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How much do we need the police? (npr.org)
277 points by js2 29 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 464 comments



Montreal once had a 16 hour police strike, creating a natural experiment in what happens without police.

Steven Pinker describes how that went:

> "As a young teenager in proudly peaceable Canada during the romantic 1960s, I was a true believer in Bakunin's anarchism. I laughed off my parents' argument that if the government ever laid down its arms all hell would break loose. Our competing predictions were put to the test at 8:00 a.m. on October 7, 1969, when the Montreal police went on strike. By 11:20 am, the first bank was robbed. By noon, most of the downtown stores were closed because of looting. Within a few more hours, taxi drivers burned down the garage of a limousine service that competed with them for airport customers, a rooftop sniper killed a provincial police officer, rioters broke into several hotels and restaurants, and a doctor slew a burglar in his suburban home. By the end of the day, six banks had been robbed, a hundred shops had been looted, twelve fires had been set, forty carloads of storefront glass had been broken, and three million dollars in property damage had been inflicted, before city authorities had to call in the army and, of course, the Mounties to restore order. This decisive empirical test left my politics in tatters (and offered a foretaste of life as a scientist)."[16]


It was a natural experiment in what happens without police when the city is in the midst of an extreme wave of crime and violent protest, and one of the protests turns into a riot while the police were on strike.

The idea that this incident demonstrates that any city will go up in flames immediately if the police take the day off is a misreading this specific moment in history.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray-Hill_riot

That's not to dispute the idea that cities will generally retain order if police are absent. I imagine it varies wildly from one time and place to another.


But here we are in the middle of ongoing riots discussing the role of the police. Maybe the comparison is not so inappropriate after all.


Then maybe the fact that the riots have been caused by the police in the first place should be considered too.


The triggering cause was the act of one policeman and his three colleagues who stood by (which might indicate the constriction was perhaps a kind of standard procedure that went wrong - or not. Personally I am waiting for an official verdict). That's not "the police". If you say that's "the police", you can also say "that's black people" if a black person murders somebody.

In any case, there is no excuse for riots.


Hmm, I've seen current USA riot footage where the police seemingly got spooked (by an umbrella), and proceeded to gas a couple of hundred peaceful protestors.

Some riots and current outbreaks have certainly been caused by police.

In other incidents riot police have been filmed purposefully and willfully attacking already subdued members of the public; looking around first to check for observers of course! One of the cases the policeman put a weapon in the have of a subdued arrestee as a precursor to beating them.

These sorts of actions inflame the public and cause ongoing rioting.

It's been interesting witnessing quite measured, in relative terms, vigilante justice against some rioters too.


Not sure how to get from being gassed by the police to looting shops, though.

I haven't seen that footage, but of course I have heard of cases of violence against protesters. Doesn't really prove a deliberate approach to me. Maybe some police officers are also just human and get angry when people hurl stones at them and spit at them. If it's an excuse for the protesters, why not for the police. Sure, you'd hope they'd be trained in restraint, but at the end of the day, they are humans.

Also some footage may not tell the whole story. And maybe those cops were legitimately spooked by the umbrella. Better safe than sorry. I can't really blame them, wouldn't want to do their job.

In general, I think it would be wise not to provoke the police (or people with guns in general), don't wave around with objects that could be mistaken for guns, stuff like that? They should teach that in US schools, but every action movie teaches it, too. There is always that scene where a suspect reaches for their ID and then pauses because he realizes police might think he reaches for a weapon.


>Maybe some police officers are also just human and get angry when people hurl stones at them and spit at them. //

Yes, I've much sympathy with this. Police are human too - but just as if I get angry and lash out at someone in the street, without appropriate mitigations, I will be charged with assault - so too should police. That's rule of law in operation.

If you can stomach it then look on Reddit, the riot footage is illuminating IMO (of course remember the inherent selection and PoV biases).


Of course police officers who assault people should be charged with assault. I don't think anybody says otherwise.

But then charge the individual officers, not "the police".


you are intentionally diminishing the issues at hand. the police, yes "the police", have increasingly been militarized, abuse their power, and seen a general lack of repercussions when they do something wrong, even heinous crimes. this is systemic. whether you think that this was "just" a bad egg with three other bad eggs standing around or not, which in itself requires jumping through hoops, these issues are well discussed and documented and are systemic.

now, couple that with systemic issues of rascim throughout all of american society, of which the police are part of, you have a terrible mix of rascism, power, lack of worry of consequences, and a general bad attitude of their role in society in "the police". that leaves the general public at risk and people of color at a substantially greater risk.

the point is that this isn't just a one off case. it happens time and time again. i have seen video after video of it, and that's just the ones captured on film! (still don't face any consequences.) i have seen a video of a black emt who had a patient inside pulled over and choked by a police officer because the police officer felt he hadn't yielded properly to his lights even though the call he was on was obviously less important than choking an emt with a patient. there's just countless other videos and documented cases.

so please, take your false rhetoric elsewhere. these are actual problems. if you think it's just a couple bad eggs, then think about what happens when there's bad eggs spread throughout the country. that's what systemic issues are.

riots and particularly looting are not great. but consider what they generally represent. they represent pent up anger of those at the bottom who feel they don't have any other recourse. some do indeed want to incite violence, but that doesn't invalidate the huge line of events that got us here. i would also ask that you view the police as an active participant in the rioting. i have seen video of police actively destroying property without a protester in site. the media is also a participant because we cannot trust what they report as truth.


I'd rather look at such issues by data, rather than emotional responses to singular incidents. I'm not even saying that the police has no issues. But it certainly can't be inferred from that one incident, or even from, say, a dozen incidents over a couple of years. That's nothing compared to the millions of police interactions with the public every year.

I think incidents like this murder or what it was, should be treated like a bug in the system, and protocols should be adjusted to prevent such accidents. If it was a murder, I would still call it an accident in terms of the system, but the accident then was hiring a murderer, which surely isn't deliberate by the system.

I've read (but can't confirm) that kneeling on suspects to constrain them is outlawed in many places in the US already, but wasn't yet in Minnesota. So maybe some places have learned that it is a risky approach, and others haven't.

From afar US police looks scary and brutal. On the other hand, the criminals they encounter may also be more brutal and dangerous than in other countries. So I'd first like to hear some of their side before making a judgement.

Other problems are not so easy to solve, like lack of consequences. It sounds easy, but I would guess you can not make the job too risky for police officers. I don't know enough details about policing in the US, but one example that may illustrate what I mean: here in Germany, midwives now have the problem that they can not get insurance anymore, because of huge liabilities should anything go wrong during birth. Unfortunately, nobody can guarantee a safe birth, so many midwives can not continue their jobs. Not saying police officers shouldn't be liable for anything, just that I can imagine it is not easy to find a good balance.

As for "PoC are at greater risk", I'd like to see the data supporting that thesis. Especially since many police officers are PoC themselves, and apparently they kill more PoC than white police officers. For whatever reason (I imagine they are more often on duty in predominantly black neighborhoods), but it at least challenges the hypothesis that the police is inherently racist.


> Especially since many police officers are PoC themselves, and apparently they kill more PoC than white police officers.

Because they're police officers. It is and always has been the mandate of US police forces to violently repress non-whites, particularly Black people. The skin color of the cop doesn't change the function. Racism is not 'a white person did something mean to a non-white person'.


I'd like to see the proof of that. Maybe they are just confronted with armed, trigger happy criminals every day and therefore have to answer with guns, too.

And what are you saying, without white people, there would be no need for police? PoC would just get by, no crime whatsoever? That seems unlikely to me.


Let's be more accurate. The protests are caused by the police. But the riots, violence and looting is caused by opportunists and criminals, in many cases instigated and enflamed by white revolutionary anarchists and/or white supremacist cells more than willing to sacrifice minorities and their neighbourhoods to their insane political projects, i.e. blood soaked revolution or race war.


There are multiple reports of agent provocateurs being police agents.


The problem is that here we have a totally new factor in the mix.

People is being freely dossed with tear gas, in the middle of a pandemic that kills attacking lungs. We don't know how a disease that attack lungs could interact with exposure to a lung irritant but probably will not help. We will have an answer, we want it or not, in two weeks.

They are creating a flow of air directly towards the face of people. We don't know if a virus standing in the air could be collected and dragged into the nose, but it seems possible.

Being paranoid, we don't even know with what substance are all of those people being gassed. Who controls that tear gas canisters contain only tear gas? Are those canisters refillable? Are being refilled? By who? We don't know.

The goal of racist people has been always domination of the other races. Selective killings and birth control are not new strategies. Every single racist in the planet has fantasized about killing as many as possible without consequences. In the end is the same if you kill with a bullet, a hug or provoking a mosh pit / covid party. Except that the later are, unfortunately, untraceable.

So increasing the provocation could be seen as a desirable strategy if you are a racist policeman or governor.

And of course from now on, COVID is not the Trumps fault anymore. People had choosen freely to take more risks. Is like an experiment designed carefully to create thousands of new cases in a part of the population.


> Every single racist in the planet has fantasized about killing as many as possible without consequences.

Disturbing. Look up psychological projection, and be more careful what you say.


[ Psychology has a long list of solemn statements that became clueless when you scratch a little, even falling in pseudo-religious and self censoring BS sometimes, but the possibility that "my evil twin" would be planning a massive killing with my bare hands is really remote, so I'm not really worried about that. In any case, thanks for your interest ].

