center because they don’t want to defund.

    And astonishingly enough, even the activists seem to be with the plan — praising Biden instead of condemning him.

    You’re right that there’s no reason to get cocky. But polls right now have two thirds or more of the American people on the side of reform, and Trump dead against. If Biden and the Dems start playing “well, let’s not go too far” before they actually go anywhere, that’s pretty much the one way they can lose this moment.

    4
  38. Northerner says:

    @wr:

    You know what works less well? Being so terrified you’re going to lose you never stand for anything.

    Sure, but not standing for anything is not in play here — almost no one is calling for keeping the status quo. Even right wingers want things to change. Interestingly enough, many also want to dismantle the police (as in permanently getting rid of all policing) as hey think that means vigilante law enforcement and (almost certainly mistakenly) think their firearms will let them do as they please.

    Calls to demilitarize the police, to reallocate funding are very doable, and almost everyone wants it. Calls to defund the police (which in normal usage means cut off all funding) and to dismantle it (which get rid of it without replacement) might be doable, but its likely to be a disaster and almost no one wants it.

    You seem to suggest we tell voters that our wish is to defund and dismantle the police — which would terrify most of them — because despite their fear they’ll recognize its just a negotiating stance, and that we don’t really mean it. Am I interpreting you correctly?

  39. Kurtz says:

    @gVOR08:@Mu Yixiao:

    Yup. I figured it would be gVOR to post this. I’m surprised @mattbernius did not.

  40. Kurtz says:

    @Kathy:

    Yeah, civil asset forfeiture is one of the worst incentive structures I can recall.

    2
  41. mattbernius says:

    @Kurtz:

    I figured it would be gVOR to post this. I’m surprised @mattbernius did not.

    I’m trying to come up to speed pretty rapidly on the Police Reform literature. I’ve historically worked in other spaces of CJ Reform. So beyond knowing *why* police reform is hard, I don’t know enough about what actually works.

    Camden as I understand it, isn’t exactly a clear cut story. Some reformers are saying it could be a model. Others are saying that the results are pretty mixed (and that a lot of the decline in crime might have been related to outside factors). My understanding is it really isn’t a “defund the police” example in so much as police budgets were cut because pensions were bankrupting the city, but the “savings” were not really reallocated to other essential services.

    So I’m hoping off on referencing it until I can read a bit more into it.

    Beyond that, TY @Kathy for bringing up civil asset forefiture. That’s another big issue.

    1
  42. Kathy says:
  43. Erik says:

    @mattbernius: I would be surprised if any reform program didn’t yield mixed results. The key thing to me in that reform is opening the door to ongoing reform. The lack of ability to address individual problems with police has lead to a need to rebuild the whole system.

    (Hmm, just thinking out loud:
    “Reboot the police”
    “Reset the police”
    “Rebuild the police”
    Would one of those work better to describe the change effort?)

    4
  44. SKI says:

    @Erik:
    “Demilitarize the Police” seems to be the easiest lift politically.

    2
  45. grumpy realist says:

    @Northerner: I wonder how much of the “Defund the Police!” screeching is coming from a) right-wing trolls b) Russian provocateurs, and c) SWJ loonies trying to be “plus royaliste que le Roi” in their internal purity pecking order. The last are the most annoying–they’re perfectly happy to shove out shocking phrases in order to get attention and scramble up higher on the Twitter re-tweeting heap, fuhgghetabaht whether the policy they claim is something that is in fact possible.

    May the Lord save me from purity warriors…hence my statement that the far left and the far right meet. Neither branch are interested in actually solving the problem.

    3
  46. Michael Reynolds says:

    @grumpy realist:
    I have an adult daughter who is fairly radical Left. Her counter-argument would be that liberals talk a good game on reform, but we still have cops murdering people in public. I have to tell you that as a Baby Boomer father I’m on weak ground defending our effectiveness.

    4
  47. Gustopher says:

    @Northerner:

    Saying defund (which usually means completely cut off funding) and disband (which usually means abolish) is an unnecessary own-goal

    “Defund” doesn’t mean by 100%. Never has, except when people want it to.

    And, right now, the Trumpy right wants it to, so they can shove words in people’s mouths and make them seem radical. But there isn’t a better word.

    And the few “abolish the police” folks serve as a nice foil to that 100% interpretation — you can clearly see the difference if you are open to seeing a difference.

