Recently, Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender was interviewed regarding the Council’s latest political move towards abolition of the local police department. The interview left me underwhelmed. She gave no indication that she was familiar with the technical details of what abolishing the police could look like. I am not surprised by this though. The speed with which the City Council acted to signal willingness to change gave them no time to thoroughly think through the implications of, or a set of reasonable steps to take towards, abolishing the police.
The first point to consider is that, much to my dismay, nobody is talking about getting rid of all publicly funded law enforcement in Minneapolis. As it stands, there are a series of overlapping jurisdictions, of which the local police are only one. Park police, transit police, the County Sheriff’s department, State patrol, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and any number of federal law enforcement agencies will still operate as they always have. Many investigations, arrests, and incarcerations will be handled by essentially the same people handling them now.
Don’t worry Minneapolis City Council, we have you covered! Here are a list of steps you should be seriously considering:
Disarm all traffic patrol and restrict their interaction with the public to traffic citations and response to traffic calls.
It is plausible that traffic patrol is necessary to keep reckless drivers off the street. I remain unconvinced, but even if we assume this as a premise, there is still absolutely no reason these people need to be armed, or even to be cops. There are various towns and cities across the country which employ non-police parking enforcement, and even major cities such as NYC have special divisions of traffic “cops” that are functionally distinct from their beat and detective counterparts.
There is no evidence that going around looking for people breaking the law does any good. More likely, it is the mechanism by which the racial disparity in criminal justice is manifest. In the transition period, any publicly funded police functionality should be strictly limited to response, not to patrol.
Shut down all proactive non-violent crime investigations and end no-knock raids
The vast majority of no-knock raids are used to execute search warrants and result in the confiscation of zero contraband. Instead, they often lead to innocent people being killed or maimed. Getting rid of the police means that society will have to fundamentally rethink the way it approaches non-violent crime, and drug crime in particular. Thank goodness in 2020, that proposition is not as far fetched as it once was.
Form a first response team of mental health workers for mental health/domestic violence calls
This step may on the surface appear to be anti-libertarian. But much the way Dr. Joe Salerno suggested we meet the left halfway regarding the Fed, this is a step where in a case of alternatives, one is clearly the more libertarian choice. Mental health is a crisis in the US. one in ten calls to police concern mentally ill people who generally pose little harm to anybody. Society has thoroughly neglected these folks, dumping them in the laps of emergency rooms and county jails, neither of which are remotely equipped to deal with them. Coming up with an infrastructure, either public or non-governmental, is a moral obligation, regardless of the role you think the police ought to play
Disarm all investigators of non-violent crime reports
Once you’ve eliminated proactive non-violent crime policing, such infractions as vagrancy, public drunkenness, sexwork, loitering, and on and on remain as the type of non-violent crimes our interim police department will have to deal with. These types of calls do not require an armed response whatsoever. We also need to rethink the role incarceration, in county or city jail for instance, plays in our society. Maybe the answer is in fact, leaving people alone and simply not enforcing these “crimes”. If you can’t do that, however, perhaps not immediately escalating the situation with an armed officer is the best course of action.
Liquidate all tanks/submarines/LRAD/MRAP or other military grade equipment
Please don’t tell me “we a need militarized capacity in case of complete social breakdown”. We literally just watched their response to that. They have proven themselves to be completely powerless, and more often than not they actually increase the chances of social breakdown. I am not really interested in making a well thought-out, nuanced case as to why local police shouldn’t have submarines. These tools of war, designed to be used against enemy combatants, have no place in a municipality used by those sworn to protect the people, even would-be criminals.
Where Does That Leave our Interim Department?
That leaves armed police as first responders to violent crime calls. Private and community security will begin to develop a city wide infrastructure to create stability for businesses. Case law will develop to determine what is reasonable and what crosses the line when it comes to policing. Neighborhood watches and private police patrols (such as can be found in San Francisco and Atlanta) will organically form depending on the needs of the communities and property owners.
Otherwise, there is to schedule dates for turning over investigations of violent/non-violent crime calls to private enterprise and NGOs. In the meantime, acquaint yourself with the literature. Luckily, academics have been preparing for this for some many decades, and have developed sophisticated treatments for what a world without publicly funded police would look like.