What Might Post-Police Policing Look Like?

The counter-reaction to “defund the police” movements has been distressingly predictable: the assumption is that, without police, current policing practices would stop functioning and therefore it’s a bad idea. Basically, it’s a declaration that the status quo is the only way that can ever possibly work, and it ignores the fact that there was a time where civilizations did exist without policing as it is done, today.

While the police and their supporters continue to promote practices that would be immediately familiar in the 17th century, we are surrounded by “internet age” innovations (not all of which are great) including technologies that can be used to produce “flash mobs” and magically summon cars to take people who can afford it from place to place in solitude and relative comfort. What if the current structure of policing was blown apart and reconstructed for the internet, GPS, high surveillance age? Because of the way we currently do policing, we’re trapped in this circular reasoning that “it works” (for some) so “don’t break it.” But current events have showed that it doesn’t work, is heinously expensive, rewards the wrong parts of the local economy, and – oh, yeah – it’s racist and murderous.

French Police in the Napoleonic era shake down a prostitute

Most jurisdictions in the US spend up to 1/2 of their budget on policing. By any terms, that’s ridiculous. For one thing, it conceals the underlying tradeoffs that are being made by society, for example: mental hospitals were largely shut down under Reagan in the 80’s, and police took over as first responders for people who are having mental problems or drug problems. That’s a recipe for disaster, but the US cheerfully inflicted it on itself, and patted itself on the back for “getting tough on crime.” The underlying issue is a matter of race and class consciousness and how tax dollars are allocated. I believe that it’s largely meaningless to talk about police reform without taking the whole problem in a broader context of social services and how they are provided. I will note: social services are something I assume a government is supposed to provide; I agree with Rousseau that that’s what government is and does unless it’s a failed and illegitimate state. When you look at today’s militarized mall ninjas, I think it’s hard not to see the US as a failed state and its legitimacy is in doubt when up-armed cops deliver beatdowns to peaceful protesters.

I obviously have not had time to think through a complete proposal but I thought I’d bounce a few ideas off of you.

First and foremost, technology does change things. Other than new guns, cars, and criminal records databases, modern police are straight out of the 18th century, but they have cool sunglasses. What are some of the changes that we can exploit to build new police systems?

  • Ubiquitous telecommunications are available; police and citizens can communicate using standardized protocols in real-time. The old “standardized protocol” was, basically, shouting for help – nowadays carried over voice to 911.
  • Mobility is much better; police and citizens can move around fairly quickly even in crowded urban areas.
  • Identity is persistent; it is no longer strictly necessary to catch someone in the act before they vanish into a crowd. Why not tag them, record them, and pick them up later if it’s necessary? It is weird to me that policing is still built around a model of “hot pursuit” to “catch someone in the act” but you can drive past a toll booth on a highway and get a bill in the mail a month later. There are entire categories of crimes that can be handled “offline” and do not need to be dealt with in real-time.
  • You can’t outrun a radio.
  • Criminology statistics indicate that what old school detectives know: it’s usually the husband that did it, or a boyfriend, or someone the victim knew. If that doesn’t hold, then follow the money. This is not always true but it’s true often enough to make a big difference. Let me note something: this completely guts the “broken windows” theory of policing promoted by James Q. Wilson and Malcolm Gladwell – if someone jumps the turnstile at the subway to avoid paying a fare it does not mean that they are going to turn into a hardened criminal and start dealing drugs but it probably means they can’t afford the subway fare.
  • Most police/civilian encounters are not violent. The implication of that is that police do not need to be carrying military weapons. Combine that with increased mobility and “you can’t outrun a radio” and it’s reasonable to question whether police need to be armed at all.
  • The “war on drugs” is an example of a failed social policy, like the Volstead Act, which was used to create a permanent under-class for purposes of social control. Its effect on crime was to increase it and raise the stakes to the point where violence was profitable. Then, you need armed G-men to deal with the violent profiteers, which means the profiteers obtain machine guns. This pattern has played itself out enough that we ought to be smarter by now.
  • Cameras are everywhere. The relationship between police and cameras has lately become unpleasant for the police; they keep getting caught on camera doing nasty things. Do, by all means, blame the camera. Joking aside, police frequently circumvent “cop cams” which amounts to shredding evidence and ought to be treated as evidence of ill intent.

Let’s look at that last point: right now, it’s probably no longer worth worrying about cop cams. The cops had their chance with that one, and blew it – preferring to manipulate the evidence or refusing to carry them. Now, every civilian who sees a cop should be recording everything they do and uploading it to the internet. There are scads of CCTV surveillance cameras, too, such as the ones in Baltimore that failed during the crucial 60 seconds when Baltimore police broke Freddie Gray’s neck – those ought to be under civilian control not under control of the city.

Take all the points above and knead them into a smooth, elastic dough, and you get a new view of policing that looks like:

  • Community ‘agents’ who are local residents that are empowered to engage with people in a particular neighborhood. They don’t carry a gun, but they carry a badge and a radio. They are trained in de-confliction, first aid, recognition of drug overdoses, psychological problems, and alcohol overdose. They are trained to explain consent to drunken fratboys, to tell someone who is shoplifting “put that back!” and to vector members of a community in need, where and how to get assistance. The community agent’s main mottos are: “it’s all on camera”, “you can take this to a higher authority if you want to, and here is the procedure”, “you can’t outrun a radio”, and “I can call for help if you’d prefer.”
  • CCTV cameras produced in the future need a protocol whereby a blanket request can be made to sequester camera data from within a geofence. Privately or local government-operated CCTVs must support this open evidence-collection standard. There would similarly be a feature in smart phones that geofences an area so that a person who possibly recorded a crime would be notified that they may have important information on their phone and please don’t delete it. This would be a “push” not a “pull” – i.e.: the municipality would not get a list of potential witnesses to intimidate, but potential witnesses might get a blanket notice that they may be in possession of important data. David Brin, the science fiction novelist, wrote a bit about a future in which an ageing population turns their selves into mobile “crime cams” – this is not quite the same thing, but close. The idea is that targeted surveillance combined with “you can’t outrun a radio” means “hot pursuit” would seldom be necessary.
  • Since a tremendous amount of crime is traffic offenses (and this is legitimate: drunk driving is a problem) traffic offenses would be mostly handled asynchronously without a mechanism for chasing down offenders in real time. How would this work? You see someone weaving around the road, and you log a call through the policing app, which goes to a local call center where a dispatcher either calls for someone to follow that vehicle at a safe, leisurely pace, or in some cases the perpetrator gets a ticket and a fine in the mail. Note: this is already in place in a way in some jurisdictions; it’s just set up to farm revenue. Here’s the crazy piece of all this: it appears that people’s cost/benefit analysis gets severely adjusted if they feel that they will get caught and will have to deal with the consequences of their actions. That’s actually one of the ideas behind the “broken windows” model of policing! If you know you’re not likely to get away with something, you won’t do it unless you’re rich and powerful enough to exempt yourself.
  • The war on drugs: same thing. Handle it asynchronously and do not police it in a way that encourages violence. Mostly, de-criminalize non-violent offenses top to bottom. There should be three categories of crimes: minor offenses justifying a fine or community service, asynchronous offenses that can be handled in the fullness of time, emergencies.
  • Emergencies will still occur. Community agents would be able to call for backup if someone gets violent or is being dangerous and cannot be handled. Mostly, a community agent’s job in an emergency would be first response (first aid, diagnosis, etc) but if someone gets threatening, they’d break contact and call for help of the appropriate type. That doesn’t mean the SWAT team shows up, or an A-10 flies in with cluster munitions, it means a gradually escalating response where more people begin showing up to help deal with the emergency. So, if some drunk threatens to punch a community agent, the community agent would hit a backup call that would flag in more local community agents and, if the situation continues to escalate then a patrol car with a few uniformed officers with a more structured response. I still don’t mean that cops come boiling in in squad cars with sirens, but there might be a car with flashing lights and a couple guys in uniforms and the whole thing would be on camera. The guys in uniforms wouldn’t be carrying military weapons but they might have a stick and a few years of training in aikido. By the way, if you are in Japan and are talking to a cop and they look kind of tough and burly, it is a fair bet that you’re talking to one of the majority of Japanese cops who are members of their police department’s kendo team, or an aikido instructor. No shit. It is a matter of pride (for them) that the Japanese police are usually the top kendo players in the country, and they are not swaggering masses of badass like American cops, but if you throw a punch at a kendo godan (5th degree black belt) it probably won’t land where you think it will. I have sparred with 3rd degree black belts in aikido and usually attacking one of those guys means you’re going to wind up tired out while you get a lecture about the non-utility of sloppy violence.
  • This should all be statistics-driven. If there is a jurisdiction where there are drunken brawls at bars, that should appear in the statistics and maybe that district will have more responders in uniform, ready to help the community agents defuse drunken brawls. My prediction is that the statistics on most jurisdictions will form a pyramid:

  • “Crisis management” may mean calling on some tactical team that exists, somewhere. Or, it may mean calling on someone with a back-hoe to try to deal with some flooding. I do believe it’s unavoidable that police may need to call in people with guns, sometimes – while I am writing this, I am remembering the DC area sniper incidents – that’s an example of a situation that cannot be handled safely by community policing or intermediate police response. But, I will note that the final capture of the snipers was a result of a local person making a phone call, and local responders organizing quickly to coalesce around the sniper’s location and arrest them peacefully.
  • Community agents would not have the power to arrest anyone, but they would have the power to recommend someone be arrested and a situation escalated further. In other words a community agent might tell Drunk Fratboy Bob, “Go home and sleep it off; I’m going to log this as a recommendation that you be arrested and brought before the magistrate, but we don’t need to deal with that now. Keep cool, nurse your hangover, and be apologetic and respectful and maybe this won’t be too hard on you. Meanwhile, I’m going home; I’ve logged this situation and you really should try to do anything to keep it from getting worse. I’ve called you a taxi, it’s on us.” Note that, in that situation, the community agent probably would have summoned backup, which means a couple other community agents are sauntering toward the situation and any bystanders who are recording the incident on their smartphones are getting a notice that their footage may be valuable data they might want to save.
  • I forget who said it first, but I believe “you can’t outrun a radio” may be the motto of the community agents.
  • The small number of first responders that are authorized to employ violence would be focused on that, and trained to do it well. I’m going to be a bit nasty: I used to do a lot of shooting and was fairly good at it. At the range where I used to shoot in Linganore, MD, there was a state police barracks nearby and sometimes the cops would have a “tactical team” setup with a rifle. And, they were some of the worst shots I have ever seen. I saw cops wearing “tactical team” jackets with a McMillan’d Remmy Model 70 .308 and they couldn’t fire a 10″ group at 100 yards. That’s the distance where my 5-round groups were .35″ If the state is going to have people authorized to employ violence, I do not want them to be more capable I want them to be more sure of themselves. The reason a cop pulls a 9mm and fires 20 shots at a civilian is because they’re scared (they even say so, themselves in their defense) and they’re resorting to overpowering force because they are not competent enough to resort to graduated force. That’s why the Japanese kendo master cop doesn’t reach for a gun – they know they can handle a drunken tourist with courtesy, or if that fails, they can dodge drunken fists for a while and then – if strictly necessary – foot-sweep the drunk and let them spend some time meditating on concrete. American cops reach for their guns because a) they have them and b) they aren’t good at handling scary situations. My old friend Sazz [stderr] was pretty good at handling scary situations; I think if a drunk had threatened him, Sazz – broken neck and all – would have looked at them and said, “Please, don’t. I’ve seen scarier things than you.” Combat vets call it “seeing the elephant” and some of them are pretty unflappable. I am a gigantic non-fan of militarizing police or hiring ex-military as police, but that top tier of first responders might be made of a mix of veterans and martial arts instructors – but, above all, people who understand how violence is employed gradually and not simply splashed all over a situation.
  • When I was in Iceland for a week in the mid 90’s, since I was a security guy, I wound up meeting and hanging out with Iceland’s security people. In Iceland, at that time, they did not have a SWAT team: they had the ski patrol. The ski patrol mostly did stuff like rescue kayakers who got stuck somewhere dangerous, or hikers who broke an ankle on a glacier, or whatever. But – at the time I could imagine it – if one of those guys rumbled, “please sit down and shut up.” I wouldn’t even ask “where?” Iceland’s policing model, at that time, was similar to what I’m talking about, here, except without the camera/telecommunications infrastructure. If you started a bar fight, the ski patrol was going to show up eventually and they would cool it down. That meant that the owner of the bar could be fairly confident that things would be handled, so there was no need to have a shotgun under the bar. One of the reasons that violence cascades quickly in the US is because the cops are not competent and reach for overwhelming force and – because the civilians are not confident in the cops’ ability – they feel the need to prepare for violence, themselves.
  • By the way, the Icelanders also had a version of “you can’t outrun a radio.” When I was talking to one of the ski patrol guys he said “We did have a murder last year. It was very unfortunate but also exciting because we had a big man-hunt.” I asked what happened and he said, “well, we close the airport departures area, and monitor the harbor and ask them to turn themselves in politely.”
  • American cities spend absurd amounts on police, and insurance for police, and settlements for police abuse. Restructuring policing around community agents and a tiered response would allow for a lot more community agents instead of expensive gun-carrying guys in squad cars. The way policing is done now, a cop in a car, is the generic unit of policing; that’s pretty much what you get. In my imagined restructuring of the police, the dispatching system would have a computerized workflow that made recommendations to the dispatcher, who had more options than just sending a squad car. US police have something primitive like that, when you call 911 they can get you a tow truck or an ambulance or send a squad car. In a restructured system the dispatcher might have the option to send a mental health professional, or an animal rescue expert for the cat that’s stuck in the tree. There is no sense sending an expensive armed cop to get a cat out of a tree, no matter how good it looks in public relations photos. In other words, I imagine that the dispatch system would be a workflow management system with integrated records keeping and digital asset management, frontending a resource allocation and capabilities matching system. You get the response that you need, where you need it, when you need it – resources are not expended having cops driving around in squad cars. Resources are expended on having lots of trained community agents, and then a backend cloud of service-provider experts. Consider this: when I hit a deer with my Tundra 2 years ago (it was messy, I was going 70+ and the deer jumped right in front of me) I called 911 and they called a civilian business that specializes in towing, and gave them my location information from my phone, and a wrecker truck showed up. I paid for the wrecker’s service and I think that’s appropriate. Structurally, what are we looking at? The state police, sensibly, outsource wrecker service and determine implicitly who is paying for what. The wrecker did not need military weaponry, they needed a tow truck and a toolbox and a crowbar. The resource allocation and capabilities matching were there – they were just not coordinated sensibly. Another way of looking at that point is that it’s suspicious that US cops allocate away a lot of the capabilities except for the monopoly they retain on violence. It’s as if they really like beating the shit out of people, sometimes, or something, isn’t it?
  • The community agent concept would allow a complete restructuring of policing based on expense. There would be a few expensive parts of the agency – IT (records management) and communications infrastructure, emergency responders of various sorts – but the agency would be able to decide what they do in-house and what they hand off to another capability. Perhaps, if they get a “cat in a tree” call they might tell the distraught ailurophile, “we have called a cat expert and they’re on their way, their cell phone number and location is on your police smartphone app.” And the cat expert can handle their own billing. But a jurisdiction that has a lot of cats in many trees might decide it needs to offer its own de-treeing service and integrate an expert team into its capability map.

