ForumTouchy Subjects ► Police Violence and Civil Unrest in American Cities
This last week has shown us both the potential of popular uprisings in the US and the authoritarian crackdown in response. From individual police officers shooting at bystanders on their own front porch and journalists live on the air, up to the President using a militarized police force equipped with tear gas and flashbangs to clear out a peaceful protest for his bible-waving photo op in front of a church he does not attend, and then threatening to use the US military against Americans, it's just been unreal.

Yeah, there are a few good apples and the kind-hearted human interest stories about cops marching in solidarity with protesters are out in full force, but honestly none of it begins to make up for the ways police have terrorized communities of color in this country.

People often ask, theoretically, if you were building a society from scratch, if it were Sim City 2020, wouldn't we need something like law enforcement? And yes, we probably would. But that doesn't mean our traditional police forces can be reformed in the image of a program we'd rather have, forsaking their history and all the baggage packed in with it. There are a lot of posts that black activists are spreading around the social internet right now with thoughtful alternatives to policing, and I suggest we heed their advice.

That said, has anyone been directly involved in protests, demonstrations, or activism during this time? What has your experience been? On the very first day of this, I saw posts online of Boogs and Threepers showing up and trying to instigate and escalate, as well as undercover cops doing the same. I've seen evidence of arson committed by white nationalists as a kind of false flag operation, and cops in uniform looting stores. Absolutely wild, right?
  
That is certainly very wild and wrong. Why are the police misbehaving like that?
  
I don't doubt different extremists are traveling miles to stick their oar in and have the confrontations they want anyway. But I think a lot of people are blowing it out of proportion to where now the bad stuff is really white nationalists don'tcha know? I'm an Occam's Razor kind of person, I assume most of the violence is from the people it looks like it's from.

I think I've seen three reports on the racial breakdown of US police killings, all with different numbers because they use different criteria. They all agree that black Americans have some degree of over-representation in police killings, but according to the Guardian's The Counted: People Killed by the Police in the US, black people aren't the most over-represented and white people aren't the least. So I'm not sure the black vs white binary is helpful.
  
Hi!

So I took a look at the numbers you posted. Based on the 1,094 killings from that article 276, or roughly 25%, were black people and 521, or 52% were white.

It is important to take these numbers in context though. I googled us population rate by race for 2016 and it shows that only 12.7% of the population was black while 72.4% was white.

If only 12.7% of people in the us are black, but make up 25% of the killings, it is reasonable to conclude that a disproportionate number of black people are killed by police violence.
  
Sure, as I said, they all agree that black Americans have some degree of over-representation in police killings. That one says they were 25% in 2016. This one says 24% in 2019. This one says 32% from 2009 - 2012.
  
US law enforcement needs reform, not revolution. Better background checks, better training, more accountability.
  
Heard things were wild in Phili but its been pretty calm around my area.
  
US law enforcement needs reform, not revolution. Better background checks, better training, more accountability.


It looks like the NAACP put out a list of demands. It seems more or less in line with what you're saying.

"We would like a ban on the use of knee-holds and chokeholds as an acceptable practice for police officers."

Better de-escalation training also needs to be expanded for police, Blue says. Proponents argue such training would help officers calm tense confrontations involving the public.

"We also want the state to open up records of officers that have had misconducts and disciplinary history," Blue said. The proposal was also aired recently Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

"We want recertification of credentials...(to be)...denied for police officers if determined their use of deadly force was unwarranted by federal guidelines."
  
US law enforcement needs reform, not revolution. Better background checks, better training, more accountability.
I don't think a complete restructuring would hurt law enforcement. There's no reason for our community policing and patrols to be done with military-grade weapons, often military-trained officers. There's no reason for officers to have extensive protection against citizen complaints and be immune from the results of their own use of force. There's no reason for local police departments to have personnel carriers that would be at home in a warzone. We have state militias for domestic emergencies which require this kind of equipment, and specialist police divisions for extreme (and rare) circumstances where this kind of training is needed.

Whether or not we could use a complete restructuring of our police, I agree that it's just not realistic right now. I don't think it's what the majority of protesters are demanding. And, unfortunately, I think that this means we're going to see more murders and more atrocities within the decade, because not enough will be done and not enough will be remembered.
  
I guess we need to define "complete restructuring". ๐Ÿ˜› All of those seem like pretty moderate reforms to me. I've heard every suggestion from a little more independent oversight to abolishing the police altogether, so I suppose it's all relative.
  
I think that quite a lot of our police force could be replaced with trained social workers whose goal is to assist at-risk individuals and communities. People who are trained to de-escalate and with an emphasis on building people up as opposed to simply locking them up.
  
I guess we need to define "complete restructuring". ๐Ÿ˜› All of those seem like pretty moderate reforms to me. I've heard every suggestion from a little more independent oversight to abolishing the police altogether, so I suppose it's all relative.
Sure. What I will unilaterally agree with is that a complete removal of police forces is not going to make anybody safer, least of all black people. If we think closed-minded, racist, quick-to-shoot, armed white folks are killing black folks fast now, imagine what happens without police. There's a lot of places in this country that might start down the path to genocide faster than we'd like to think.
  