    And even the folks who want to “Abolish ICE” don’t want to leave those functions undone, they want to throw out what is there, and start over. We have a problem with overly violent police at all levels, don’t we? For whatever reason, I had been thinking of it as two separate problems.

  48. mattbernius says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    That’s more or less my experience as well.

    FWIW, as I tweeted yesterday, never have I seen so many people who have written about how important it is to recognize when the Overton window moves on a topic do so much handwringing over language that appears to be moving *checks notes* the Overton window.

    I also, frankly, think that one’s position in this is deeply impacted by the number of Black people (not to mention other folks who come from historically impacted communities) in their lives.

    2
  49. mattbernius says:

    Also, I think it’s REALLY important to understand that there is no *single* voice or correct definition of any of these terms.

    And that has historically been the case in all movements. Unfortunately, our mode of history typically reduces movements for all intents and purposes to either a single figure (i.e. Ghandi or Susan B Anthony) or an opposing pair (MLK and Malcom X). And that really does us a disservice as it flattens out all the conversations and makes it appear as if everyone always agreed on everything within a movement.

    Then when we live through a moment like this, we want easy agreement from people about what their view is on X, Y, or Z.

    4
  50. wr says:

    @Northerner: “You seem to suggest we tell voters that our wish is to defund and dismantle the police — which would terrify most of them — because despite their fear they’ll recognize its just a negotiating stance, and that we don’t really mean it. Am I interpreting you correctly?”

    Nope. I’m saying that some people are saying this and we shouldn’t be so concerned about what every single person who could be described as “on the left” says. There is a spectrum of opinions, all of them have their own value, and we should talk through what we believe will work, what we believe can be achieved, and what sort of future we want to see.

    I’m certainly not saying that “we” should tell “the voters” that “we” are going to accomplish the furthest possible iteration of what we’re talking about. I’m saying we shouldn’t freak out if some voices are calling for things that some of us feel are too much out of fear that we will all be tarred with the same brush.

    LBJ killed thousands of Americans and God knows how many Vietnamese simply because he was scared the Republicans would say he was soft on communism. I say it’s time we stop acting out of fear of what Republicans will say about us — especially since they’re going to say whatever they want, anyway, no matter the truth.

    4
  51. wr says:

    @Erik: ““Reboot the police”
    “Reset the police”
    “Rebuild the police”
    Would one of those work better to describe the change effort?)”

    I think NWA got it right the first time around…

    5
  52. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Funny, isn’t it, how police never get caught beating up drug dealers or going full SWAT on a real criminal’s house? Almost like beating up regular law-abiding folks is so much safer and more fun than dealing with bad guys. Makes you wonder how much phony tough-guy posturing we taxpayers are funding.

    Fire all of them and make them re-apply for their jobs. Have a pay schedule whereby if you’re proved to have been brutal (we know what this means), you lose 10% of your salary immediately. You can get it back if you behave yourself for, say, five years without a lapse. De-militarize the weapons and the tanks; if the cops want to cosplay the military that badly, there’s still wars out there they can sign up for. And get out of the cars and walk the beat like they did not that many years ago.

    Then they’ll be living up to that “serve and protect” thing they claim to be doing.

    2
  53. Barry says:

    @KM:

    “I think liberals are missing a chance to address this issue in conservative terms. The question should be: are they wasting taxpayer money due to police brutality and racism? ”

    And their answer (not openly said) would be that billion for oppression is a Good Thing.

    1
  54. Barry says:

    @mattbernius:

    “Further, the conservative mindset goes too quickly to the “one bad apple”/individual level. Which is the wrong level of analysis and resists seeing the need for systemic change.”

    No, they use that as an excuse. When it’s any other union, ‘just a few bad apples’ is never used by them.

    1
  55. We need a reinvention of public safety.

    We need the end of the “war” paradigms (on crime, on drugs, etc).

    We definitively need to demilitarize the police.

    And some of that will mean reallocating resources, i.e, defunding the police.

    15
  56. mattbernius says:

    One more key point, the phrasing we use shouldn’t be “the police” because it makes it seem like there’s some type of unified police force in the US. It should be “our police” or better yet, use the name of your local force.

    This is a reminder that local elections matter and change, if you support it, needs to happen in your own communities first — especially for those of you with town/village police forces.