Of course If racists really would not wanted to kill other people, they seem to have a long history of "oops, I did it again" unfortunate moments. Those people have a really bad luck


Not just that, but also after a year of separatist terrorism(/freedom fighting, depending on perspective, of course). The riot(/uprising) was in October 1969, so I question how peaceable Pinker's Canada was at the time:

> In the first six months of 1969, there were 93 bank robberies in Montreal compared to 48 bank robberies in the first six months of 1968.[5] In January and February 1969, the FLQ staged 10 terrorist bombings in Montreal, and between August 1968 and February 1969, there were 75 bombings linked to the FLQ.[5] In February 1969, the FLQ set off bombs at the Montreal Stock Market (injuring 28 people) and at the offices of the Queen's Printer in Montreal.[5] March 1969 saw the outbreak of violent demonstrations as French-Canadians demanded that McGill University, a traditional bastion of Montreal's English-speaking elite, be transformed into a French-language university, leading to counter-demonstrations by English-Canadians to keep McGill an English language university.[4] The leader of the 'Operation McGill Français' protests was ironically a part-time Marxist political science lecturer from Ontario named Stanley Gray who could barely speak French, but who declared that McGill must become a French-language university to end "Anglo-elitism", rallying support from the Quebec separatist movement.[11] Over two weeks of clashes and protests, McGill was reduced to chaos as Quebec separatists stormed into the meetings of the McGill's Senate and administration chanting such slogans as "Révolution! Vive le Québec socialise! Vive le Québec libre!".[11] The climax of the 'Operation McGill Français' protests occurred on the evening of 28 March 1969 when a 9,000-strong group of Quebec separatists led by Gray tried to storm McGill, and clashed with the police who had been asked by McGill to keep Gray's group off the campus.[11] In September 1969, rioting broke out in the St. Leonard district between Italian-Canadians and French-Canadians with differing opinions of the language issue.[4] Italian immigrant parents had kept their children from school to protest the fact that the language of school instruction was now French instead of English, and on 10 September 1969, a group of 1,500 French-Canadian nationalists attempted to march through St. Leonard's Little Italy district to protest the school boycott.[12] Upon arrival, the marchers were attacked by the Italians, leading to a night of violence on the streets.[13]


It only takes a tiny number of people to turn a city block into a war zone.


Let's apply that "few bad apples" logic to the police force as well.


And that’s just the short term. Look at places like Somalia or Afghanistan to see what happens when law and order breaks down in a systematic way.

The issue isn’t even just “crime” in the sense of robbery, etc. When there is no police, organized crime can take over. When we lived in Bangladesh in the 1980s, a minibus full of criminals showed up at the gate of our house. (This being Dhaka in the 1980s, we had a brick wall around the whole house with broken glass on top and a big metal gate, and an armed guard out front.) I don’t know if it was because my dad hadn’t bribed the right people or what, but it took police an hour or more to respond, during which time the criminals tried to drive through our gate.

(I don’t actually disagree with the thrust of the article, which is more that we need to rethink the roles where we have police. I’m just sharing this because I’ve seen a lot of “defund the police” in my Facebook, and I strongly suspect it’s from people who have never lived somewhere without effective policing.)


The demand in Seattle to defund the police isn't calling to totally remove funding. It's calling for a 50% reduction in the budget.

Just a heads up that "defund the police" isn't actually that different from "we need to rethink the roles where we have police"


If their budget is reduced, the police will choose where to cut services in such a way as to inflict maximum fear in the population, to cause their budget to be restored.

They will, for example, say they cannot investigate the rape of a white woman, supposedly because lack of funds. But they will have plenty of funds to harass poor and non-white people for maybe smoking pot, but mostly for being poor and/or non-white.

We can see it right now, in that they teargas, shoot with rubber bullets, beat and arrest completely peaceful protesters and people just on their own porches but do nothing about looters. It is obvious why: looting makes protestors look bad (especially if news coverage cooperates with the police's narrative), makes people scared and proves that police are necessary.

Of course, the mafia can also provide safety if you obey them and pay them. Might even be a better deal for some populations than the current police.

If you want police that work for the population and are not an occupation force extracting tribute through use of force, you need to do more than reduce their budget. You need to punish the offenders (jail, not layoffs) and replace the people in charge (their union bosses and informal leaders, not just the nominal chief of police who might have little actual power).


> If their budget is reduced, the police will choose where to cut services in such a way as to inflict maximum fear in the population, to cause their budget to be restored.

Sounds like they're a protection racket, no different from the Mafia.

The issue here clearly isn't funding. The issue is control. Police in the U.S. have been allowed to become an autocratic state in their own right, and it is this state which needs to be dismantled.


Sure, "defund the police" isn't the only demand. I just wanted to clarify that particular demand.

For example, another demand was to keep SPD in the consent decree under DOJ supervision. The city council was planning on ending it.

They council announced just today that they are retaining to consent decree, so that's a policy win for the protestors.


This is so obvious. Defund the police, and regulate their roles.

Prioritize rape/violence/home invasion, deprioritize protests/drugs/etc., and as you say punish offenders.

This is obvious.


>This is so obvious. Defund the police, and regulate their roles.

>deprioritize protests/drugs/etc

Yeah, already done that. And it's miserable. My parents came to visit (from the midwest and right before the pandemic) and were absolutely appalled at seeing needles on the street when we went out to dinner. I don't blame them, really. I blame the people who pretend that shrugging at enforcing drug laws is some sort of "justice". It's not, it's political nihilism. And we've run this test 1000 times at this point across the country. Some will say that "it's not that bad", and to them I say "yeah ... I've been in worse places around the world too". Which is a snide way of saying that I'm really annoyed that people are okay with third world standards of living in the USA because they have this inverted sense of "justice".


Yikes, dude. I just don't agree with trying to ruin someones life forever, because they occasionally like to use drugs. That's not political nihilism. I don't really consider seeing a needle in the street a "third world standard of living". I don't enjoy seeing litter, but it's a reality of living in an urban area. There's beer cans, and yes people toss bottles to, so there's shards of glass in the street, and it's not "safe" or harmless.

Still, I never once considered rounding up all the drinkers, sending them to jail, then disallowing them from ever participating in most of society for the rest of their lives. That's without even considering all the collateral damage, and people hassled for no reason. Worst of all IMO, is a classic critique that dates back to prohibition: Prohibition laws breed contempt for law and order. Peaceful citizens become criminals. Cops become fascists, rounding people up for no reason.

So, I'd say it's pretty reasonable to want to try something else. I'm unconvinced that there's no other option, or middle ground to deal with externalities. I also don't think you're being oppressed, or "living like you're in a third world country", because you sometimes see what's really going on in your city. Perhaps your efforts would be better spent on an anti-littering campaign.


> Yikes, dude. I just don't agree with trying to ruin someones life forever, because they occasionally like to use drugs. That's not political nihilism. I don't really consider seeing a needle in the street a "third world standard of living". I don't enjoy seeing litter, but it's a reality of living in an urban area. There's beer cans, and yes people toss bottles to, so there's shards of glass in the street, and it's not "safe" or harmless.

There's lots of countries where people wouldn't consider needles and feces in the streets to be the "reality of living in an urban area." For example Tokyo or Stockholm (both of which are in strongly anti-drug countries).


I can't speak for Stockholm, but I'm not trying to emulate Japan. I have great respect for the people, but they have their own social problems. I highly regard freedom, and treating social problems. That doesn't mean ignoring the issue, or extreme prison sentences.


Oh yeah, USA will turn into Japan overnight. All we have to do is give the police more resources, power, impunity.

Please be honest. No one is that dumb, especially not you. The reason Japan's streets are clean is that they are used primarily by the Japanese. They have different cultural defaults than we do, and perhaps one might say that in this respect they are just better. Japan's cops are actually drastically less aggressive and abusive than USA cops. Also, numerous Japanese have told me that they wished their drug prohibition could be repealed. If that happened, no one would expect Ginza to turn into the Tenderloin.


>Yikes, dude. I just don't agree with trying to ruin someones life forever, because they occasionally like to use drugs.

As if that's what we're doing. "Yikes bro", maybe stop straw manning everything I said into some kind of crypto fascist fantasy? Maybe consider that not being able to have your elderly parents take the subway when they visit - because of risk of violence, or you just don't want them around open injection drug use - is a sign that what we're doing isn't working? We've been trying the decriminalization route for a decade at least. Do you actually think this is "success"? Or has real decriminalization never been tried?

> because you sometimes see what's really going on in your city.

And this is the nihilism. Thinking this is normal.


Cities like Seattle and San Francisco clearly have a problem with the mentally ill and drug addicted on their streets, I agree that just leaving it "as is" should not be acceptable to anyone. It is scary, leads to more crime being committed and the people using needles in the street clearly need serious help.

Is criminalizing all drug users the answer though? We have 50 years or so of results there that show that has serious issues as well. Why are we willing to spend 30-40 thousand a year on imprisoning folks at a rate that no other country even comes close to, but not try spending similar amounts of money on actual rehabilitation and welfare programs for the addicted and mentally ill?

It seems worth a shot to me...


>Is criminalizing all drug users the answer though?

I am not advocating this though. I don't see anyone else in this thread advocating this either. I'm merely asking that we at least stop doing the insane thing of just ignoring it and letting people shoot up on the sidewalk or at the bus stop. I'm all for some creative solutions to this, fine, but the only thing that seems to gain traction today is "what we're already doing, but louder".


Drug addiction is best treated as a public health issue, not a criminal one. You're just observing the effects of a lack of rug sweeping.