  • Back in 2000, when I wrote my book on homeland security, I spent a lot of time researching how policing and emergency response is done in the non-computer world. Maybe there has been some improvement, but I doubt it. On 9/11 the cell network in New York crashed because it was overloaded, and when it crashed, it turned out that a lot of emergency responders were relying on cell phones because the police had incompatible radio procedures and equipment from the fire department, etc. I’m not going to say “someone should hire Elon Musk to fix that” but there is a business opportunity, here. Why is this even a problem? It’s simple: each department specs their own gear and manages their own budget. That is utterly stupid. Sinfully stupid. It’s so bad that the DHS and FBI has spent gigantic amounts of money building “fusion centers” that are basically data aggregators that re-compatibilize the incompatible local communications – except it’s mostly one way. Defunding the cops and replacing their communications systems entirely would be a gigantic cost savings and would make everything more efficient and transparent. The reason the current system has been allowed to propagate is empire-building by local officials and police agencies. They don’t like being told what to do, but they have no problem telling other people what to do.
  • Lots of community agents on the ground means that jurisdictions that have more problems need more community agents, not Bill Clinton-esque “100,000 new police on the ground.” 500,000 community agents would cost much, much less. I’m seeing being a community agent as a sort of a part-time job: you get trained and certified, have to keep up to date with procedures and information about current events, and you get a badge and maybe a hat (I like hats!) (buy your own sunglasses) and you log in to the policing app and you’re getting paid by the hour. Mostly that means hanging around doing what you’ve already been doing but you might get a ping that you need to go supervise a cat being removed from a tree, or join 15 other community agents who are running to defuse a bar fight, but you clock in and clock out and your actions are logged and tracked and, sort of like an Uber driver, you’re able to create a log of the event, any outcome, recommendations, actions taken, etc. Events where multiple community agents are involved, the system on the back-end would expect to see the same reports on the problem’s resolution or it might get flagged for further investigation. One of the best parts of this idea is that it would inject money back into the very community that is being managed. The community agent isn’t some foreign fighter from the suburbs, they’re your neighbor – someone you know – and someone who knows you; they know if you’re a trouble-maker or whether you’re in need of broader social support, or have mental problems or are going through a hard time. If being a community agent paid by the hour, then a jurisdiction could sign up lots of them and do demand-based service, again like Uber does. Picture this: community agents in a geofence all get a broadcast that there’s a peaceful protest planned on such a date and such a location, and additional “feet on the ground” would be appreciated; come help hand out water and be a presence and you get a demand bonus of 10% extra per hour. Does that sound ridiculous? Not to me! What sounds ridiculous is the cops who get paid overtime and a half to stand around with guns at a parade. What idiotic culture brings guns to a holiday parade? [Sure, if its the Irish marching to provoke catholics versus protestants, maybe it’d be a good idea to have a response team in the area in case the community agents see a problem and flag that they need help. My vision of “riot control” is to bring a large number of people who are acting in unison and who are the rioters’ friends and neighbors.]

That’s probably enough, right there, because it illustrates the big problem with government: it’s all connected. You can’t really reconstruct the police without reconstructing how accident victims get taken to emergency rooms and how they are managed and tracked (because it may require investigation). So, to reinvent the police, you need to reinvent local government and to reinvent local government you need to reinvent the national government. It’s obvious to anyone except a republican senator that the system is a mess, right now, because governments at all levels have reacted tactically by instituting “reforms” aimed at short-term electoral goals. You cannot really re-work how policing is done without addressing the Reagan-era’s closure of mental hospitals, and the creation of a large number of homeless people without mental health-care, who became a problem for the police. Whenever a cop shoots a person with mental illness, should we entirely blame the cop, or blame Ronald Reagan, or the “let us hate and be cruel to the poor” policy of both wings of the federal government? Nancy Pelosi is also a “deficit hawk” which is code for “she hasn’t met a poor person in half of her life because she didn’t get rich in order to have to hang around poor people.” Having the government provide medical care as a service would further reduce the need for police to be involved in medical interventions which happen in a possibly criminal context. It is a tough issue: a cop is expected to handle a shooting victim while worrying about becoming a target, and having to potentially deal with the shooter, too. Police have huge complex problems to deal with, which is why I think policing needs to be re-factored, tiered and prioritized, with factored capabilities matched to situations – instead of sending a car with 2 cops, 2 shotguns, 2 9mms, and a laptop, they should have someone at the scene diagnosing and triaging the problem with a smartphone and a dispatching app.

Part of the reason why policing in the US has become so dangerous to its citizens is because we have allowed it to be done horribly incompetently. But, for 1/3 of your local budget, what do you want?

This is probably an over-generalization, so I didn’t make it in the main article, but it appears to me that “police reform” efforts have typically centered around giving the police more money for training, which is why the unions go along with it. Anything that threatens their budget is treated like a lethal plague. That’s part of why I like the idea of community agents, who get paid for their service but don’t come with a gigantic infrastructure cost for expensive cars and guns and donuts and whatnot. If they want a big hat, they can buy it on their own.

I know teachers who have had to pay for class/lab materials out of their own pockets. Yet the police manage to suck down 20-30% of a municipal budget and they buy military gear so they can terrorize their customers. That is so goddamn backwards that words fail me. If cops want to buy military gear, then by all means put in place a “BYOG” (bring your own gun) program and they can have a “Go Fund Me” for sniper rifles and burp guns – in the mean time, fund the fucking schools. Americans sit around wringing their hands asking “why are we such a bunch of ignorant, violent chucklefucks?!” Well, there’s your answer.

Iceland ski patrol story: One of the ski patrol guys I talked to had served security for the Reagan/Gorbachev meetings outside of Reykjavik. He had a picture he showed me of himself and some of his ski patrol buddies with the Russian and US Secret Service security team(s). You’ve got to picture this: A stereotypical Secret Service guy in a dark suit and tie with shined shoes, standing next to a huge Russian who looked like he could squeeze juice out of rocks with his bare hands, and flanking them were two even bigger icelanders who looked like Thor’s big brothers, wearing these beautiful icelandic wool sweaters that fit them like spandex. The icelanders had huge grins, the others not so much.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Most jurisdictions in the US spend up to 1/2 of their budget on policing.

    Primarily by putting schools (& often other major functions) on separate budgets.

  2. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#1:
    Primarily by putting schools (& often other major functions) on separate budgets.

    It’s really obscure; some schools pay police for security. Some jurisdictions pay police overtime/extra for event security. Plus police collect whatever they can pillage from the community in terms of fines and assets seized. Anyhow: police are expensive and dangerous.