    2
  57. JKB says:

    Don’t worry, they don’t want no police, just different police. Police not accountable, except to Party or organization. Perhaps even not accountable to those racists courts and judges.

    A Black Lives Matter leader in New York revealed in an interview with the Daily Mail that the activist group is developing a highly trained “military” arm to lead the “war on police.”

    Hawk Newsome, chairman of BLM’s Greater New York chapter, said the organization has military Special Forces officers training and advising members who will “patrol” black communities and challenge law enforcement.”

    1
  58. DrDaveT says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The MNPD has already abolished itself: they’re not obeying orders, they’re attacking the public, and they’re failing to protect the property of the residents, and they’re deliberately escalating peaceful protests into riots.

    So, according to the way the system is supposed to work, this is where the governor calls on the Minnesota National Guard to come arrest the police?

    3
  59. wr says:

    @JKB: “Don’t worry, they don’t want no police, just different police. Police not accountable, except to Party or organization.”

    You mean they may want forces in combat gear and riot equipment given authority to commit violence against civilians while showing no sign of what their name or identifying number might be or even what force they’re with and under whose control they operate? That is truly a terrifying concept, one that belongs entirely to dictatorial states.

    Odd then that you couldn’t be bothered to raise a peep when the Trump administration put exactly these forces on the streets of DC.

    You know, sometimes I find myself thinking you’re not always arguing in good faith.

    11
  60. Kathy says:

    I know the answer is extremely variable, but how much can a city/town government regulate its police? The logical answer should be “as much as it deems necessary,” given that a police department is a city/town agency, right? And yet, it seems in many cities, especially blue ones, the police are the ones dictating how the police department is run.

    Granted a police chief needs some autonomy to run their department. If they’re just going to relay orders and regulations from the mayor or the council, what need for their position? But just like war is too important to leave to the generals, police functions are too important to be left to the police chiefs, much less to the police unions.

    It’s bad enough if the police is placed above the law. But it would be far worse if a police department were considered as a law unto itself.

    2
  61. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Why is it that police officers continue to vote in the most vile of their members as union officials?

    To get them off the streets where people will notice their vileness? (Just a guess, you understand.)

  62. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I don’t even try for defending anymore. The last group of students** I was with where we talked about it, I simply mentioned the lyrics from a song that offered that we were “going to make a world to be proud of” and that we failed–spectacularly.

    They paused to think about it and nodded their heads in agreement.

    **high school seniors about 3 weeks before graduation.

    1
  63. Kurtz says:

    @mattbernius:

    Yeah. Movements are tricky for many reasons, but the notion of solidarity can only cover up so much disagreement.

    Success or long term failure has a way of exposing faultlines. The former is a major issue, because implementation becomes even more difficult than it already is, because the foundation of success cracks.

    1
  64. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    Yes, if you look hard enough you can always find some loudmouth to justify your cringing fear.

    Shall we see how many overtly racist assholes identify with Trump? Let’s start with you and your diseased mind.

    3
  65. Kurtz says:

    @Kathy:

    It’s funny you raise the issue of civilian control of police. I almost mentioned it in my posts addressed to James because it seemed relevant in a discussion centered on the militarization of police.

    It’s not just unions either. It’s also the internal notion that police departments need a leader from their ranks.

    I also think another idea needs to be explored: whether the police, structured like the military, ought to be tried in a different court system like the military is. Unfortunately, juries in the military justice system are composed of soldiers, and we know that won’t work for police.

    1
  66. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: No it isn’t funny at all. The last reported story of Portland Police Bureau going all SWAT on some drug dealers they hit the wrong apartment on the wrong floor of the wrong building on the opposite side of the apartment complex they were raiding. Not funny at all. 🙁

    ETA: Is it possible that people in support of the concept should talk about “reducing” funding rather than “defunding?”

    1
  67. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JKB:

    A Black Lives Matter leader in New York revealed in an interview with the Daily Mail that the activist group is developing a highly trained “military” arm to lead the “war on police.”

    YMMV, but it seems fair to note that a similar plan from a similarly “radicalized” group in Oakland, CA, some 50 years back is credited, in part, with salutary reforms in the law enforcement practices there.

    2
  68. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And some of that will mean reallocating resources, i.e, defunding the police.