Stealing bikes and breaking into cars, or worse, to buy drugs, is when it becomes a criminal issue.


At what point does "treating it like a public health issue" start to impede on public safety?


It's more that not treating it (drug addiction) as a public health issue impedes on public safety.

Supervised injection sites, housing first integrated support, access to effective medicine (methadone), etc. are all stymied by various flavors of political problems.

What you're seeing is the result of a patchwork approach in disarray.


Using "completely peaceful" protestors is a disingenuous statement.


Some protestors have been completely peaceful. Some entire protests have been completely peaceful.

And some of those completely peaceful protests have still met tear gas, and/or pepper spray. For example, see the protest in DC that was peaceful and broken up before curfew.

Is your assertion that nationwide, over 9 days, there hasn't been any peaceful protests?


If we’re focused on Seattle still, and basing this off the news from the past few days, it certainly was hard to notice any peaceful protesting occurring. Of course many people were peaceful, but amidst scenes of people busting through every retailer’s window downtown, looting stores until they were bare, while dozens of cars burned in the street...


You're painting a completely false, disingenuous picture of the protesting that has happened in Seattle over the last week. SPD has repeatedly used aerosolized chemical weapons on completely peaceful protesters.

The media focuses on violence and crime, because that's what media does — "if it bleeds, it ledes" — but that violence/property damage/theft has not been connected to the large Cap Hill/downtown protests for most of the week.

Your claim of "dozens of cars burning in the street" is, as far as I know, completely unfounded. As is "busting through every retailer's window and looting stores until they were bare." There isn't all that much retail downtown — do you mean Westlake?

There was some looting and some police cars burned on the first weekend, but it is important to understand (1) that these actions do not reflect the majority of protesters and (2) the history of violence perpetrated by SPD against citizens and especially citizens of color.

It is also important to understand that the SPD has responded to peaceful protest with violence every evening, through at least June 2. (I have not yet caught up with last night's protests.)


Almost all of the protests in Seattle have been peaceful, until the cops started spaying made and throwing flash grenades into the crowd. Yes there has been some looting, generally away from the protestors, because the police are busy.


So far, everyone who has said that cops reacted this way for absolutely no reason has been misinformed or lying when I go investigate. It’s actually quite surprising how frequently these blatantly wrong claims keep coming up.

Often there is an assumption that because they didn’t see what started it, it must have been nothing. You might think they didn’t have a good enough reason, but I have yet to see police in any city deploy OC for no reason at all.



I'm sorry, this is like pulling a single line out of a book and using it to bolster a specific argument. In other words, there's loads of context that's missing. Your video has less than 10 seconds of context. What happened just before the video starts? What happened 15 minutes before?


It's just a boring sit-in for hours before the clip starts. There is literally no context. The next night there isn't even an umbrella pretext, they just start spraying around 11:40pm after peaceful sit-in from 5pm.

Here's video of the incident from 13 minutes prior (June 1): https://www.facebook.com/jessica.bundy.79/videos/36571421876...

And earlier recording of the hours beforehand (June 1, earlier): https://www.facebook.com/jessica.bundy.79/videos/36570100309...

You're not missing any violent context; just the bigger picture.


This is a great example of what I said. I’ve seen this video from multiple perspectives. It is absolutely not the case that it started for no reason at all. That’s a total lie.

There are no “pretexts” happening. These conspiracy theories are absurd.

From the ground video of this same incident, it was seen that protestors were pushing on the fence. They then deployed umbrellas, some of which were deployed over the barrier. An officer swats a pink umbrella out of his face and grabs it. The protestor tries to pull it away. A tug-of-war struggle ensues. Another officer notices there is a struggle and rushes in with his pepper spray to get the girl off.

The whole time, the crowd was told they are NOT allowed to cross this street. They can cross any other street. The precinct is this way. They form a plan to “push through” earlier, and they chant to let them through.

on the other side, there are clearly projectiles being thrown, and before the cops deploy flashbangs, you can see some flashing from the crowd side - not sure what that is.

You might think they overreacted. You might think he shouldn’t have started the scuffle with the umbrella. You might think they shouldn’t have raised their spray over a combative protestor pushing the barricade and mouthing off from 12 inches away from a cop’s face. That’s all fine to debate. But there is a clear pattern of escalation, tension, and confusion. The cops did not just say “let’s fuck up some protestors!” out of nowhere and then fire. And they definitely didn’t set up a pretext. You guys sound like Alex Jones with that shit.


You are correct, in that "something" also starts it. It isn't that a cop just decide to start violence. But that "something" usually doesn't warrant the amount of violence. ESPECIALLY given that the protest is about police brutality. In the incident we were both referring to, you claimed "the protestors were pushing the fence" So what? That doesn't necessitate macing the entire crowd. "They deployed umbrellas" (In Seattle!) Again, no response warranted. "They deployed over the barrier" Wow, such violence from the crowd! No, that doesn't warrant a response either. "An officer swats a pink umbrella" And DESTROYS it. This is the incident that sparks a ton of mace and flash grenades... And yet you claim the cops didn't react for no reason? Yes they did. If the cop didn't grab the umbrella, and start whacking it with a weapon, then the violence wouldn't have occured. The girl, on one side of the fence has her umbrella destroyed by the cops, and is started to be beat at with a stick... And a fellow cop sprays her with mace to "get the girl off"? Why not just NOT rip the umbrella from her in the first place?


We’re saying a lot of the same things. I feel like you didn’t read my post carefully, and you’re making some wrong assumptions about my post.

Why do you equate my post with something that resembles saying that anything the police did was justified?

Unlike the parent, everything you said about the incident is accurate. You’ve interjected your opinion on each event of the incident, which is fine. You’re having an honest conversation. We can’t have those when we start out with hyperbole, omissions, and fabrications. Case in point, you’ve suggested alternative actions that could have been taken, which would not have been possible if we went with the original narrative. After all, if they do this for “literally no reason”, there’s no possible fix for that.

Emphasizing de-escalation sounds like a great idea. On a subsequent night, they changed their procedures to put the fence about 100 ft in front of them. That would ensure that they could not feel “threatened” or agitated by protestors partially encroaching the barrier. It also solves the problem of a mouthy kid getting right in your face and cussing you out, which might trigger a negative reaction. It looked like it went a lot better that time.


You're just spouting falsehoods that are not shown in the video.

The protestors had umbrellas for hours; they were not "deployed" shortly before officers initiated violence. Protesters were up against the fence for hours and did not push it forward substantially. The umbrella the officer grabbed wasn't in anyone's face.

Note that 12,000 complaints were filed about SPD's overuse of force after that night.

> you can see some flashing from the crowd side - not sure what that is

Bud, that's a camera.

> But there is a clear pattern of escalation, tension, and confusion.

I totally agree with that statement. SPD repeatedly escalates peaceful situations into violent ones.

> The cops did not just say “let’s fuck up some protestors!” out of nowhere

Actually, they did, on video: https://twitter.com/Bishop_Krystal/status/126800997417045196...


> did not push it forward substantially

At 7:00 in the video the protesters pushed the fence a couple of meters forward and almost broke the police line, that is not peaceful protesting. Pushing up a blockade against police is very aggressive, and can't be done by a single bad apple either. If protesters had been acting like this for hours then it makes sense that the police sprays them.

https://www.facebook.com/jessica.bundy.79/videos/36571421876...


You’re still doing it man. Come on. Be objective. You can still be accurate and think they were in the wrong. But you’re drawing lines that were not there, mixing up unrelated events, and failing to acknowledge the contributions to the escalation on the protestor side.


Have you not seen the pink umbrella video?


If your comment is accurate, then it serves as a strong argument for why the police should be defunded even more than 50%.


or they'll spend less of their budget on highly expensive military equipment and more on less expensive deescalation skills and community engagement...HA


Don't they basically get given that stuff second-hand by the military?


Honestly defunding the force doesn't solve much if the underlying issues are not dealt with. I saw a Vice Special about police training nowadays. The so-called consultant kept referencing the community as combatants and his approach for most confrontations was overpower the 'opponent' at any cost.

Nothing is going to change if the police training and punishment for violating basic freedoms is not addressed.


> Look at places like Somalia or Afghanistan to see what happens when law and order breaks down in a systematic way.

Also see Brazil with Primeiro Comando da Capital and Comando Vermelho which are violent organizations that have/had lofty goals similar to the growing movement (i.e. anti-police brutality, vengeance)[1]. Those groups now partake in degenerate drug and sex fueled parties and slaughter their enemies using advanced weapons. No need to worry though; their code of conduct proclaims that they fight for liberty, justice and peace and that rape is bad -- they're obviously the good guys.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primeiro_Comando_da_Capital#Hi...


Brazil is actually an interesting example, considering that the police inside thee favelas has been accused of extrajudicial killings and killing with impunity and form militias to extort locals(even their logo looks like a gang insignia) [1,2,3].

This actually highlights the different experiences between middle class white (or Brazilian) and a black person (or someone living in the favelas). [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_police_militias [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batalh%C3%A3o_de_Opera%C3%A7%C... [3] https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/xweavd/police-are-killing...


Damn, that's nutty. My parents always warned me that the Bangladesh they grew up in and knew is, in their words "a place where you have to be at least a little crooked" to survive (although they left in the 70s as soon as they could), and I know that the 80s was the era of Ershad's reign which was a particularly rough time. By the right people, does that mean in the government or organized crime or who knows?