Sure. What I will unilaterally agree with is that a complete removal of police forces is not going to make anybody safer, least of all black people. If we think closed-minded, racist, quick-to-shoot, armed white folks are killing black folks fast now, imagine what happens without police. There's a lot of places in this country that might start down the path to genocide faster than we'd like to think.


I agree. Obviously without some sort of a law enforcement body, laws would have no effect. But ever since these protests started, we've been shining a light on the entire police system and their wrongdoings. Not only do we have rioters getting off with maybe a light slap on the wrist, we have peaceful protesters getting tackled, handcuffed, gassed, and/or pepper sprayed. The acronym ACAB, contrary to popular belief, does not mean "All Cops Are Bad". It means "All Cops Are Bastards". Now, the cops themselves might not be, but they are all part of a corrupt and bastardized system that has gotten away with this kind of stuff for far too long. It almost seems as if violence is necessary now to warrant any sort of change.
  
Minneapolis City Council members were talking last night about disbanding the MPD and starting from scratch with a new organization with a new mandate and a modern design. If they are successful, I suspect other cities will follow suit, but some won't. And then we'll have an America where you have to keep in mind if you're visiting a city with traditional police or not. But maybe best practices from each city will influence one another over time.
  
Better to live in a society where you have to be aware if you're moving into a police brutality zone than to live in a society where you're always living in a police brutality zone.
  
That is sadly true. What a time to be alive.
  
Not only a time, but a place as well. Sometimes I'm not the proudest to be an American.
  
So, most countries and cities already have neighbourhoods and areas you don't want to be relative to anywhere else. Having been a foreigner in the states (luckily a white one) there were already areas where I masked my accent and minimised interactions with police and locals.

As for police brutality: Most countries have systemic bias, usually a cycle of policing that boils down to "brown area is poor, therefore has crime, therefore there are more police, therefore there is systemic bias towards arresting brown people, therefore brown people don't trust police etc etc." Those kinds of issues are contentious and society-wide, addressing those problems usually means addressing poverty and introducing more successful welfare and sensitivity into police methods. Where America is different is the objective lethality of police intervention.

What staggers me is that the whole American system seems geared toward tougher policing: elected judges have an active incentive to be tough since the nuance of the criminal justice system cannot be explained in a campaign ad; your police training is usually in the vicinity of 880hrs (in the case of Minnesota, where this shit kicked off) which is 22 weeks. Most other countries (particularly the safest ones) have police training times on the scale of years; your police are massively decentralised which lowers accountability and consistency of training and protocol; and your government seems hell bent on simply flogging off defunct military equipment onto police forces.

It's my opinion that an organisation with a resource will tend to use that resource: if you give police welfare officers to handle the welfare checks/aftercare you get better aftercare as opposed to giving them SWAT teams and tanks, which incentivises the use of unnecessary force.

My final point is your cops have no accountability: stand your ground laws were not a successful defence against police, a policewoman who was guilty of home invasion was neither discharged nor charged with a crime, and a lot of these deaths (fleeing perps, bizarre restraint tactics and those cops who made a guy crawl towards them before shooting him anyway while he begged for his life) are war crimes: If a soldier did to Afghani combatants what US police do to their own citizens they would be pulled up to the Hague before you could say "Abu Ghraib."
  
So Are Prisons Obsolete by Angela Davis and The New Jim Crowe by Michelle Alexander are both very good sources on the topic of both the justice system and the reform vs abolition topic, if anyone has the time. Honestly, the Angela Davis is linked there for free, and while it's on prison rather than the police, they are two leaves on the same branch and very closely related. They also both show how racial this topic always has been.

In short, reform doesn't work. The black lives matter movement has gone on for years, and the movement against police brutality on black people has gone on for decades. There is always a response for reform and it NEVER works. Think about just recently. Sensitivity training, body cams, review boards. None of that has stopped police murder and police brutality. A lot of it gets forgotten over time and things just go back to how they were.

As for what the replacement to cops should be: One thing that maybe I missed, but I haven't seen discussed yet is how much money goes into the cops and "defense". We can't provide protective equipment for doctors, but we can provide riot gear and tear gas for cops and military to detain people en masse. I don't have the statistics on me on how much the cops get paid exactly, but we can reallocate the funds for more appropriate interventions. Mental health workers by comparison are usually underfunded and social workers can provide a lot of support for those having a mental health crisis, rather than police. A domestic violence victim doesn't need a cop escalating the situation, they need a safe haven, legal resources. A reallocation of funds would also mean giving more to the communities most affected by racism. If we focus on underlying social structures rather than cramming people into overcrowded prisons, there may not be so much crime in the first place (yes I'm loosely citing Lisa Simpson, but it's true). To refer to Michelle Alexander, in the 70's prisons were thought to be obsolete. However, since the War on Drugs, there are millions of people in prison, as compared to hundreds of thousands. That is too high to account for an increase in violence or an increase in population size. Even someone on Nixon's team admitted that the War on Drugs was intentionally targeting black people. And yet, many more black people are getting arrested on drug charges today, despite black and white people doing drugs at about the same rate. I guess the main thing I'm saying here is that a lot of "crimes" are non-violent. Going back to earlier, crimes driven by a lack of resources, such as theft, can be addressed by giving the impoverished more resources.