    I am very uncomfortable with this conclusion. When public services are working very badly, not as intended, it is usually due (at least in large part) to underfunding. Nobody sane thinks that we can improve the quality of teaching by cutting funding for public education; why would you think that about policing?

    The problem with the police is not that they get too much money. (And much of the militarization is pushed by donations of equipment that they don’t have to pay for…)

    1
  69. mattbernius says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The problem with the police is not that they get too much money.

    Call. Unpack that arguement.

    Especially in terms of fixed municipal budgets and the lack of funding for other forms of first responds for things like mental health crisis.

    And while some military equipment is “donated,” departments have to pay for its transfer, storage, and upkeep (which are not insignificant costs). Other equipment is purchased, though at a heavily subsidized price.

    3
  70. DrDaveT says:

    @mattbernius:

    Especially in terms of fixed municipal budgets and the lack of funding for other forms of first responds for things like mental health crisis.

    It’s a false dichotomy — how underfunded policing is as a service is independent of how underfunded mental health services or education or transportation infrastructure are. It’s only a zero-sum game in GOP-think. At the margin, one might certainly prefer to fund mental health over policing — but that is not at all the same thing as saying that policing is racist and brutal because it’s overfunded.

  71. Kathy says:

    @Kurtz:

    I also think another idea needs to be explored: whether the police, structured like the military, ought to be tried in a different court system like the military is. Unfortunately, juries in the military justice system are composed of soldiers, and we know that won’t work for police.

    there’s that last, and there’s the fact that you have over a thousand police departments. maybe the bigger cities, and state police, could do this. Smaller cities and towns simply couldn’t.

    There’s also some rationale for military justice as a separate jurisdiction, given the army operates abroad, while the police is specifically civilian and operates in a limited jurisdiction only.

    1
  72. mattbernius says:

    @DrDaveT:

    It’s a false dichotomy — how underfunded policing is as a service is independent of how underfunded mental health services or education or transportation infrastructure are. It’s only a zero-sum game in GOP-think.

    Correct, provided you are willing to increase taxes. That has historically not been something most Americans are willing to do. That’s before you get to the record shortfalls municipalities are facing at the moment due to Covid-19. So, in terms of being pragmatic, most government services require shifting money from budget line to budget line.

    At the margin, one might certainly prefer to fund mental health over policing — but that is not at all the same thing as saying that policing is racist and brutal because it’s overfunded.

    Correct. Which to some degree is the abolitionist arguement — that no amount of reform is going to be able to fix policing.

    Short of that, defunding, which would require shrinking the size of the police force and eliminating a lot of costly to maintain equipment (including military equipment), would theoretically curtail the scale at which a local force is able to project said racist and brutal violence.

    Also, from a messaging perspective, my guess is “let’s increase taxes in an economic downturn” is even less popular messaging than “defund the police.”

    3
  73. DrDaveT says:

    @mattbernius:

    Which to some degree is the abolitionist arguement — that no amount of reform is going to be able to fix policing.

    I would distinguish rebooting the police (eliminate the current cohort and system and start over) from abolishing the police. It’s not clear to me how people are using the terms. I would say that no amount of reform is going to magically turn the current police forces into what we want, and the new crop will turn out just as bad without significant structural changes — but I still think that the optimal amount of public law enforcement infrastructure is “a lot more than zero”.

  74. Mu Yixiao says:

    @mattbernius:

    it’s the most fragmented aspect of our criminal justice system. Corrections are a State level function. Policing is municipally controlled.

    Just to be clear:

    * Corrections are municipal (city jail), county (county jail), state (state prison), and federal (federal prison).
    * Policing is municipal (city police), county (county sheriff), state (state patrol), and federal (FBI, DEA, CBP, etc.)

    A bag weed in your pocket can get you arrested* by any of the levels of LEA, and incarcerated in any level of facility.

    * (or ticketed in some municipal jurisdictions)

    2
  75. Kurtz says:

    @Kathy:

    There’s also some rationale for military justice as a separate jurisdiction, given the army operates abroad, while the police is specifically civilian and operates in a limited jurisdiction only.

    Sure. Increasingly, the police don’t act like civilians. Admittedly, my point on this is mostly rhetorical, and thus of pretty much no use outside of more evidence that law enforcement is way past simple reform.