I mean the police. My dad hated the bribery system. He tried to get a second phone line installed and gave up because the installer demanded a bribe. We left in 1989. Things are a bit better now. Not normal, exactly, but Sheikh Hasina wants to keep foreign investment flowing and is instilling some normalcy.


In New Orleans we spend 30% of the budget on the police and corrections while the convention and visitors bureau sit on millions and black owned businesses have negligible receipts. Meanwhile, the city is subsiding. You’d be mad too.


But that's a terrible experiment! For one, you're in a situation where the only people with serious weapons are criminals and police (because non-criminals could generally trust the police to handle violence for them). You haven't armed the populace, you haven't set up civilian watches, you haven't done any of the things that would happen in a society actually set up to be sustainably police-free. You took a society that assumed the existence of the police for its stability and then removed them, of course it fell apart.

Apart from violence, there's another big thing that probably went missing, too - authorization for certain people to enter private property for reasons of the general good. The reason we call the police for welfare checks, for better or worse, is that nobody else has the right to enter your house. A doctor might be better suited to responding to someone undergoing a mental health crisis, but they can't break in. Similarly, you see stories of "police rescue deer from rooftop" or whatever because nobody else is authorized to climb onto random rooftops. If a society wants to get rid of the police, it needs to designate some other group to handle this use case. It can't simply get rid of the police.

A "natural experiment" of a world without police is quite unnatural: it's a world built up around the police with a sudden police-shaped gap in the middle.

To pick an analogy that should make sense to folks here, it's like shutting down your datacenter for 16 hours, suffering serious outages, and then concluding that your company absolutely needs its datacenter. Well, yes, it does today, but that's not what the people saying you should look at public cloud are advocating.


> You haven't armed the populace, you haven't set up civilian watches, you haven't done any of the things that would happen in a society actually set up to be sustainably police-free

It's amazing how a population that suffers heavily from wide firearm availability (the only civilized country where you semi-regularly have school massacres) thinks that the solution to anything can be "more guns for everyone".

People are often irresponsible, irrational, intoxicated, etc. Making lethal force easily available to everyone won't solve your safety issues - will only make them worse. I think a big reason why cops are so violent in the US is that they need to be - any bum can have a gun and might kill them; that's not a concern for people in Europe, so police can be slightly more relaxed when dealing with a minority that is known to have above-average stats for criminals & general violence (e.g. gypsy here; yes, they may face many discrimination issues that black people face in US, but nobody shoots them just because they have the wrong skin color)


>>>It's amazing how a population that suffers heavily from wide firearm availability (the only civilized country where you semi-regularly have school massacres) thinks that the solution to anything can be "more guns for everyone".

We've had by far the greatest firearms proliferation in the Western world for centuries. In the 1920's you could buy fully automatic Thompson sub-machineguns from a mail-in catalog. ( http://www.nfatoys.com/tsmg/web/coltguns.htm ) Yet school shootings are a relatively recent (~30 years) phenomenon. Over that same 30-year period we've also had an increase in single-parent households as well as an increase in SSRI drug prescriptions. There doesn't seem to be anywhere near the willingness to attack those social issues or investigate their impacts on murderous outbursts.

Firearms proliferation seems to work well for Kennesaw, Georgia. https://edition.cnn.com/2018/03/06/us/kennesaw-georgia-gun-o...

But the data for everywhere else is a mixed bag: https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/concealed-...


There's also the fact that school proliferation itself is a relatively recent (~80-100 years) phenomenon; and after that there was a world war, and after said war maybe not everybody could afford to/ had a priority to buy guns ("greatest proliferation in the Western world" does not necessarily equal "proliferation at the same levels as today"). Last by not least, maybe the other factors you mentioned would still result in less shootings if there weren't guns widely available everywhere?


But time and again we've seen violent crimes rise after enacting gun control, most recently in New Zealand[0] (this particular report focuses on gun crimes, which are on the rise after gun control has been enacted, but it's by no means a problem isolated to gun crime).

It all indicates the problem isn't the gun, it's the person. And taking their gun away doesn't take away their problems. I find it odd that the current climate of acceptance and a desire to help others can so staunchly ignore mental health issues.

[0] https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/416881/rates-of-gun-crim...


> It all indicates the problem isn't the gun, it's the person.

Really? How did the persons become worse because of the gun control laws? Because that's what your message implies, that said rise in violent crimes is related to enacting gun control.


> How did the persons become worse because of the gun control laws? Because that's what your message implies

No, it doesn't.

> that said rise in violent crimes is related to enacting gun control

The person did not become worse but rather found the chance to attack someone who could not defend themselves because they did not have a gun.


It's quite an extraordinary claim - among others, it implies these are all premeditated crimes (shot other person knowing that it would not have a gun - without that knowledge, crime wouldn't happen)


> you're in a situation where the only people with serious weapons are criminals and police

Isn't this what the administration of virtually every major city have been working for decades to create? So this is an experiment that matches current conditions. Somehow I don't see most folks arguing that we don't really need police also being for unrestricted firearms ownership and repeal of the myriad of barriers that exist between the law abiding citizen and gun ownership right now. So maybe start with that if you want less police?


> Somehow I don't see most folks arguing that we don't really need police also being for unrestricted firearms ownership and repeal of the myriad of barriers that exist between the law abiding citizen and gun ownership right now.

Obtaining arms should be, for every single adult, as quick, easy, convenient, and cheap as obtaining a blog.

Many, many of us have been saying that for hundreds of years.


> Many, many of us have been saying that for hundreds of years.

Not many enough, apparently. There are many cities where it's literally impossible to own a handgun legally unless you are connected to either law enforcement or one of the political mafias. There are even more places where it's possible but has so many idiotic limitations that the intent is clearly to discourage all but the most determined and evade lawsuits by pointing "yes, you need a form that can be only found in a disused closet behind the door saying 'Beware of the leopard!' - but the form is there, your honor, so no undue burden for firearm ownership!"

And the funniest thing that all these things happen in exactly the same places where they talk about not needing the police anymore.


blogs haven't really existed for hundreds of years my dude.


People have been printing blogs for hundreds of years. See "Common Sense".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Sense


Getting a blog such as "Common Sense" printed in those days was much harder then getting a firearm.


I'm not so sure about that. Firearms in those days were custom made by hand one by one by specialized and highly skilled (i.e. expensive) craftsmen. A firearm was a prized possession, and often a work of art.

A pamphlet might be typeset in an hour by the unskilled printer's apprentice.


Not in 18th century. You could get a gun then for about month's wage of a skilled worker. Not exactly cheap, and significantly more expensive than now, but not exactly impossible to have even for a skilled worker or a middle-class person. And there are now firearms in that price range, though many common ones are significantly cheaper. Something like a cheap car - not pocket change, and you won't get one unless you need one, and if you aren't rich you probably won't get more than one - but for most people, not out of reach entirely.


> You haven't armed the populace, you haven't set up civilian watches

Isn't that reinventing the police, just with a different name?


To some extent, But, for instance, while private citizens may have guns for self-defense, they're unlikely to have tear gas, rubber bullets, armored vehicles, Stingrays, etc. And community watches that are run by actual community members are likely to have a very different set of priorities from a professional police force.

I'm not at all saying that this by itself would eliminate racially-disproportionate violence done by the police (and you could argue that it'd risk increasing it, in fact - George Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch leader, not a cop). But it would straightforwardly eliminate a host of excesses from militarized equipment and training to asset forfeiture to the blue wall to qualified immunity to even (relatively) minor things like quotas.

(And to be clear, I'm not saying that "arm the populace and set up civilian watches" is a complete or good replacement for the police - I'm just saying it seems like the minimal possible step to take if you're carving the police out of a society that evolved around having police. If you don't even take that step, the results of a "natural experiment" of a day without police aren't meaningful. But it's not an actual policy proposal; a serious attempt at getting rid of the police would in fact want to be careful about making an even less-accountable shadow police.)


Have you ever lived in a country that has a well functioning, nonviolent Police? E.g. somewhere in Europe?

Have you ever lived in a country where people don’t have weapons? It is like night and day really - I never heard of a shooting in my neighborhood, and when Police shoots someone unarmed by accident, it is nationwide news (in a nation of 40M, I remember one situation happening a few years back).

edit: I found some stats for my country. Every year, for 40M population Poland: 125 uses of guns by Police (warning shots etc), around 25 times shot towards a person, 1-2 people killed.


> Have you ever lived in a country that has a well functioning, nonviolent Police? E.g. somewhere in Europe?

I know for a fact that the police in Germany, Italy, Spain, and the Balkan countries is extremely shitty. You do not need an armed police in order for them to be violent.


> And community watches that are run by actual community members are likely to have a very different set of priorities from a professional police force.

Imagine an armed and dangerous HOA, functioning as its own "community policy force."

What fresh hell is this?


Sure, but imagine a situation where this is a huge step up in fairness and justice from what you currently experience everyday! Many people currently live under tyranny and terror worse than an HOA police force.


HOA Karens are not my idea of a better police force. The response to insufficient oversight shouldn't be tossing out the baby with the bathwater, but better policies. We might start for example, with the top of the funnel.

Police in the US are professionally credentialed faster than a master plumber. After less training, less testing, and less oversight, they're handed lethal discretion and informal qualified immunity latitude, in less time than it takes for someone to hang a shingle out as a one-man plumbing business.


https://www.cnn.com/2013/06/05/us/trayvon-martin-shooting-fa...

This is the kind of behavior that I expect to see widely across America if we rely on random citizens to patrol instead of police. He was told by 911 to stay in his car, but instead he got out and shot Treyvon in supposed "self defense".