  3. says

    The only thought that springs to mind is, regardless of the apparent merits of the suggestion, you could replace most police departments with a monkey wielding a chainsaw and public safety would improve.

  4. says

    Aikido is elegant and efficient.

    It’s an expensive set of skills to acquire; you need to invest years of intense effort to be able to use it effectively. On the other hand, it’s great discipline, mentally, physically, and morally. One can become dangerous with a hand gun in 24 hours, whereas I’d say a weaponless martial art might take 5-6 years.

    Most martial arts embed some notion that a master should not abuse their skills. In Europe, fencing coaches basically never fought duels (though it might have something to do with a lack of idiots that challenged them) and it was the same story in Japan. You would not expect to hear about an 5th dan Aikido instructor starting a bar-fight, though there are plenty of stories of aikidoka ending and defusing fights. [Kobayashi’s brilliant and weird film Sword of Doom explores what happens when a sword master becomes a duellist and encounters a sword instructor played by the inimitable Toshiro Mifune…]

    Personally, I think aikido is “too expensive” in terms of time-investment to pursue it for practical reasons, though I believe it is an intensely beautiful martial art. What we mostly see from the outside is the locks and throws, but there’s much more going on than that – there is a profound strategic sensibility as well; when one is subjected to an aikido hold, you quickly discover that the aikidoka’s body is arranged so that their hold depends on their weight and is backed by strong muscle groups, opposing your weight and weak muscle groups. So, it may look like the guy’s just grabbing someone’s arm but what they are really doing is positioning themselves so they can lean all their weight on your rotator cuff and they have all the muscles in their stomach and arms in play, where as you have: your rotator cuff. Suddenly, you realize that your rotator cuff is really not that strong and in fact it’s remarkably fragile and it’s time to stop struggling.

    Part of how we got here is cops killing civilians using strangle-holds. They don’t just pick that up from movies, they are trained to do that. In other words, rather than learning techniques like aikido, judo, or jiu-jitsu, they are being taught brutal techniques designed to kill or compel submission. Cops practice that stuff when they could be practicing other, more beautiful, things.

    One more thing: you probably noticed that my respect for high level kendo practitioners is high. I spent 4 years studying that, and was too old at the time and barely dipped my toe into it. But, if you want to see something amazing, look up some of the high level kendo matches on youtube. Holy shit. I have been meaning to do a post about some things involving high level kendo and the speed of cognition, but these guys are reacting at speeds slightly higher than Bruce Lee at his best (because Lee was dealing with a larger strategic domain than kendo, which is deliberately focused on a narrow attack/defense surface) Anyhow, I have been meaning to do a post about all of this, but in the meantime, Andy at The Kendo Show does a wonderful job (he’s a 6th dan black belt) of decompiling the action of high level matches. Eiga Naoki sensei is one of the best:
    Watch some of that and ask yourself how fast your reactions are.

    Eiga sensei is a member of the Hokkaido municipal police.

  5. brucegee1962 says

    A thoughtful post. I heard that the outgoing Obama administration had a thoughtful, multi-point plan for reforming the police, and of course it got tossed in the dumpster the minute the Cheeto took power.

    I think “Defund the police” is a poor slogan. Everyone, including minorities, know we need some kind of police — just different police than the ones we’ve got now. “Rebuild the police from the ground up” is less pithy but easier to rally behind.

    NPR had a segment about Camden, NJ that did just that — they fired all the police, then made them all re-apply with a 50-page application and psych eval. They also completely changed the evaluation system so police weren’t rewarded for “arrests made.” The result was a steep dropoff in both homicides and complaints. (Article here: https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/06/08/872416644/former-chief-of-reformed-camden-n-j-force-police-need-consent-of-the-people)

  6. says

    I think “Defund the police” is a poor slogan. Everyone, including minorities, know we need some kind of police — just different police than the ones we’ve got now. “Rebuild the police from the ground up” is less pithy but easier to rally behind.

    I agree. But defunding them is the only mechanism to get them to stop; it’s a strategic response to police and police union tactics.

    If I were to have a slogan it would be “reinvent policing” and, PS – “you can’t outrun a radio.”

  7. Ketil Tveiten says

    This was a very long way to mostly say “look at what the Scandinavians are doing”. I’m not sure I like “Uber, but for policing” as a slogan, but I’m sure there are better ways to sell this.

    Also, I get the impression that Aikido is like Judo, in that you use your opponent’s strength and speed against them, and elegantly throw them to the floor, if the other guy lets you. Maybe that changes at super grandmaster levels, but any real (not exhibition) match I’ve seen in those disciplines looks more like a regular wrestling bout in baggy clothes than elegance and grace.

  8. says

    This should all be statistics-driven. If there is a jurisdiction where there are drunken brawls at bars, that should appear in the statistics and maybe that district will have more responders in uniform, ready to help the community agents defuse drunken brawls.

    Here https://freethoughtblogs.com/andreasavester/2020/01/06/weapons-of-math-destruction-how-big-data-increases-inequality-and-threatens-democracy/ I recently wrote about how there could be a problem with this. The moment you send more responders in uniform to some location, more crimes will be registered in that location (otherwise various minor crimes that happen there go unreported). Thus we get a self-fulfilling prophecy. You send cops to some poor neighborhood anticipating crimes. They register all kinds of minor crimes that normally go unreported. Now you have statistics that justify sending even more cops to that impoverished neighborhood.

  9. says

    That first graph of Baltikore police expenditures is pretty misleading… I think it cuts off before it gets to schools or roads or firefighting or water or sewage. The second graph showing 25% expenditures going to police is a bit more reasonable. My city is 14% by comparison.

  10. sonofrojblake says

    “I obviously have not had time to think through a complete proposal”

    LOL. Yeah, you obviously were short of time. Just the one graph.

    “Anything that threatens their budget is treated like a lethal plague”

    What, they ignore it, then deny its happening, then say it’ll just go away on its own like a miracle, then… Oh, you mean like sensible people react to a legal plague. As you were.

  11. sonofrojblake says

    “elegantly throw them to the floor, if the other guy lets you.”

    See also the distinct lack of aikido techniques in MMA. If your consciousness in the next three minutes is at stake, you stick to kickboxing when on your feet and BJJ when it goes to the ground. Crudely. Aikido does not train against fully resisting opponents.

  12. says

    I have trained Aikido for a little bit at University. Not much, because it was impossible for me to fit into my time schedule (long story). But I have learned enough to not hurt myself gravely when I fall down and some basic levers to free myself when someone tries to restrain me. I have used it twice in my lifetime, successfully.

    Once an aggressive drunk tried to provoke a fight with me, assuming he can beat me with ease because he was bigger and heavier, when I was walking home from the train. He tried to grab the front of my shirt, I spun out of the hold using the inertia of all the baggage I was carrying, and he was luckily sober enough to realize at that point that starting the fight might not be a good idea after all and let me go. It might end badly for me had he decided to test it for real though.

    The second time I went with my buddies home from a pub and I lagged behind the others for the loo. A drunkard with one of his buddies tried to provoke a fight with me for “looking at him funny” (really!). His buddy snuck behind me and tried to hold my hands behind my back. I managed to avoid that and push him in front of the other guy. The few so gained seconds I have used to make a dash for the exit to catch-up with my friends. One of whom, incidentally, is today karate-sensei at one Czech dojo.