    1
  76. Northerner says:

    @wr:

    I’m saying we shouldn’t freak out if some voices are calling for things that some of us feel are too much out of fear that we will all be tarred with the same brush.

    The right is pretend freaking out about defunding (you can tell in reality they’re barely restraining their glee that the issue has been raised) because they see it as a way of winning votes. The left and central critics of defunding (which according to the dictionary means: prevent from continuing to receive funds rather than adjust the funds being received) aren’t freaking out (at least none I’ve seen), they’re calmly stating why they think that’s a bad idea. Bernie Sanders for instance has said he’s against defunding (I think he too is using the dictionary definition of the word) — read his statements, does he really sound like someone who is freaking out?

    The police system as is isn’t working. We need a calm and serious discussion about how to fix it. That includes careful criticism of all ideas — disagreement isn’t freaking out, its a normal part of the process.

    1
  77. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    The police get called all the time for domestic violence and they [do] nothing to stop that.

    Can you clarify? Do you mean they do nothing to stop it in the general sense? (i.e., domestic violence still happens). Or are you referring to the specific calls they respond to? (i.e., they go to a DV call and don’t stop that specific incident of violence.)

    If it’s the former: well… yeah. Crimes of passion are pretty much immune to deterrents.

    If it’s the latter: I have a close friend who works as an “answerer”* at the 911 call center which handles calls for both our state capital, and the county in which it resides. I’m sure I could get her to explain exactly what happens in a domestic violence call–what the laws require of the police, why police fear responding to them, and the general outcome after the arrests.

    Regardless of which one you mean…. It sounds like you’re suggesting that–because the police aren’t overwhelmingly successful in preventing/ending domestic violence–we should just give up and let domestic violence happen. And I’m sure that’s not what you meant.


    * I can’t, for the life of me, remember the correct term. A “dispatcher” sends out the PD/FD/EMT. The “answerer” is the person who takes the call, talks to the caller to find out what’s going on, and relays relevant information to the emergency personnel. I had always thought they were the same person, but it’s two different people working different sides of the situation. Which makes sense. The “answerer” is dealing with the panicked person, asking the right questions, gleaning information, keeping the person on the line so they can get more information–or pass along more information, such as emergency care–and building a “better picture” of what’s happening. The dispatcher is dealing with logistics and making sure that all the right people are where they need to be.

    1
  78. Mu Yixiao says:

    @James Joyner:

    Scott F.: Can you point me to anyone more influential than a protester with a sign that is actually promoting the radical end?

    Aside from the group SKI links to and others, the Minneapolis City Council.

    MCC doesn’t want to “end police presence in Minneapolis”. They want to appease the rioting populace and hand off the responsibility of policing to a different jurisdiction (probably the county–who will just hire all the laid-off cops to fill the new positions they’ll need).

    So the next time that there’s a “George Floyd incident”. MCC can say “It’s not our fault! We disbanded the police!” and point to the county.

    They’re not reforming anything. They’re covering their asses and shifting blame.

    2
  79. Scott F. says:

    @wr:

    I say it’s time we stop acting out of fear of what Republicans will say about us — especially since they’re going to say whatever they want, anyway, no matter the truth.

    Just wanted to have this repeated for emphasis.

    2
  80. DrDaveT says:

    @mattbernius:

    Short of that, defunding, which would require shrinking the size of the police force and eliminating a lot of costly to maintain equipment (including military equipment), would theoretically curtail the scale at which a local force is able to project said racist and brutal violence.

    This is the step in the argument that fails for me. Head-knocking is dirt cheap; anyone can afford a baton (or a heavy flashlight). It doesn’t take fancy gear to be a culture of thugs; the jackboots are optional. Reducing the size of the force doesn’t reduce the size of the force in any particular encounter. Reducing the number of encounters has mixed effects.

  81. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mu Yixiao: And if it wasn’t for you meddling kids, they’d be getting away with it, too. Bah!

  82. mattbernius says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    * Corrections are municipal (city jail), county (county jail), state (state prison), and federal (federal prison).

    With the caveat that this may vary in some states, the above is not correct:

    Municipal/City Jail is for holding people while awaiting arraignment. That’s not corrections (which is exclusively a post-conviction function). If they are held pre-trial they are typically transferred to a County Jail.