Agreed that it won't help there. But communities are different; the ones that are proposing community policing are ones where they know that they will get better treatment from their own community members than they will from outsiders.

The same solutions will not be applied universally across the US because the challenges are very different for different communities. Many Black communities that are asking for community policing will benefit; doing community policing in white spaces is not guaranteed to make them any safer for Black people, but I don't know if that's being called for. And honesty I'm not sure it makes them less safe, either, when you look at what happened to Treyvom Martin and Ahmed Aubrey's cases (and all the others that do not get media attention).


> but instead he got out and shot Treyvon in supposed "self defense".

The wikipedia article says that he was injured and that he got into a conflict with him before shooting. He claims that this was while he was returning to his car and he was attacked by him. If this is true I see no misconduct by him.


> But, for instance, while private citizens may have guns for self-defense, they're unlikely to have tear gas, rubber bullets, armored vehicles, Stingrays, etc.

So the civilian watch would effectively only have lethal force to stop a threat then? All of those things have a purpose. Armored vehicles for example are most often used to approach armed suspects who have holed themselves up in a defensive position without risking seat or police lives. Stingrays are used to track gang, cartel, weapons dealing, and terrorist activities.

You could argue that only federal entities should have that power, but then the FBI/DEA/ATF would inevitably fill the power vacuum and take over a lot of roles that would otherwise be done by police. The alternative of course if that we simply don't use Stingrays, armored vehicles, riot shields and rubber bullets, but then a lot of crime would go unpunished either from lack of information gathering or simply from fear of death (for example, a civilian with just a gun would have a much higher chance of death trying to free a child from an armed abductor that a swat team with armored vehicles, bulletproof shields, etc.)


No, it's a different institution based on different ways of organising power. For another example of this see Civil Defense Forces in Rojava[0] which are organized democratically.

http://hawzhin.press/2020/06/01/how-to-abolish-the-police-le...


Why don’t we look at societies without police and contrast them to societies with police and tease out which have better outcomes?


In some rural communities the police can be hours away, if there's even an officer on shift right now. Virtually everyone in those communities has guns and it works out pretty well.


Rural communities where there is basically no crime is no comparison to cities with an abundance of crime targets. Also they still have police, it just takes the police a while to get there. A entity with authority to carry out laws; a person who determines what is and isn't a crime, what acts are self defense and which are assault or murder, and tracks down criminals. If a farmer has a tractor stolen from him it is not acceptable to track the criminal down and use force to take it back, that is the job of the police.


Rural areas are far from not having crime, it is just much of it ends up not getting reported because by time the cops come, it is over, the people at fault are gone, and the cops got nothing to do other than harass the non-criminal people that are dumb enough to still be around. Rural police are 90% a money-making racket and the people know it. Threatening to call the police on someone in a rural area is considered a worse threat by most than directly threatening someone with a beating or deadly weapons. If your tractor gets stolen, the only reason to call the police is for insurance purposes. Otherwise the only way you are likely to ever see that tractor again is to ask around and look for it yourself. Plus you gotta be pretty dumb to steal a farmer's tractor. Not only is it noisy as fuck, extremely obvious, and will take forever to actually get anywhere, but the person stealing it is at the mercy of the farmer that has all the time in the world to come out and either force you out by gunpoint or blast you from a half mile away.


>If a farmer has a tractor stolen from him it is not acceptable to track the criminal down and use force to take it back, that is the job of the police.

That's just hiring someone else to use force to take it back. So we at least agree that taking it back by force is the right thing to do. I'll even go so far as agreeing with you that it's morally justified to hire someone else to do it for you. I suspect our area of disagreement is really narrow on this issue.


I would rather have a group of people trained on how to apprehend criminals with the minimum force necessary and with rules and regulations to follow than have untrained, armed citizens going to retrieve their goods. Would the farmer have the freedom to search any property they please? A criminal would not let the farmer search his property, and if the farmer insisted with force he could be threatening an innocent person. Criminals would almost always be better armed and trained than their victims, and if a "mercenary" service existed which could be hired by victims, that mercenary service is essentially just privatized police.

Yes, there are often police who do not follow the regulations on how to interact with suspects, but I believe it is better to have guidelines which are sometimes broken than none at all.


First of all, I want to say that I don't support roving gangs of mercenaries. But just as a thought experiment... which do you think is likely to kill more innocent people: roving gangs of mercenaries in a stateless community where most are armed or the US government?

edit: changed vigilantes to mercenaries for consistency


Well, we are now talking about the entire US government instead of just US police. Certainly a state has a greater pool of resources to draw upon for war if it chooses to do so, but comparing a state with groups of mercenaries or vigilantes is impossible because of the myriad of different forms they could take. One would be comparing a single large casualty number vs. many much smaller numbers. The Iraq war is estimated to have had 150,000 to over 600,000 civilian casualties in the first three to four years of conflict, although I believe that is total, not just casualties attributed to the US. The US had a population of just under 300,000,000 at the time. Revolutionary Catalonia is the best large example of a large-scale anarchical society I can find, and in 1936 is estimated to have had 8,350 killings for a population of under 3,000,000 [0]. Of course those two examples are more on the extreme side, and there are infinite nuances, such as the fact that not all civilians in the civil war were innocent, the same with Revolutionary Catalonia. They both were extremely different times as well.

I'd say it's a toss-up if I absolutely had to guess.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutionary_Catalonia


We have numerous examples in US history of that. What do you think they did in the Old West? The sheriff was often outmanned and undergunned, so nobody wanted the position. The bandits were so powerful that ordinary citizens had to be called upon to catch criminals. Not to mention, there were hostile Native American tribes that wanted to scalp you.


You don’t “hire” the police, and that’s critical. If you did, they would be accountable to you and not the rest of society. Police are agents of the government which is accountable (to some degree) to the people. This is a tremendous distinction.


Police and government have something very important in common with you. They are all just people. Regular people without superior morals, intellectual capability, resolve, etc. In this case a government is just a group of people getting together and saying, "Okay Bob, a few of us in the community have pooled our money together to hire some mercenaries and we'd like you to do the hiring." And then Bob just does it.


No one said anything about superior morals, capability, resolve, etc. The important part is that the state has a monopoly on violence and in a democracy, the state is accountable to the people. This doesn't require agents of the state to be superior in any specific way, only that We The People authorize state agents to enforce and uphold law and order.

We literally cannot remove the police without a collapse of the state and consequently the rest of our civilization, and if you think for even one moment about how that would play out it would be apparent: everything fractures into private armies with no incentive to uphold democratic rule of law; the most powerful private armies become de facto states and their ruler a law unto himself--effectively a king. Obviously modern society can't survive under these conditions--no one can trust rule of law which absolutely underpins our economy. So congratulations, you've rediscovered the dark ages and doomed hundreds of millions to deaths from violence, illness, and starvation. :)


Yes and many small message boards on the internet don’t require folks to hold a moderator role.

It doesn’t scale.


There's a reason "roof Koreans" are a meme. They were successful in keeping their businesses safe while the rest of the city was looted.


so Pro 2A?


Not at all.


> If a society wants to get rid of the police, it needs to designate some other group to handle this use case. It can't simply get rid of the police.

> A "natural experiment" of a world without police is quite unnatural: it's a world built up around the police with a sudden police-shaped gap in the middle.

The hole can also get filled in unexpected ways. This past weekend during the riots and looting, when the police in Chicago were stretched too thin, some people were happy the local gangs were protecting them from the looters.


Arming the populace? Having a bunch of untrained people police their own neighborhoods sounds like a recipe for disaster. Trump supporters and racists would be watching neighborhoods with lethal weapons.

I'm not saying that Trump supporters should not be able to, but the anti-police crowd seem to not think far enough ahead to realize that taking power away from police and giving it to the people means giving it to people that they see as political and ideological enemies as well.

Edit: would someone like to dispute this instead of just downvoting? I'm trying to discuss in good faith; this seems to be a real problem with the idea of arming the populace: inevitably there will be citizens who have different ideas on self-policing their community. Would we only allow people with socially acceptable ideologies to have arms?


In rural areas the population is already armed, even for the purpose of hunting and protecting the farms from animals damaging crops and livestock. If I read the numbers correctly the state with the least regulated gun policies is the second most safe in USA.

Also Trump supporters don't equal Pro 2A. Most of my USA based colleagues are Pro 2A, including the Biden supporters, and most are not Trump fans.

Also most people that I know with gun permits in my country (extremely rare) are more knowledgeable on laws than most policemen; same for gun training, we do train policemen in the range and we see that.

In a neighborhood where people are armed there is no need to patrol on the streets. Guess what is the place around the gun range that is never robbed? The gun range. People don't take risks, they pick the easy targets, gun-free zones are perfect targets for people that ignore the laws.


I have firearms, and I would use them to kill credible threats to myself and my family. You seem to be saying that makes me a "Trump supporter and racist". I am neither of those things. Several of my neighbors might fit that description, but all of my neighbors are armed.


> Trump supporters and racists would be watching neighborhoods with lethal weapons.

You just described the situation today, both inside, and outside, of the police.

Many (naturally, well-armed) police are both Trump supporters, and racists.

Many Trump supporters, and racists, are extremely well-armed in the USA.


>Many Trump supporters, and racists, are extremely well-armed in the USA.