    That being said, one guy at the uni and the top-student at the dojo I was visiting was so diligent in his Aikido training that he got his first dan just after a few years in our final year. A few days after that he confidently provoked a bar fight and walked around with blackened eyes and broken ribs for quite a few weeks after that.

    Because Aikido has a really bad reputation among martial arts, and deservedly so, in my opinion. Whilst being great exercise and really good at learning you how to effectively dodge and avoid attacks, that is where it really excels above others, it is really crappy as a martial art for combat and/or self-defense when need to subdue the opponent. It does not teach you how to take a punch or a kick. It does not teach you how to throw one either. The chokeholds and levers look fancy on video, but they are really, really hard to pull off against a non-cooperative or resisting opponent, especially one who throws one short punch after another in quick succession. Not to mention the techniques against armed opponents, which are, frankly, dangerous by virtue of giving people false confidence.

  13. John Morales says

    First of all, excellent and well-thought out post; I am impressed. Seriously.

    Digressing onto martial arts and whatnot, some points in relation to those made by Marcus, sonofrojblake and Charly:
    • I think the main reason fencing coaches basically never fought duels is that they might end up fighting an idiot, who might rush in and get skewered because they were clueless and would do what no expert would ever try (because it would be fatally stupid), but in the process also inflict a nasty wound or two. People mostly don’t die instantly.

    • Aikido is nice and all that, and probably useful against one (maybe two) untrained people, but MMA has shown that basically all of the traditional martial arts are no substitute for actual fighting skill. For law-enforcement purposes, probably OK, but…

    • I did almost 3 years of Uechi Ryu back in my early 20s, and I learned that last point viscerally. I got to two black patches, but I also learned I’m a shit fighter.
    Also, it’s not that much fun getting strains and sprains and having permanent bruises along both forearms and lumps on the shin and other assorted bruises elsewhere — not to mention a crushed testicle and cracked ribs.
    My recommendation for anyone who wants to do martial arts: be very very careful before picking a full–contact style.

  14. jrkrideau says

    @ 9 Andreas Avester

    I remember a chief of police (Ottawa perhaps) making a pitch for more officers but warning the police services board that crime rates would go up just because there would be more police on the streets.

  15. jrkrideau says

    @ Marcus

    Your Community ‘agents’ sound a lot like neighborhood committees in China or even the local police boxes (koban?) in Japan.

    A lot of police time in Canada and I assume the USA is spent on social work activities. We would be much better off dispatching a flying squad of social workers than police, especially as just the presence of armed and “military” uniformed police is likely to up the tension level dramatically.

    Which reminds me, most police officers should be tastefully dressed in something like a sports jacket, slacks and maybe a polo shirt—heavy Canada Goose Parka and mukluks for winter—and not looking like demented commandos out of Mad Max.

    We would be much better off if we funded housing and social services in general adequately. Something like a Guaranteed Annual Income would reduce calls on the police and emergency services dramatically, and be cheaper than our current inadequate patchwork of responses.

    it appears that people’s cost/benefit analysis gets severely adjusted if they feel that they will get caught and will have to deal with the consequences of their actions

    There is good anecdotal and behavioural evidence to support this. It is not the severity of a punishment as much as it is the surety of the punishment that is the deterrent.

  16. lochaber says

    I took some Jujitsu in highschool, and Aikido for a couple semesters in college. A lot of the throws and joint locks were pretty similar, if not the same. The main difference was, in Jujitsu, I was taught a given technique as an arm-break, while in Aikido they just said it was an arm bar…

    Every Dojo is different, and all that, and I suspect some of this is due to the nature of my school, but there were a lot of students in the Aikido club that were infatuated with their perception of Aikido being a “non-violent martial art”, and that attitude contributed to some bullshit. A senior student once reprimanded me for not tapping out on a poorly executed wrist lock. I’m not going to tap unless it’s starting to get painful, and me faking it does no one any good. They also tended to insist that all attacks be over-committed in an almost comical matter. Sure, if someone over-commits, that makes things a lot easier for the martial artist, but there are bullies and predators out there who can throw a punch without falling over, and neglecting to train for that also does nobody any favors…

    Anyways… If anyone is considering trying a martial art, I strongly suggest something like Jujitsu, Judo, Aikido, or some other art that involves a lot of throws. Because they teach you how to fall. Hopefully you won’t be in any situation where you need to defend yourself, but sooner or later, everyone falls on their ass. Or their face, or side, etc., etc… And knowing how to fall properly can literally save you life and limb. And it’s one of those skills that sticks around for a long time without actively training in it.

  17. says

    sports jacket, slacks and maybe a polo shirt—heavy Canada Goose Parka and mukluks for winter

    Needs a hat. How about a toque?

  18. says

    I remember a chief of police (Ottawa perhaps) making a pitch for more officers but warning the police services board that crime rates would go up just because there would be more police on the streets.

    During one of the police strikes in the 60’s, NYC experienced a week in which there were no reported crimes.

    I agree with Andreas that there are perverse incentives to worry about in any metrics-driven system, but this posting is about broad policies, not details like metrics frameworks. That sort of stuff is left for McKinsey policy consultants like Mayor Pete ;) Seriously, though, it would need to be approached carefully. Joking aside, can we collectively agree that “arrests per district” is not a good metric? Nor are “total asset forfeitures” or “fines issued” – having designed a few security metrics programs for large companies, all I can say is that doing that stuff correctly can be incredibly hard, but we have tons of people who can do that.

    Metrics on policing in the US are mostly characterized by extreme reluctance on the part of law enforcement to provide any at all.

  19. Ridana says

    Completely outlawing asset forfeiture would go a long way toward disincentivizing the shakedown role of policing today. As long as cops can seize assets to fund themselves, especially without the fuss of actually proving a crime or even arresting anyone on suspicion of said crime, they’ll keep breaking into the wrong houses and randomly stopping people on the street and in their cars. People have been targeted and murdered just because the police wanted to seize their land and property.

    There also needs to be a separate prosecutor when police are on trial, or even just for decisions about indicting them. The relationship between cops and prosecutors is too incestuous for there to be any credible charade of justice being served.

  20. brucegee1962 says

    I’m seriously wondering, to all of you out there — in how large a part of the population, do you estimate, are unarmed fighting techniques likely to be practically useful?
    The last time I got into a physical altercation with someone was probably on the playground in second grade. I got bullied through middle school after that, but mostly not physically, and zip in the forty-five years since then. Of course, I know I have all kinds of privilege, but are dust-ups really that common in large swaths of the US? I feel as if learning how to prepare for a zombie invasion would have been just as useful.

  21. voyager says

    Well thought and organized. I like the focus on social services, especially mental health services. One thing I’d like to see added is Case Management – someone who is trained in crisis management and the provision and assessment/evaluation of multi-disciplinary service from a team driven perspective.

  22. kestrel says

    First: @#21, Brecegee 1962: the Partner works in the ER and yes, all over the place, there are people willing to punch, hit, kick, bite etc. anyone and everyone. You probably simply don’t run into them in your daily life. The Partner sees them every single shift and of course they are at their worst, having to go to the ER where no one really wants to be, usually forced there by police. They are probably not at their best in such moments.

    That said. I think what would really help a lot of those individuals is if the community actually had help for addiction, for alcoholism, for mental health issues, homelessness and so on. These people are in a bad situation already, having the cops show up, arrest them, take them to the ER – and then the cops will sometimes try and pressure the staff to do things the patient does not want – well, I don’t think people should hit each other but I have to admit that if I were in that situation, I might feel like punching, kicking and biting too. Although I admit some people are just jerks.