    The majority of people in County Jail (overseen by the Sheriff) are pretrial detentions. There are some convictions in County — the general rule is sentences of less than a year are handled in County.* However, they are still, for the most part, overseen by the State Corrections arm (just administered by the County). So in that respect, it still has to comply with procedures set at the State level.

    The vast majority of State Prisoners are held in State Prisons overseen by the State Board of Corrections. This is why I stated that Corrections is in most cases a State Function. Unpacking the nuance was something that would take me

    Federal is a completely different system controlled by the Federal Government. You’re either in State or Federal.

    Sorry this is a bit meandering, but the reality is that a State Board of Corrections has far more oversight over all these units (within a State) than there is organized oversite of policing. That was my point. To reform police tactics you need to reform every agency (generally speaking). To reform corrections, you either do it at the State or the Federal level.

    * – This is all further confused by the fact that in some cases the Municipality and the County are the same entity like the City and County of NY. Again, the most consistent thing that I can say about the American Criminal Justice system is it’s never consistent.

    2
  83. mattbernius says:

    @mattbernius:
    Final thought, US correction systems are fragmented to be sure. But it is less fragmented than the law enforcement side. That was the bigger point.

    2
  84. mattbernius says:

    So, while walking the dogs, I realized that my @entire jail/prisons/corrections thing here doesn’t quite adequately capture the average State set-up, so please bare with me as I try one more time.

    Tl;dr – @Mu Yixiao was right about there being different levels, but the relationships and roles are such that it’s still a far less fragmented system than policing (though I also made the mistake of over-flattening things in the way I was talking about them).

    Also, when I was talking about Corrections, I was specifically thinking about State DoC’s. But in doing that I did leave out part of the story (i.e. Sheriffs who oversee approximately a quarter to a third of most state’s incarcerated people).

    First, I’m going to avoid using the term corrections. Most states typically have a Department of Corrections which runs the Prisons. Many have separate Commissions of Corrections that inspect Correctional Facilities.

    But referring to “Corrections” as a specific function isn’t necessarily helpful to unpack things.

    So it’s better to think about things in terms of pre-trial detention and incarceration. Then we add in jails and prisons.

    Pre-trial detention happens exclusively in jails (at least on State charges).

    Municipal jails (i.e. the one at the local police station) typically hold people prior to initial arraignment.

    Post-arraignment, they are typically transferred to County Jail for pretrial detention. That’s overseen (typically) by the Sheriff’s department. In some of our largest cities, there is a City Jail (New York and Riker’s is a prime example).

    Post-conviction, people sentenced to under a year often serve out the incarceration in County Jail (with exceptions again like Rikers where there is no County Jail). Their incarceration is overseen by the County Sheriff (typically — though some counties have an independent County Corrections board and other places, like Rikers, has a City Corrections Department in lieu of a Sheriff based one).

    Anyone with a longer conviction goes to Prison where they are overseen by the Department of Corrections.

    So, I did make a mistake in using the term “Corrections Reform.” I really should have used “Prison Reform” which specifically focuses on the State-controlled institution.

    “Jail Reform” would be used to refer to County.

    Jail Reform does require working in each county to achieve any form of broader reform since there really isn’t a unified “jail system” within a State. It’s also why, for example in New York, the State had limited direct control over what happens at Riker’s Island.

    So in that respect, jail reform has some of the same fragmentation challenges as Police reform. However, there are far fewer County Jails than there are Police Departments (as a given county can have multiple police departments but its the Sheriff who oversees the county jail).

    Prison reform is (theoretically) easier to achieve in so far as you are working through a single agency that administers all prisons.

    Sorry that it’s taken multiple passes to get to a more correct representation of the facts (though I’m sure I’m forgetting about one State that does everything completely differently). I apologize for any confusion caused by previous posts. FWIW, it speaks to how complex the systems are.

    Aside: As a general rule Prisons contain between 50 and 60% of a State’s incarcerated individuals. Jails are usually somewhere between 25 and 35%. The remainder are typically a mix of people held in Federal Facilities, youth offenders (often housed in separate centers), and involuntary committals.

    To see how your State breaks out, visit the Prison Policy Initiative’s State Portal: https://www.prisonpolicy.org/profiles/

    3
  85. Kurtz says:

    Cops (the TV show) has been canceled. No RIP coming from me for that piece of shit excuse for entertainment. It should never have been born.