Yet they are not bestowed with the power of self-policing, and are still subject to a higher authority which regulates what is and isn't acceptable defense of self or property. Who would regulate their behavior? Instead of a small subset of racists having power, you would have ALL racists having power. I think they would love to have the ability to police their own communities without having to go through the trouble of becoming a police officer. There would be George Zimmerman to type situations happening every other day since they know police are not coming. Last year 9 black and 19 white unarmed people were shot by police out of a population of 328 million people. Any number may be unacceptable, but that number would certainly be orders of magnitude higher if untrained citizens who do not have the protocols that police must follow are given the power to self-police.


To the interviewee's credit, he specifically distances himself from this kind of situation:

> Well, I'm certainly not talking about any kind of scenario where tomorrow someone just flips a switch and there are no police. What I'm talking about is the systematic questioning of the specific roles that police currently undertake, and attempting to develop evidence-based alternatives so that we can dial back our reliance on them. And my feeling is that this encompasses actually the vast majority of what police do. We have better alternatives for them.


How is this a natural experiment? Anarchism isn't just "when there are no police" Obviously looting should be read as exposing underlying ills and unmet needs within society. Like are you suggesting the natural state of people is just to loot and behave completely selfishly? look how many people in just the US riots alone cooperated to form medical stations, to work against police tactics, to make sure protestors had water and snacks etc..


> Like are you suggesting the natural state of people is just to loot and behave completely selfishly?

Don't know about that, but there is ABSOLUTELY enough selfish/predatory/angry people in any population that will commit violent acts for profit and pleasure if the risks of being brought to justice disappears.

I would not have guessed it would erupt as fast as it did in Montreal, but empirically, it did.

I expect day 2 would have been a lot worse. Pray that we never find out :)

> Obviously looting should be read as exposing underlying ills and unmet needs within society

Well, some people never find their needs met...


Researchers studying sociopathy often put the number somewhere between 2-8%, with variance seemingly driven by cultural and other environmental factors. Whether or not you believe that sociopathy is a distinctive thing, it's hard to dispute that a not insignificant subset of human populations are primarily restrained by deterrence alone--specifically the threat of punishment. That doesn't mean such people are evil or intrinsically violent, they're just opportunistic to the point of almost being mechanically opportunistic.

I'm a glass is half full kind of person so I see factors like empathy as a defining characteristic of humanity, but even I can't deny that such internalized inhibitions, biological and cultural, which mute anti-social behaviors aren't universal.


Extremely well said point. I think a lot of people in our profession have come from more privileged backgrounds. This causes them to not really encounter the kinds of people that you are talking about at least not in a way that they know the people are psychopathic. I realize now that I was probably quite damaged by having a childhood like I did. I suspect that I have a warped view of the world in many ways but one thing I do know is the capacity for evil in some people that will come out as soon as they get the opportunity and a little bit of power.


The privilege surrounding discussions of defunding police in western social media and forums is incredibly overwhelming. We won the lottery in being born in (relatively) extremely stable societies, and have no idea what it is like to live in a society with a far weaker police force like Mexico or Somalia. We are insulated from the harsher realities of the brutality of human nature. Mexico has huge swaths of territory in which police are powerless and cartels rule. There is not a single place on Earth that I am aware of where a lack of police force is not filled by an often times more violent group. What is to stop that power vacuum from being filled?


Generally agree but not that they are deterred by punishment alone, no. They will do whatever they get away with. Which would imply - “the right thing” must also be objectively better to the individual, not only backed by moral+force, for it to work generally.

(Not to mention the sociopaths are already present in politics and police. Drawn to power)


> Well, some people never find their needs met...

enormous numbers of people in the US are living literally a paycheck or a medical emergency away from bankruptcy and homelessness


I was implying that some people always want more, regardless of how much they already have.

But sure, I agree that those desperate people can also be dangerous.


Not sure whom to attribute this quote to, but "Most of the world's problems are caused by two types of people: those who don't have enough, and those who never have enough."


Would this happen IF we had free guns for the populace who want them who pass background/mental evals (make owning a gun a right for all).

Then we democratize gun ownership. Next we create UBI so nobody has to steal to put food on the table, and guarantee jobs for anyone who wants one, and healthcare for all.

you end the poverty and almost-poverty and you stop a lot of the reasons behind WHY people loot when there's an opportunity to do so.


I live in a city with a vandalism problem. People throw benches into the river, break glass panes, and perform other similar feats just for the fun of it. Oh, and the ubiquitous designer drugs ads on every damn wall.

Well, it _was_ a problem until the government put cameras on every street corner and the police started tracking down and punishing every one of the vandals.

How would gun ownership help with this? I look out of a window at 2 AM and see a couple of guys destroying a bus stop. Should I grab my gun and start shooting at them?


The guns are more of a equalization of power. The right loves guns, but would they if they knew every liberal had twice as many guns as they probably have?

that was my point w/ guns...


What happens when a burglar is shot by a home owner and there is a dispute on whether or not it was justified? Almost every single act of self defense would be heavily disputed. You would have "vigilantes" dispensing what they see as justice by trying to apprehend the home owner, who would then again be forced to defend themselves. You would need a higher entity of authority to arbitrate these disputes, possibly with lethal force, which would essentially be just another form of police.


Day 2 may have been a lot better as store owners started to take matters into their own hands. We only saw the first day, which many people were unprepared for. A lot less people would be willing to loot if they had a friend who died after getting shot by a store owner with a shotgun. Not that this is really any better, I'm just trying to say that we can't really reach any conclusions from one day of this experiment


> A lot less people would be willing to loot if they had a friend who died after getting shot by a store owner with a shotgun.

Criminals are likely to organize in order to increase their chances of success and survival. Individuals will be quickly overwhelmed if they don't form their own organized defense forces. There's always a lot of extremely violent people protecting the "normal" ones.


Yes people could organize their own protective forces. The shopkeepers could even pool their money and require that you pay in to be protected. We could call this a police force.....


Pretty sure gangs would take over. Power abhors a vacuum.


This. It would quickly devolve into a power struggle of who could amass the most strength. You only have to sample the mob era to see what would happen, where shop owners for example were paying for protection. In the absense of any form of control there will always be people that will take advantage and sway others to their cause.


Yeah, but police units and private security firms are a form of "gang", just with different pay masters and accountability.


Notably accountability to the people (in principle if imperfect in practice), which is an important distinction indeed.


Oh the greeks! Great application of the quote.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horror_vacui_(physics)


Vigilantism is better than a police apparatus? I don’t understand these takes.


I didn't say it was better overall, I was just responding to "I expect day 2 would have been a lot worse." from the OP


> Like are you suggesting the natural state of people is just to loot and behave completely selfishly?

'Completely' is a meaningless term. Animals behave selfishly in almost every choice (even in altruism) as part of the survival instinct. There is a question of degree and there is a distribution curve that hasn't been fully explored. For some people, some desperate or casual situations lead to barbaric (lack of a better term) behavior, when possible, for some portion of the population. Even with a police force, the curve exists and we experience the effects.


The natural state of people is to form into increasingly larger bands under increasingly hierarchical leadership whose power provides them with security and liberty. When you take away those power structures, everything indeed devolves back into chaos—this is the definition of a civilization collapsing. Anarchy is incompatible with security and consequently with peace and liberty as well.


> Like are you suggesting the natural state of people is just to loot and behave completely selfishly?

All of them? No. Enough of them? Yes.


It is the natural state of criminals. Seattle suburbs were victimized by organized groups driving in car caravans from mall to mall. This occurred while police were busy in greater Seattle.


Society has a role in meeting needs. If society burns whenever there are unmet needs, it will never get its act together to meet them.


>Like are you suggesting the natural state of people is just to loot and behave completely selfishly?

Uhhh Yes? This is the natural state of Man, and has been for 10,000 years. My goodness, we've only gotten over it in the last 1000 years (and that's being extremely charitable). We're thankfully at a point where we've been able to regulate ourselves with some rules here and there. But that natural state of Man is the raison d'être for those rules in the first place.


Anyone I've talked with that believed in abolishing police understood that it would need to be replaced by some kind of other institution. Suddenly removing the police like that is therefore not a valid way to consider the abolishment of police in general.

I'm a bit surprised by someone who's familiar with an anarchist theory to be this naive about this stuff.

Today in Rojava (society in Syria based in part on anarchist principles) they are replacing the police with alternative institutions.

You can read more about it here: http://hawzhin.press/2020/06/01/how-to-abolish-the-police-le...


It is worth noting so, that of all western style democracies only the US has the kind of problems with police violence. Not saying other countries don't have police violence, but not even close to the degree the US has.

So instead of looking at alternative societies in Syria, how about looking at European countries and the way they are policing? Or Canada?


No, the US is too special for that.


I'm not personally a fan of anarchism but that seems like a weak argument. Many people of that persuasion also support significantly down-scaled local and self-sufficient communities or pastoral lifestyles, I very much doubt that Bakunin had modern Montreal in mind as a sort of model society for anarchism.

For a different take, do the Amish have a police force or are they frequently policed from the outside? Many people who advocate anarchism do so in the context of communities in which widespread looting makes little sense.


The thumb seems on the scale a bit with referring to "proudly peaceable Canada" - like everything in 1969 in Montreal was the picture and peace, and then out of nowhere a police strike caused mayhem.

The Wikipedia page for a sibling comment points out that Montreal already had problems: bank robberies, riots and terrorist bombings.

So if it's a 'natural experiment' it's one against a background of high levels of disorder to begin with.

I think it's also somewhat of a caricature to imagine that a total police strike is somehow indicative of what a radical reduction on police activity would look like. Most people calling for "de-policing" would draw the line at "let's not send police after bank robberies, assaults, riots, home invasions, etc".