    Second, great post. I like the idea of a community agent instead of a police officer showing up, and showing up **to help**. The few times I’ve had the opportunity to talk to police they’ve been all gung-ho trying to figure out someone to arrest or excited about finding some crime or other. They are NOT there to help. A community agent would actually be trying to help people, plus, people in that community would have jobs. You’d be happy for them to have a job; one would hope that even trouble makers would tone it down so that their buddy who has to respond doesn’t have a bad time dealing with the situation.

  23. says

    I’m seriously wondering, to all of you out there — in how large a part of the population, do you estimate, are unarmed fighting techniques likely to be practically useful?

    Fairly small. I’ve seen a few street-fights but they were not serious or competent. To me, that’s the thing with martial arts training – if you’ve done a reasonable amount of sparring, fighting is something you understand and have experienced and know what to expect – so you can keep your cool and think rather than just blank out with “OMG that guy just hit me!”

    Dealing with adrenaline is the main issue. A lot of people (myself included) seriously lose their cool when they’ve got a dose of adrenaline. Learning to keep clear and strategize is probably the main value of martial arts and, as Charly pointed out: learning how to fall is always useful.

  24. says

    One thing I’d like to see added is Case Management – someone who is trained in crisis management and the provision and assessment/evaluation of multi-disciplinary service from a team driven perspective.

    That’s an important point. The current model of letting police handle certain high-stress things means that you’re not going to get any kind of follow-up on an intervention. The police leave that to the judicial system (again, it’s like they’re just there for the part where they get to hit people…) but what many people need is someone to make sure they take their meds, get to the doctor for follow-up, or get food. None of that requires a cop in a car with flashing lights – it’s part of the social safety net that the US has completely shredded (while saying “safety nets are too expensive, unless they’re a safety net for the F-35, which really needs one of those!”)

  25. Jazzlet says

    One of the things that we’ve been struggling with in the UK is getting everyone in different organisations like the police, social workers, community health workers, etc to liase effectively, adequately or even at all when they all have contact with someone in various circumstances. So yes that case management for individuals is vital.

  26. lanir says

    Community ‘agents’ who are local residents that are empowered to engage with people in a particular neighborhood.

    It will take me awhile to sort out all of this but that line above prompted a thought. Is it just me or are we talking about reinventing the tribal village elder or headman or something for tribes with tens of thousands of people?

  27. Johnny Ribacka says

    Long time lurker here. Had to come out of the weeds for this one though.

    I live in northern Europe and I’ve visited the US only once, so my perspective is that of an outsider. I have some thoughts though that I’d like to bounce off some other people. Here goes:

    First of all, I’d be interested to read some thoughts on whether US police are justified in being afraid when performing normal day-to-day policing. With the liberal gun laws in many US states, every single person the police interact with could potentially be armed. Of course that doesn’t give them a free-pass to choke already subdued people to death or anything like that, but aren’t they at least somewhat entitled to be afraid?

    Secondly, do you think a system with community agents could actually work? Wouldn’t a system like this draw in the same kind of people that are currently becoming cops? Would those people behave differently when employed as a community agent vs when working as a cop?

    I mean, I don’t really know, but I imagine that people (like myself) who don’t want to get their noses in other people’s business are not likely to become cops, and they would probably not be lining up for community agent duty either. Right?

    I suppose the fact that community agents would mostly be working close to where they live would have some effect on how they respond in different situations. They would not be anonymous to the people they interact with, so they would be more likely to think about how their actions will be evaluated by the people living close to them. But I can’t completely shake the thought that bullies will be bullies…

    Anyway, I found this one interesting and thought-provoking which is why I de-lurked. It’s always easy to complain about the status quo, but it’s another thing to actually come up with reasonable ways to change the system. You haven’t convinced me yet that the community agent system could actually work, but at least you are doing something more than just complaining.

  28. John Morales says

    Johnny, I don’t think Marcus is trying to convince anyone or to pretend his ideas are practicable or definitive; as he wrote in the OP:
    “I obviously have not had time to think through a complete proposal but I thought I’d bounce a few ideas off of you.”

    But I can’t completely shake the thought that bullies will be bullies…

    I suppose; point is, they’d have far less power to bully, wouldn’t they?

  29. jrkrideau says

    @ 18 & 19 Marcus
    Needs a hat. How about a toque?
    But of course, I did not think I needed to mention it. Heck, even the RCMP wear touques.

    During one of the police strikes in the 60’s, NYC experienced a week in which there were no reported crimes.
    As a doctor on a project I was working on put it,the hospital strike should reduce the death rate for a week.

  30. jrkrideau says

    @ 28 Johnny Ribacka
    I am not sure the community agent idea would work in the USA but that is because the USA is a heavily armed society where people often seem to feel they have to assert their “rights”.

    However, it probably would not be to hard to recruit and train non-bullies. Different recruitment and screening, very different training and no sworn officer powers. No weapons when on the job.

  31. says

    Johnny Ribacka@#28:
    First of all, I’d be interested to read some thoughts on whether US police are justified in being afraid when performing normal day-to-day policing. With the liberal gun laws in many US states, every single person the police interact with could potentially be armed. Of course that doesn’t give them a free-pass to choke already subdued people to death or anything like that, but aren’t they at least somewhat entitled to be afraid?

    Police in the US are very hard to get statistics out of, for reasons that ought to be obvious. They make a great big deal out of it when a cop dies in the line of duty (and if it was as a result of violence, the perpetrator is almost always killed while being captured) but in spite of all their posturing, being a police officer in the US is less dangerous than being a garbage truck operator, fisherman, or some other really dangerous jobs. Attacks against the police have been rare since 1968, though it has ticked up lately, they still aren’t in a lot of danger. Considering the level of violence they show, they have the public so afraid of them that it’s rare that anyone responds violently – in spite of the police’ claims of constantly being terrified. Which, by the way, is a bit funny; the police want to be treated as brave heroes but they mostly shoot running victims in the back, or attack at odds of 4:1 or more.

    Everyone is entitled to be afraid. But the job of a police officer is not to be afraid and to go in and deal with the situation. A cop that is so afraid that their response is to kill someone is a really lousy cop. In fact, they’d be a lousy warrior, too – they often want to carry the imprimatur of a warrior, but imagine if you were a commando and had someone on your squad with absolutely horrible fire control who was in the habit of losing their cool and spraying bullets all over the place.

    I believe it was Socrates (as voiced by Plato) who said that brave men aren’t fearless – they overcome fear. A corollary would be that someone fearless is a potential psychopath. Cops absolutely should not be using the excuse that they needed to shoot some guy because they were scary. That’s exactly the wrong thing. Especially when most of what we see is cops shooting unarmed people running away from them. They say they were scared but I think that’s just bullshit. I mean, I’m sure they were scared, but they shouldn’t have been. Whenever a cop says they killed someone out of fear, they’ve just said they are not qualified to carry a weapon.

    Secondly, do you think a system with community agents could actually work? Wouldn’t a system like this draw in the same kind of people that are currently becoming cops? Would those people behave differently when employed as a community agent vs when working as a cop?

    Well, I was deliberately vague as to details because I felt that trying to flesh it out to a full-fledged proposal was a waste of time (no politician or anyone likely to be in a position to influence the situation reads my blog) so you’re asking about those omitted details.