    3
  86. @DrDaveT:

    why would you think that about policing?

    Beacuse if you redefine their mission, they may not need the same level of fudning.

    But, I am open to various possibilities.

    3
  87. Kurtz says:

    Here are two articles on police funding:

    Figuring out how much money is spent for police by municipalities is complicated.

    The headline is misleading, but this NPR article lists some of the federal funding that goes to municipalities. According to the Urban Institute link, federal funding is negligible compared to state/local spending.

    One more thing, asset forfeiture laws and regulations vary wildly by state. Some places have low standards for seizure, some have strict requirements. Only one state, New Mexico, has banned it altogether.

    Many states have little to no oversight or restrictions on the use of seized funds and goods. The handful of states that place proceeds from seizure in a neutral budget have lower seizure totals. This suggests abuse by those places that allow police/DA offices to allocate seizures how they want.

    Also, apparently, when a citizen wins their claim to property due to inappropriate seizure, frequently their remuneration comes from the general budget, not from the law enforcement office that conducted the seizure.

    1
  88. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Because if you redefine their mission, they may not need the same level of funding.

    That’s a fair point. I would suspect that there is more than enough proper policing to be done to consume current resource levels, but you could be right. (I also don’t see that the things we are trying to eradicate necessarily consume a lot of resources, but I have no domain expertise there and could be wildly wrong.)

  89. Kurtz says:

    Okay, here’s some more crap on this policing nonsense. I wondered something, how much of our policing goes to enforcement of drug laws?

    Well, let’s ask the FBI

    estimated 10,554,985 arrests in 2017

    The highest number of arrests were for drug abuse violations (estimated at 1,632,921 arrests)

    driving under the influence (estimated at 990,678)

    (I only included DUI, because it’s pretty damn high. I imagine the vast majority of over-the-limit divers go uncaught, but who know?)

    Percentage-wise, that’s a shade under 15.5%.

    Let’s break this down more.

    14.6% of those drug-related arrests were for sale/manufacture, 85.4% for possession.

    Caveat: unless it’s there and I can’t find it, I’m not sure which category includes intent to sell/distribute/traffic. Then again, I’m not looking THAT hard right now. I suspect it’s included in possession, based on the wording of most charges that I have seen.

    Anyway, in case you’re wondering:

    After doing the math:

    Approx. 1,394,500 of the 10,554,985 total arrests were for drug possession. Approx. 13.2%

    Of all drug arrests, 40.4% (vast majority of which for possession) are for marijuana. Of course, some of those arrests involve multiple types of drugs, but I’m just too burned out on stats right now to keep looking.

    Just for the sake of comparison:

    518,617 arrests were for violent crime.

    Total clearance rate for violent crime: 45.6%

    So next time you see some asshole police union guy or Joe Arpaio or DJT get up and talk about the need to get violent criminals off the street, maybe we should demand answers for why they spend so much of their time arresting people for having drugs on them.

    4
  90. Mister Bluster says:

    COPS in RUSSIA 1989

    You have the right to confess before we beat you or after we beat you comrade.
    Just like in America!

  91. Modulo Myself says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Um, yeah every domestic violence incident I’ve ever been party to has been about neighbors calling the police repeatedly on constant domestic violence. Usually this happens with the neighbors knowing that the police can’t do shit. Basically, you weigh out whether this might be the time you need to call because it sounds super-bad. Then the police come and a bruised woman says nothing happened and they go home, sometimes telling the people who called there’s nothing they can do because the woman won’t file a complaint. Nobody tries to help because they’re not social workers. They can’t do anything. If you don’t file a complain, what can the police do?

    Honestly, that you think that domestic violence is typically being reported as a crime by a victim makes me wonder what you really know here. I have friends who work at non-profits centering on providing care to victims of domestic violence and nobody thinks differently.

  92. wr says:

    @Kurtz: “Cops (the TV show) has been canceled. No RIP coming from me for that piece of shit excuse for entertainment. It should never have been born.”