A year later, the FLQ kidnapped the Deputy Premiere of Quebec and a British diplomat. At the request of the mayor of Montreal, the government invoked the War Measures Act, declaring martial law and deploying the Canadian Armed Forces under the direction of the Quebec provincial police.

You could hardly pick a more dangerous time or place in Canadian history.


Did you read the article?

> “Well, I'm certainly not talking about any kind of scenario where tomorrow someone just flips a switch and there are no police. What I'm talking about is the systematic questioning of the specific roles that police currently undertake, and attempting to develop evidence-based alternatives so that we can dial back our reliance on them.”

Vitale offers a nuanced perspective, and your response is a barely-related strawman.


I thought it was an interesting anecdote. I didn't read it as a rebuttal but simply as extra data to consider. Both the article and this comment provide much food for thought.


All that sort of damage has also happened in plenty of situations when the police were not on strike, though... I don't think that one unusual event (an anecdote) is any indication of any larger pattern.

More to the point, though, the article doesn't suggest a complete abolition of all police; it suggests returning them to a more limited, core role.


Not only that, but there were police officers on duty in the city; per Wikipedia ‘The provincial government posted 400 officers from the Sûreté du Québec to Montreal in the morning.’

If anything, this is an experiment in what happens if you unexpectedly swap the police in a city for a different set in the middle of a crisis.



That is so weird. I can remember several police strikes here in Belgium, and none of that sort of thing happened.

The latest police strike announcement was for April (12th to 19th) this year, and was over the lack of PPE for field work. The strike was cancelled as PPE was made available before the strike date.


It's important to understand that this was already a very violent time in Montreal. Separatist terrorists were running rampant, and had a non-zero degree of public support.


This doesn't have anything to do with the article.

The article doesn't advocate for "no police". It says that we tend to ignore more and more societal problems and simply ask police to deal with the consequences. It underlines that police aren't --and will never be-- social workers; their mode of operation is to use legitimate violence to prevent or punish undesirable behavior. When a problem is dealt with by the police, the result is more violence. This is hardly police's fault: it's why they're there.

The article suggests society should actually address its problems (poverty, homelessness, drug use, etc.) instead of ignoring them, and that police should be a solution of last resort, not the standard response to anything that's "wrong".

We can agree or disagree, but quoting Pinker saying "that no police results in chaos" is not helping the discussion.



I’m not convinced that eliminating police altogether is a good idea, but after reading https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray-Hill_riot (which cites your Stephen Pinker quote), I don’t think that a situation which also involved “taxi drivers... armed with Molotov cocktails” is representative of what might happen if police departments were disbanded under other circumstances.

(Edit: I regret putting snark over substance in this reply. See my response below, and others’ in this subthread, for a more detailed rebuttal.)


" I don’t think that a situation which also involved “taxi drivers... armed with Molotov cocktails” is representative of what might happen if police departments were disbanded under other circumstances"

Why not?


From the sounds of it, tensions were already running high in the city (and the police felt that they weren’t getting paid enough to deal with it); on top of that the police had incentive to time their strike to happen at the worst possible moment. They were also joined in their protest by other groups inclined towards violence, and had reason to encourage those groups (in order to show that they were needed). The reason all of the quoted incidents happened at once is because a lot of different groups were handed an opportunity on a silver platter by a group who had it in their best interests to see a lot of violence break out.

This is a very different scenario from a controlled, scheduled spindown of a department by the city government.


Competition is always high in between businesses. And taxi drivers are particularly nasty


But if it wasn't an instantaneous policy change, both taxi companies and limo companies would hire private security or gear up with weapons.


Recent New York data during a slowdown paints a different picture:

"De Blasio, in this sense, is a remarkably unimaginative politician, like Andrew Cuomo. Police did stop doing their jobs, momentarily, after the murders of Liu and Ramos, in protest of de Blasio’s allegedly anti-police gestures. Arrests and summonses plummeted in early 2015. This, in labor and political parlance, is called a slowdown. The truth about the slowdown, as I’ve written before, is that crime remained quite low. Lack of police enforcement did not unleash the sort of disorder Lynch and his ilk always promise would come. It’s a small sample size, yes. But de Blasio has never used this data point to his advantage. Instead, he has grown only more defensive of his police department. Even in an age of COVID-19-induced catastrophe, with tax revenue evaporating by the month, de Blasio cannot bring himself to meaningfully cut funding to his police department."

Source: https://rossbarkan.substack.com/p/why-is-the-nypd-so-powerfu...


I don't think you're presenting your anecdote in good faith. Either that or you're just completely unaware of the context.

"Montreal was once known as the bank robbery capital of North America."

https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/history-through-...

NYPD went on strike in 2014, if anyone wants to research that themselves... RIP Eric Garner


> NYPD went on strike in 2014, if anyone wants to research that themselves

Vox did an analysis of the NYPD "slowdown"[1] as it was also a useful natural experiment. They didn't enforce the low-level "broken windows" crimes, but only did the minimum required by their contract. Needless to say, the city fared far better than right now.

That said, neither of these is a good example of what life would be life without government-supplied police forces. They are very rapid, unplanned changes in policy which don't allow private parties to hire private industry replacements and don't reflect how much less tax would be paid (about 40% of local government revenues).

[1] https://www.vox.com/2015/1/6/7501953/nypd-mayor-arrests-unio...


I don't have any claims to make, the unfair angle of the parent comment motivated me to invite people to simply read into it themselves, so thanks for the vox link. Surely there is a middle ground between no police and military-grade policing.


> Steven Pinker describes how that went

Well as Wikipedia describes how it went beforehand:

> In the first six months of 1969, there were 93 bank robberies in Montreal compared to 48 bank robberies in the first six months of 1968.[5] In January and February 1969, the FLQ staged 10 terrorist bombings in Montreal, and between August 1968 and February 1969, there were 75 bombings linked to the FLQ.[5] In February 1969, the FLQ set off bombs at the Montreal Stock Market (injuring 28 people) and at the offices of the Queen's Printer in Montreal.[5] March 1969 saw the outbreak of violent demonstrations as French-Canadians demanded that McGill University, a traditional bastion of Montreal's English-speaking elite, be transformed into a French-language university, leading to counter-demonstrations by English-Canadians to keep McGill an English language university.[4] The leader of the 'Operation McGill Français' protests was ironically a part-time Marxist political science lecturer from Ontario named Stanley Gray who could barely speak French, but who declared that McGill must become a French-language university to end "Anglo-elitism", rallying support from the Quebec separatist movement.[11] Over two weeks of clashes and protests, McGill was reduced to chaos as Quebec separatists stormed into the meetings of the McGill's Senate and administration chanting such slogans as "Révolution! Vive le Québec socialise! Vive le Québec libre!".[11] The climax of the 'Operation McGill Français' protests occurred on the evening of 28 March 1969 when a 9,000-strong group of Quebec separatists led by Gray tried to storm McGill, and clashed with the police who had been asked by McGill to keep Gray's group off the campus.[11] In September 1969, rioting broke out in the St. Leonard district between Italian-Canadians and French-Canadians with differing opinions of the language issue.[4] Italian immigrant parents had kept their children from school to protest the fact that the language of school instruction was now French instead of English, and on 10 September 1969, a group of 1,500 French-Canadian nationalists attempted to march through St. Leonard's Little Italy district to protest the school boycott.[12] Upon arrival, the marchers were attacked by the Italians, leading to a night of violence on the streets.[13]

And this was all while the police were on the job, so it seems like pretty important context (especially considering the article is not the headline and we're talking about policing scope here).


> what happens without police

This is a straw-man. The article isn't calling for abolishing police: "I'm certainly not talking about any kind of scenario where tomorrow someone just flips a switch and there are no police. What I'm talking about is the systematic questioning of the specific roles that police currently undertake, and attempting to develop evidence-based alternatives so that we can dial back our reliance on them."


How is this example relevant to the article ? The article discusses reducing the scope of policing, not end of policing. Not sure why this comment is upvoted.


I downvoted because I don't think this anecdote relates to peaceful times at all.


This is what NYPD needs to do: just stop coming to work for a week "in solidarity", and tell everyone that there will be no police in NYC for a week. Not in "good" neighborhoods, not in "bad" neighborhoods, anywhere. Tables will turn so quick your head will spin.


"Police" (Edit:"modern police") is a 19th century invention, well after cities were a thing. If we get past semantics, a service that provides order and security to a community is needed. I imagine it more like social workers that also do criminal investigations for prosecutors instead of a military force for a city. Perhaps an unrelated armed "police" can help when deadly force is needed (gangs, armed criminals,etc...).

Disarm and civilize the police but keep their SWAT units as a separate department that only backs up police when requested.

This would throwing a lot less people in jail and having police that live in the community. But hey, this is just wishful imagination, politicians and police union would commit sedition if anything like this happened.


What you are describing is the London Metropolitan Police which are regarded as one of the worlds best managed police forces, where the average bobby are unarmed and where the code of conduct focus on public service.

It;s also worth noting that when the UK faced a similar problem with an undiverse militarized police force in northern Ireland they did this https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/issues/police/patten/recommend.htm and launched a bunch of investigation(the Stevens enquiries) into past crimes of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The problem in America blocking any meaningful solutions to genuine problems is the collective denial the American middle class have towards past sins and current systematic problems with the American way not that it's a new problem that have never been solved before.


And yet the protests in London turned violent and attacked the police:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/06/03/george-floyd-pro...