    Yes, I think it could actually work. Naturally, it would depend on the people and the training. But, we already have a system like what I am talking about; they’re called firemen, ambulance drivers/EMTs and they run pell-mell into all kinds of insane shit and deal with it without getting scared and tapping bullets into people’s backs. They are trained, brave, and prepared to handle a wide range of problems in their domain.

    I don’t think the sort of system I envision would draw the kind of violent cowards that want to be cops. Because, if they were really brave people interested in serving the community they would not want to be cops they’d want to be EMTs or emergency room techs or power linemen or firemen. Not having cops with guns and the authority of life and death would probably make being a cop unattractive to the violent creeps that are causing the problems. Those jackasses would all join the military and get their asses handed to them by insurgents or their squad-mates. But there are good cops, of course. And they’d be fine with a job where they were able to help the community.

    Of course they would behave differently, because they’d have to! When you take away a cop’s weapons then you automatically change the options they have available to them for response. They can no longer use force to compel obedience and that’s going to always change their strategy. In the community agent system I envision, an agent would have to learn to call for backup and defuse/stall a situation, or break contact and get away if they were faced with overwhelming threat. I think that would very seldom be necessary, but I can imagine a community agent coming up on a scene of a bar-fight and easing their head around the door, “is it OK to come in?” Or ducking back out while yelling “you can’t outrun a radio! Now let’s talk.”

    I mean, I don’t really know, but I imagine that people (like myself) who don’t want to get their noses in other people’s business are not likely to become cops, and they would probably not be lining up for community agent duty either. Right?

    Maybe, but maybe not. Under the kind of system I imagine, let’s imagine you’re a trained EMT but you don’t want to do that for your full-time job. You work at Starbucks. And you’re also a community agent. You can be picking up community agent missions if your management at Starbucks is OK with it – i.e.: your app goes off and informs you there’s someone with a head injury and severe bleeding 300 feet away. Of course, you mash the “OK” button (putting yourself on duty) and run out there and help, pulling on your latex gloves as you run… Then you go back to making lattes and, maybe some of the bystanders and the person who placed the call give you a ‘5 star’ rating (“damn he patched Fred up in a jiffy like new!”) and you get a nice check in the mail at the end of the month, with a bonus on it for handling an emergency. The point is that an open-ended community service uber-like capability matching system would allow a much wider category of responders, closer to the problem, and better matched to the problem. If you fell down and are bleeding you don’t want a cop you want an EMT who can triage you on the spot and call an ambulance or tell you it’s OK and squirt some blood glue on it and slap a patch on you.

    I have seen a person die because of this – someone was having a heart attack in traffic and they presumably called 911 and a cop showed up, then later an ambulance but the guy was pretty gray-looking by the time they showed up. (I had pulled up onto the shoulder to get as far out of the way as I could, and I have no idea how to help a heart attack) It’d be nice if there had been a way to see if there was a doctor in the traffic jam.

    I suppose the fact that community agents would mostly be working close to where they live would have some effect on how they respond in different situations. They would not be anonymous to the people they interact with, so they would be more likely to think about how their actions will be evaluated by the people living close to them. But I can’t completely shake the thought that bullies will be bullies…

    Nope, turn that around: they’d have a chance of knowing who they were dealing with and they’d have a chance of community continuity. What if it’s just old Bob who keeps taking himself off his meds when he feels good? Bob’s a neighbor. People might know Bob. With militarized police you get a flying squad of armed-up toughs who don’t know anyone and are trained not to listen or pay attention. Besides if someone started yelling at the cops “that’s just Bob, he’s off his meds again and needs to be taken home!” the cops are just as likely to shoot Bob and the bystander because the bystander was scary and was yelling at them.

    One fact of policing is that cops often stop people and issue a warning. Right now, the way that is done, the warnings get logged in the computer under your name and license number. So if a cop pulls me over because of the brush bars on my Tahoe, he puts that on my record in the computer as a warning and if another cop pulls me over, he can see that and may write me a ticket. But if it’s someone they already know, they may be more or less inclined to regulate the situation without bringing the criminal justice system into it.

    French police, when I was a kid, used to have a thing called a “process verbal” (oral trial) in which a cop could basically chew you out and write you a ticket for a certain amount, for whatever makes sense. I know because that happened to me, when a cop caught me riding a train without a ticket, having slept past my stop, I was taking the train back the other direction. I had the stubs and whatnot but the cop told me I wasn’t allowed to do that and fined me the amount of the ticket. It’s sort of Judge Dredd-like, except nobody gets shot. I would not envision community agents being able to levy fines or recommend someone get shot, but they’d be able to recommend that a next-level power review the report of the situation and deal with the trouble-maker.

    That’s a point. In the US, there is some difficulty prosecuting someone for something unless there’s a trial and evidence and witnesses, etc. I think that whole system is badly broken and it ought to be reasonable to fine people (or tell someone: “I order you to pick up the garbage” Officer Obie) without a full trial but with a mechanism for appeal if it was not considered fair. Also, I think some fines should be means-tested and scale based on the perpetrator’s wealth. If some multimillionaire blasts past a speed trap at 150mph they should get a $50,000 fine, but if some prole goes over the limit, their fine should be low. As it works in the US, it’s exactly the opposite: the millionaire would send a lawyer and request a postponement, then challenge the cop’s radar gun calibration, visibility of speed signs, etc. And they’d probably wind up with a $250 fine and no points on their license.

    Community agents might well be bullies. In that case, it’s no worse than the status quo. Remember that we are having this discussion because we have police forces that are basically bully gangs. It can’t get worse unless we replaced the cops with cannibals. But, I assume that the community agent app would have feedback (“Officer Obie, no stars. He called me a ‘punk’ and said he wanted to kick my teeth in.”) There would be an option on every case to escalate it for higher management. If one community agent was getting a lot of “no stars” responses and escalations, you cut them out of the system and they’re fired.

    It’s always easy to complain about the status quo, but it’s another thing to actually come up with reasonable ways to change the system. You haven’t convinced me yet that the community agent system could actually work, but at least you are doing something more than just complaining.

    The ideas I presented are a quickly hammered-together mix of my own ideas and other people’s ideas, with a hint of some of the proposal I did for the constitutional republic of Badgeria – as someone pointed out above, I have basically suggested re-creating tribal elders. And what’s bad about that?

    It’s frustrating when people complain and offer no solution but it’s even more frustration to offer what you feel is pretty straightforward stuff that you know is never going to happen, because the vested interests of the system prefer to have a broken and corrupt process stay in place. There is little we can do to dislodge such a process, except when someone disingenously says “what’s your solution?” or “fixing it is too hard!” you can say “no, really, it’s not. This one guy who is not extraordinarily clever managed to put together a pretty creditable proposal in an hour and a half of furious typing. Surely a committee of smart people could do something like that rather than accepting the status quo.”

    Thanks for de-lurking!

  32. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Warning. Long.

    While the police and their supporters continue to promote practices that would be immediately familiar in the 17th century,

    I object to that. I suspect this is far more false than you realize. There were many rights that the English and Americans enjoyed circa 1800 which would be greatly useful to prevent the police abuse that we see today, and I would like to get back many of those rights.

