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Slogans are always imperfect. I’m not sure “defund the police” quite captures what I would imagine. Maybe it would be more like “disband/rebuild police departments, dramatically shrink policing and build community.” Something like that. Solve problems rather than policing them.
But so long as we’re talking about what the “defund the police” movement could mean in practice – in addition to cutting budgets – here are some ideas.
First off, shrink the footprint of policing. That can include flat out decriminalizing some things. Marijuana should be taxed and regulated. Other drugs can be decriminalized.
Use harm reduction strategies. Hire social workers to encourage treatment. Open safe injection sites. If someone is a nuisance – homeless leaving needles on the street – provide a solution like a neighborhood box for needles. Completely disband drug task forces, end raids.
Same with sex work. Completely disband vice units. Decriminalize. Encourage safe, adult consensual activity indoors to minimize nuisances. Offer services for those who want them.
Create a non-police first-responder corps, like CAHOOTS in Eugene, Oregon. This is actually a TON of what police do: respond to “unwanted person” calls – people who are mentally ill/having a mentally health episodes. Almost all of these can be addressed better by social workers.
And when social workers go out on these calls, bring an iPad. Get people signed up for social services – sign them up for Medicare, SNAP, etc. Provide immediate psychiatric services and a referral for more.
Thefts could be reported to a bureaucratic agency that could provide victims with an insurance slip. They could be mapped looking for patterns and referred to investigators when appropriate. Retail theft by truly destitute people could be addressed through social services.
Turnstile jumping – another significant chunk of what police do in most cities – could be addressed by making public transit free or by subsidizing the fare for those who need it. Driving is already largely free. Why not public transit?
What about violent crime? Non-police violence interrupter types already exist in some cities, but these programs are always underfunded compared to police. Adults defuse beefs between groups of youth by having trusting relationships with them.
Even domestic violence calls could largely be addressed this way. Send a conflict resolution/mediator. Provide referrals to couples counseling. Also send someone who is expert in providing resources to people who want to exit relationships.
Remove police from schools. There are either zero or near-zero schools in America that need police officers stationed there.
Tolerate dissent. Encourage it to be less disruptive rather than more, but recognize that dissenters add a lot to our culture and that to some degree disruption is the point. Use a restorative justice model for the the rare examples of property destruction.
In other words SHRINK the footprint. We ask police to do far too much. Give them much less to do. So what of policing would remain?
Reconstitute police forces using an investigative model. Solve murders, shootings/agg assaults, rapes, and armed robbery. Currently American police are ABYSMAL at this. They solve only ~40% of these crimes. Make police good at solving them.
This would mean abandoning the warrior training, the weapons, the warrior costumes. It would mean hiring people with different kinds of skills – knowledge of science, human psychology, etc. Build human intelligence/trusting relationships with communities.
All of this is just not that complicated. All that’s required is some imagination. Would it be imperfect? Absolutely. But the current system is pretty darn imperfect.
In any event, when the press poo-poos and fearmongers and says “defund the police is just a slogan” or “defund the police would mean chaos” or “defund the police is too radical,” – as they of course will – just point them to this list.
Not that this list is some be-all end-all or some definitive list of anything. It’s just some back of the envelope stuff, influenced heavily by people like @avitale @Josmar_Trujillo. And if you’re interested in this stuff, go read Alex’s book.…
P.S. Almost forgot my favorite idea: assign community-based problem solvers to geographic spaces communities. They could be the point of contact for complaints, conflicts, concerns and could help to find creative solutions.
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