Yes, there are still people who would commit crimes. I'm not so idealistic that I think there exists a world without criminals. However, I do agree that some sort of reset, like Minneapolis City Council members are discussing, might work. However. It absolutely cannot be the same people. Police should be members of the community. Crime should be something a local community works on together. Google "restorative justice". It is theoretical at the moment, but the idea is that justice is served on agreed terms between the perpetrator, the victim, and the LOCAL community. There really is no reason cops should be so connected, so above the law, and so powerful.
  
I'm actually certified in restorative practices and would possibly even consider a career change to become a mediator for a restorative justice initiative that was replacing traditional police.
  
Think about just recently. Sensitivity training, body cams, review boards. None of that has stopped police murder and police brutality. A lot of it gets forgotten over time and things just go back to how they were.
I'm neither agreeing nor disagreeing, but you should show your work. Where have there recently been notable cases of police murder where there are recent reforms, review boards, police body cams and/or improved sensitivity/de-escalation training?

We can't provide protective equipment for doctors, but we can provide riot gear and tear gas for cops and military to detain people en masse.
Not buying military-grade equipment for police forces is a far cry away from having no police at all.

I don't have the statistics on me on how much the cops get paid exactly
Not much, $18-25/hour on average.

But we can reallocate the funds for more appropriate interventions.
What is a more appropriate intervention for an armed home invasion than police?

Mental health workers by comparison are usually underfunded and social workers can provide a lot of support for those having a mental health crisis,
A lot of crimes are not performed by people experiencing mental health crisis. A lot of crimes are performed by organized crime. Or by hate groups. The thing with mental health workers is they are preventative, and you can't prevent everything. Once somebody is shooting up a school, or bombing a marathon, or kidnapping children, you're past the point where a mental health worker will fix the issue.

A domestic violence victim doesn't need a cop escalating the situation
Okay, but what about a mass shooting victim? Police as they currently exist do not best respond to non-emergency situations, but social workers do not best respond to cases of immediate public endangerment.

A reallocation of funds would also mean giving more to the communities most affected by racism.
Yes, absolutely, but reallocating all funds off policing is going to make currently stable communities feel much less safe, much more likely to see unknown people as threats, much more likely to engage in vigilante or "preventative" justice of their own. That ultimately means more black folks getting lynched in broad daylight, and more white folks excusing it. You don't need police for there to be racial killings, as we've seen all too often.

If we focus on underlying social structures rather than cramming people into overcrowded prisons, there may not be so much crime in the first place
But there would still be crime. Without police, how would we respond to crime?

And yet, many more black people are getting arrested on drug charges today, despite black and white people doing drugs at about the same rate.
Portugal decriminalized drugs two decades ago. They still need police.

I guess the main thing I'm saying here is that a lot of "crimes" are non-violent.
But there are also a lot of crimes that are violent. That's like playing Russian roulette because "there's a lot of chambers that are empty."

Some sort of reset, like Minneapolis City Council members are discussing, might work.
I think this would be a type of reform, as Hydrogen and I discussed briefly earlier. It could be a fairly radical reform, but there would still be cops.

However. It absolutely cannot be the same people.
I think although every police force in the country has to improve, there are lots of places that score higher marks than other places. Saying every police officer in the entire nation of the United States should be fired is an oversimplification. Even if you fire every cop, why would we think we wouldn't then be hiring people with the same problems?

Crime should be something a local community works on together.
Crime isn't always from the local community.

Google "restorative justice". It is theoretical at the moment, but the idea is that justice is served on agreed terms between the perpetrator, the victim, and the LOCAL community.
Restorative justice isn't going to work for money laundering. Is restorative justice the right approach for a serial killer? How do you engage in restorative justice in a murder-suicide? You need people in society whose job it is to intervene in emergencies.

However, it makes sense to specialize those people. We don't send cops to put out fires, and we don't send firefighters to treat heart-attack patients. We should have more people, whether they're called police or something else, who are effectively trained and experienced for de-escalation, mental health and civic responses. Obviously police as they exist right now are not that.

There really is no reason cops should be so connected, so above the law, and so powerful.
Absolutely agreed on this point.
  
Where have there recently been notable cases of police murder where there are recent reforms, review boards, police body cams and/or improved sensitivity/de-escalation training?


The NYT of all places had an article a while back that showed that body cams don't make much difference: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/20/us/police-body-camera-study.html
  
Even if body cams don't help with prevention, they should help with identifying and punishing offenders - and hopefully replacing them with someone else.
  
If identifying and punishing the involved officers doesn't change the behavior of cops, then clearly that's not effective either.
  
But we haven't really been punishing offending cops. That's kind of a big reason why people are protesting.
  
Forum > Touchy Subjects > Police Violence and Civil Unrest in American Cities