    For a start, read this:

    > By Roger Roots*
    > Seton Hall Constitutional L.J. 2001, 685

    The punchline is that the modern police state is the standing army that the founders warned us about. The English army was not sent to America circa 1776 to suppress a rebellion. Almost everyone considered themselves proper and loyal English citizens. Rather, they were sent to suppress riots, I mean protests. They abused the protesters, did a bunch of unreasonable searches, and killed some protesters, and were subject to mock trial in military court. Read the Declaration Of Independence – half of the complaints could just as easily apply today. And remember that this was not a foreign army – it was British colonies of loyal British citizens. It was a domestic army. It was a police force.

    Now, I’m not suggesting getting rid of the police, but I am suggesting that we should go back in many ways to 1800 concerning our rights and police practices. Obviously not in all ways because we have made some great advancements. However, in terms of police power, with one or two big exceptions, it’s been steadily downhill since 1800.

    In no particular order. Before addressing police conduct in the field, let me address some other things that must be said in this context.

    End the drug war. Enough said.

    End plea bargaining. Plea bargaining is a ginormous obscene blight on our so-called criminal justice system. Its existence fatally undercuts so many rights that are vital to protecting the interests of the people against unjust government action, including right to discovery, right to jury trials, right to question hostile witnesses, right to subpoena useful witnesses, I really want to just ban it outright. People who plead guilty would be “throwing themselves on the mercy of the court” in hope of a lesser sentence, and if that’s really not enough motivation for the obviously guilty to plead early – which isn’t necessarily a need that I think needs to be fulfilled – then cap plea bargaining to only sentencing and not charges, and only 20% reduction in jail sentence and fines. Really, fuck plea bargaining.

    End the profit motive for policing. Police and cities must not be funded by policing. Otherwise, there will be the perverse incentive to police more than is necessary. Eventually, you end up in Fergusson, where something like IIRC 75% of the adult population had outstanding warrants for arrest. When the entire city has outstanding warrants for arrest, it’s no longer proper to call it a city. I prefer to call it a modern-day plantation. The white government, including judiciary, were milking the black citizens dry. This must also be fixed. I’m not sure how I would want to do that, but here’s an extreme proposal: All fees, fines, penalties, from citations, criminal penalties, court fees, probation fees, prison fees, including forfeiture, and any other fee arising from government policing, must go into a single State-wide (or nation-wide) pool of money, which may not be used for any purpose whatsoever except to be equally distributed to all residents of that State (or nation) once per year.

    Similarly, end private prisons.

    Forbid money bond bail conditions.

    Police abuse people because they can. Because they can get away from it. Let’s fix that. I am convinced that in our culture that we will not fix this problem without putting personal responsibility on individual cops. I’m open to alternative ideas on how to do that, but here are two old ideas on how to do that. Allow victims to sue police for civil damages in court. Allow victims to prosecute police in criminal court. In other words, get rid of qualified immunity, and also return the old right of the victim to have the first opportunity to seek indictment from a (government) grand jury to nominate any counsel of their choice as prosecutor.

    Next, we need to establish legal standards for police conduct. It’s not good to let victims sue and prosecute if they will just lose at trial. I suggest national, or at least State-wide, published, official, extensive and detailed, rules of engagement for police. They should give many example scenarios, and list out the appropriate use of force in each circumstance. Violations will carry the presumption of unlawful conduct in court. Here are some details on what I think that should look like.

    As a foundational principle, police shall generally not have special rights or privileges to use force, except by warrant. A principal exception shall be that only police may issue citations for lesser offenses.

    As a foundational principle, police shall generally enjoy no special rights or privileges concerning the ownership, carrying, and use of weapons and other arms and tools.

    As a foundational principle, police shall generally be required to get warrant from a magistrate and have the warrant in hand to use any force, including detention, arrest, search, and seizure. The allowed use of force without warrants in hand shall be kept to as little use of force and as little discretion as reasonably possible. A principal exception shall be temporary detentions for the issuance of citations for lesser offenses.

    As a foundational principle, arrest for lesser offenses shall not be permitted, and warrants for arrest shall not issue. A principal exception shall be the issuance of warrants for “failure to appear” offenses.

    As a foundational principle, lethal force shall not be used for arrest except for 1- justified self defense, and 2- maybe except to prevent a suspect from fleeing arrest where there are no other plausible options, and there is probable cause of outstanding violent felony offenses, and there is probable cause that the suspect is very likely to escape without lethal force and commit another violent felony offense before later capture, and sufficient warning has been given in the form “stop or I will shoot” lasting at least several seconds.

    As a foundational principle, civil court judgments shall not be able to abridge a person’s general constitutional and civil rights. In particular, gang injunctions shall be unlawful.

    As a general rule, warrantless arrest shall not be justified except 1- based on probable cause of an outstanding felony offense, or 2- arrest for a violent offense or breach of the peace offense, and only by eyewitnesses or others with similarly “immediate knowledge”, and only during the offense or immediately afterwards. (If cops show up after the end of the offense, such as a non-felony battery, then the cops must seek a warrant if they wish to arrest.)

    As a general rule, police must have warrants “in hand” to use the authority and power of a warrant.

    After custodial arrest and booking, require the arraignment and bail hearing to happen as soon as reasonably possible, and also require the arraignment and bail hearing to happen within 8 hours of arrest for daytime arrests or within 24 hours of nighttime arrest; if the hearing does not happen within the allotted time, then the person must be released on their own recognizance pending trial. Weekends and holidays shall not be exempt.

    As a general rule, police must show the warrant to any targets of the warrant, including current occupants of spaces to be searched under the power of a warrant, giving time for them to read the warrant, understand the warrant, and mount preliminary challenges to the warrant, before any of the following happens – any use of force, any brandishing of weapons, any trespass or forced entry, any touching of any person. A principal exception is that warrants may be issued saying that the persons are “considered armed and dangerous”. Such warrants must be based on probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation. Such warrants allow preemptive use of reasonable force and brandishing. However, the warrant must still be presented for inspection with opportunities to contest the warrant as soon as possible, which typically means at the scene.

    Stop-and-frisk shall be forbidden.

    No-knock raids shall be banned in every case whatsoever except for actual verified hostage situations.

    Roadside sobriety checkpoints shall be unlawful.

    Ban civil forfeiture. Forfeiture is permissible according to a criminal conviction of the underlying criminal offense plus a second criminal charge that the particular asset was gained as profit from the underlying criminal offense.

    Police uniforms and their vehicles shall be brightly and distinctly colored, and their coloring and appearance must avoid similarities with military uniforms as much as possible.

    A warrant that authorizes the search of a person or a private space must list the things that may be seized, which must be based on probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation.
    When a search of a person or private space is performed, whether by warrant or

  33. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Woops. Missed the end there.

    When searching a person or a private space, with or without a warrant, persons and things outside of the scope of the search shall not be seized, and such persons and things shall be excluded as per the exclusionary rule. For example, if a cop pulls a car over for out-of-date tags, and then finds drugs or guns, the drugs or guns must not be seized, and must be excluded as per the exclusionary rule.

    PS: Probably should ban drug sniffing dogs as probable cause. Not sure if a blanket ban in all cases is the best idea though. Meh.

  34. says

    I agree with most of those recommendations – no knock searches appear to me to be unconstitutional, but then many of the things the police do appear to be unconstitutional.

  35. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    To Marcus
    The interesting parts are where you disagree for whichever reasons.

  36. StevoR says

    What Might Post-Police Policing Look Like?



    A lot more like Iceland, Aotearoa / New Zealand, Ireland, Holland or Denmark than, well, the USA as it is right now or at the start of this year? Let’s hope.

Leave a Reply