    I remember a decade ago a friend in the biz talking about a lawsuit between the creators and the financial details that got revealed. In a business where must shows are made at a deficit that then gets repaid through reruns, foreign sales, etc, every new episode of Cops was generating something like a quarter million dollars in profit… and then went on to be resold and resold and resold. One of the great cash cows in TV history. In case you were wondering why it stuck around so long…

  93. mattbernius says:

    @Kurtz:
    On the Federal Funding thing, its even a bit more complex, because some Federal funding for policing comes in at the state level and are pulled from non-policing grants, like highway funds:
    https://www.ncsl.org/research/fiscal-policy/state-highway-patrol-funding-and-the-state-highway-fund.aspx

    However, the overall point is that the Federal Government has very limited means of control for local policing. Heck, State Governments have limited control (I know of Sheriff’s departments that have opted out of state funding in order to avoid participating in oversight programs).

    Also, fun fact about the URC crime statistics you’re citing… participation in that program is completely voluntary — many police departments and sheriff’s offices don’t participate. And the data is not vetted in any serious way.

  94. mattbernius says:

    @Kurtz: One other thing, “clearance rates” are notoriously unscientific and inflated:

    https://www.npr.org/2015/03/30/395799413/how-many-crimes-do-your-police-clear-now-you-can-find-out

    Some police departments do things like “exceptional clearances” where they clear a case if the chief suspect dies – https://patch.com/illinois/chicago/chicago-police-dont-arrest-many-murderers-you-might-think

    Also, clearance rate != convictions (though given the high degree of plea bargining the rates not too far off). So we shouldn’t take clearances as “solving” a case.

  95. Kathy says:

    @mattbernius:

    If Congress can pass legislation limiting or eliminating qualified immunity, that would be the best contribution the federal government could make.

    3
  96. mattbernius says:

    @Kathy:
    100% correct. That and restricting/stopping military transfers.

    That said, Mcconnell won’t touch either and Trump would veto both. So this sadly falls on the courts (at least until the election) — not unlike the issue of Gay Marriage.

    But beyond that, there is very little else the Feds can do at the State and Local level. That said they can definitely address Federal Law Enforcement orgs.

    I also appreciate that at this point I’m a broken record on this is a *local* problem and can only really be adressed through local action. So I’ll do my best to restrict myself to only one to two screeds a day in the future. 🙂

    2
  97. Kurtz says:

    @mattbernius:

    Yes and yes. I chuckled to myself as I wrote those posts, because I knew any arguments made against it would just make the point even more stark–police receive a lot of funding to nab people for chickenshit charges. If anybody questions the allocation, just put fear into people.

    1
  98. Kurtz says:

    Oh, the UCR: I could see those stats scaling relatively well. The West is the aberration for weed arrests, obviously.

    Oh one other thing about clearance rates. I know from one of David Simon’s books that that rate can include crimes that occurred in a previous year, but were cleared in the year of the report. IDK if that is a practice in jurisdictions other than Bodymore/Ballmer/Baltimore.

    1
  99. mattbernius says:

    @Kurtz:

    I know from one of David Simon’s books that that rate can include crimes that occurred in a previous year, but were cleared in the year of the report. IDK if that is a practice in jurisdictions other than Bodymore/Ballmer/Baltimore.

    That’s the standard practice in most jurisdictions that report. And one of the many challenges with data analysis.

  100. Kurtz says:

    @mattbernius:

    I got that impression, so I didn’t want to treat it as a widespread practice.

    Related: thanks for the heads up on Camden’s effort. I’ll look into it more before I use it as an example.

  101. mattbernius says:

    I know that Congress is discussing creating a national registry of “bad cops.” I’m holding judgement until the proposed legislation is released, but my expectation is that there is very little Congress will be able to force mandatory compliance.

    BTW, that inability to make it mandatory is the reason why UCR data are so bad.

  102. Jc says:

    The Camden example is a good example of the idea put into the real world. But I feel the branding “defund” etc… the same as others have stated, its not good. Expect it to come up in this years election – When Biden is asked to explain it (it’s complicated) expect it not to go over well – Because people (in general) don’t have the patience to grasp it. I think people forget that reaction, without prior planning, usually gets poor results -Just ask the current administration on its “reaction” (because there was no planning) on the virus

  103. Tyrell says:

    @wr: Watch “Hogan’ Heroes”; funny, and always a good guest star.
    My favorite police programs
    “Barnaby Jones”
    “Magnum”
    “Hawaii 5 0”
    “Streets of San Francisco”
    “T. J. Hooker”
    “Highway Patrol”
    “SWAT” (Steve Forrest)
    “CHIPS”