Either the metropolitan police are not perceived as well as you think they are or these protests aren't about what they claim to be about.


And yet the protests in London turned violent and attacked the police:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/06/03/george-floyd-pro...

Either they are not perceived as well as you think or these protests aren't about what they claim to be about.


If anything, there should be more police imo but they should be disarmed with a gun being something you need to call for. There is so much petty crime, harassment, and assault that happens on a daily basis that just goes unreported or isn't followed up with since police are spread so thin, in LA at least. I want to see the return of the beat cop who walks the neighborhood regularly. I want to feel safe walking around my city and not have to watch my back for someone out of their mind on meth who might think my backpack is easy pickings.

At USC, they have these security people who just walk around the off campus area and report belligerent activity. Their uniforms are bright, so you can spot them at night and run over if needed. At the very least this sort of security needs to be in place in all parks and transit stops, there are just too many insane people left to fester on the street unfortunately. I'd love to have more shelters and mental health services built, and fully support all efforts at the ballot, but that's a 5-10 year timeline with land permitting and construction versus just handing out high vis vests and walkie talkies, and the situation certainly isn't improving in the mean time.


By civilizing the police we also mean affirmative action to bring the demographics of the officers in line with the people they serve. Removing guns wouldn’t have saved Eric Garner or George Floyd.


Other ways of turning policing away from "tacticool" policing and towards community policing: offering cops more $$$; requiring a degree or two; placing residency requirements (x cops in a precinct must live within y miles of the community they are to serve) to help weed out the bully types.

That can be done in a reasonable amount of time.


To do all that you need to start with offering cops more cash, as in LA at least there is a huge recruiting problem and a staffing shortage. No one wants to be a cop, its a notoriously shit job where they haze you worse than boot camp and that's why many cops come from cop families who don't know any better than to tow the family line.

Cops in LA are also very highly paid especially in benefits and overtime. Part of the reason why they are so short staffed is that it is cheaper to pay a cop well into the 6 figures in over time and pay for one retirement pension then it is to hire two regular time cops and pay two pensions. I don't know how you fix this issue beyond enforcing stricter criminal punishment against bad cops and start actually busting heads instead of slapping wrists.


a notoriously shit job where they haze you worse than boot camp

That would indicate a leadership problem. Regular people just won't stay around when everyone from the top down is bent, even if the salary is outrageous.


They make between $200k and $500k and still shoot rubber bullets at helpful protestors in San Jose so maybe throwing money into a hole isn't super useful as a strategy.


We did that in my country; it did not have the effect people hoped for, just made them another class of privileged employees milking the system. I have 2 former cops in my family, they retired young for nice pensions, money never made them any better cops. One was similar to a police captain with a masters degree, one was a seargent.


I'd hate to break it to you but if you look at the actual data collected on police shootings you will see that while black Americans are overrepresented (they are 13% of the population but represent 24% of people killed by police), there are many many cases where the person killed is the same race as the officer. The majority of people killed by police in the USA were white.

https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/nationaltrends

BLM doesn't form protests when black men are killed by black cops. They are politically savvy and understand that the optics of that aren't conducive to their message. In fact, they don't appear to care at all about non black people killed by police either. The 76 percent of people killed by police that aren't black don't interest them.

The real danger to black men in USA is being murdered by a non cop. Black men are insanely overrepresented in both homicide victimization and perpetration.

It should be noted that southern whites in the USA had massive rates of homicide until the early 20th century. They have significantly higher rates of violence compared to northern whites even today.

Culture > Race


https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-de...

I don't know if this includes deaths by things like choking or beating.

If this is correct, death by cop is actually pretty rare. Not bitten by shark rare, but maybe in the magnitude of fatally falling off a ladder rare.

Which of course isn't to say harassment or abuse by cop is also rare. Nor to say there isn't racial disparity because the chart clearly shows there is.


Depends on your benchmark. US Police kills 1000 people a year, in 40M Poland our Police kills 1-2 people per year. In 70M Germany it’s around 6-10.

So it’s around 20-100x more per capita than it could be.


I'm not familiar with the nature of crime in either Germany or Poland. Do either country have widespread gun ownership like the United States does?

In the United States when you look at the data that is posted in my previous comment you will see that the vast majority of police shootings involve an armed suspect.

However even if you only look at data on unarmed suspects I highly suspect that the US has a higher per capita rate than either Germany or Poland.


Near as I can tell, the four cops on scene were quite racially diverse. It’s not clear that that’s the only answer either.


It's not nearly the only answer, but at least in the case of Eric Garner, his arresting officers were all white. There were no black men or women arresting George Floyd either. I was tacking onto the long list of reforms that we should consider.


The argument that the right race is better than competency is overused. People pointing at race are one of the reasons racism exists, asking for diversity is using divide et impera the races, not helping anyone.


The Vigiles were a police force[1] in ancient Rome, so they're not a recent innovation.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vigiles#Police_force


That's not "modern police" as in the modern organized structure. Even the wild west had marshalls and sherrifs but they were not police.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police under history, look at the "modern police" section. I find this poster against police in Wales a bit amusing: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a1/No_Polic...

Law enforcement is not the synonymous with police.


You wouldn't go out in ancient Rome after dark, though. Unless you could afford armed bodyguards.


Please keep in mind that the current protests are only happening because of police. There is a point when they're not the agents of order and safety, but the agents of violence and disorder. And yes, we ought to question the value of any police force that kills citizens so regularly -- so normally -- that it's shocking if someone can even ask whether a cop should be charged with murder after murdering someone on camera. Keep in mind Floyd isn't the only person to be killed by cops this month, or last month or last year. This is very, very normal. We're not better for it or safer for it, so yes it may be true right now that we're more safe without them and less safe with them.

And I'm not really arguing either side so much as pointing out that the current disorder and violence is in response to regular police violence. Regular.

No place breaks down due simply to an absence of police. But I've heard of police states -- and those aren't something anyone talking about the merits of order and safety should be arguing for.


It is not just because of police, it is because the government or mayor that oversee that police allowed it to become that way and did not immediately take action.

1. Police don't just start one day misbehaving without any warning. It takes years to get there, years where they see there is no consequence for being more and more out of line and years of having immunity for their actions.

2. That event was not handled properly, the cop should have been arrested on the spot or in a couple of hours, not days later. These lack of immediate action was seen as an attempt to cover up or minimize the gravity of the situation and that is a very good reason for public protests.

Both #1 and #2 are not the fault of the police, but for people governing over the police force. Quoting from a well known psychologist, the regular policemen has an IQ around 90, the police oversight body should compensate for that.


In Eugene, OR, where I live, there is a program called CAHOOTS ("Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets") which is more or less the mental health equivalent of an ambulance. They're dispatched by non-emergency operators to situations such as mental health crises, public intoxication, and welfare checks- things where police officers would be asked to serve as a social worker, as the article puts it.

My understanding is that the program has been quite successful, and other cities have begun implementing their own similar programs using it as a model.

https://whitebirdclinic.org/cahoots-faq/


California used to have programs like this in the 80’s. They were outlawed as part of Regan’s war on mental illness (or whatever he called it).

A friend of mine went through this, so I went through all the options with the a few emergency psychiatric wards.

These days, even if the person has medical insurance or someone wants to pay out of pocket, the mental health professionals aren’t allowed to do anything without getting the person in need of emergency care to sign an emergency consent form under their own free will, and while capable of making legal decisions (which is by-definition impossible). Pre signing the form “just in case” doesn’t count. My friend did this, in fact.

Other than waiting for the situation to escalate to violence (and getting the person incarcerated without care) the only option is to have a police officer (with no medical credentials) come out and make a diagnosis.

The officer almost always (and in this case, did) overrides any doctors and loved ones involved in the case, and finds that the person does not need care.

The triage nurse at one of the care centers told me that most residents of the many waterfront encampments in the city were people her office had previously turned away.


The evisceration of mandatory mental illness treatment programs and powers was primarily driven by psychiatrists' promises and civil rights advocates' demands. Legislators keen on budget reduction were simply happy to oblige, and Reagan didn't standout in that regard. He just happened to have a higher profile due to his being governor of California and then president. All other states made the same mistake as California, did so at around the same time, and it all unraveled long before Reagan became president.

Here's a more contemporaneous 1984 NY Times investigative article detailing the history: "How Release of Mental Patients Began", https://www.nytimes.com/1984/10/30/science/how-release-of-me...

EDIT: The report mentioned in the article is presumably, "The Homeless Mentally Ill: A Task Force Report of the American Psychiatric Association", https://doi.org/10.1176/ps.36.7.782 I can't find a freely available copy online, however.


I probably shouldn’t have compared it to an ambulance service because I think they do most of their intervention in place- literally helping out on the streets. They do have vans so maybe they transport people if necessary but I don’t think that’s the standard case.


Where I'm from, the ambulances wouldn't respond to 911 calls without a police escort. Once the CAHOOTS people start getting attacked and killed, the program will end.


What is your ideal outcome from posting this?


I know folks don't always click through, so I'll highlight what I found most insightful:

> Part of our misunderstanding about the nature of policing is we keep imagining that we can turn police into social workers. That we can make them nice, friendly community outreach workers. But police are violence workers. That's what distinguishes them from all other government functions. ... They have the legal capacity to use violence in situations where the average citizen would be arrested.

> So when we turn a problem over to the police to manage, there will be violence, because those are ultimately the tools that they are most equipped to utilize: handcuffs, threats, guns, arrests. That's what really is at the root of policing. So if we don't want violence, we should try to figure out how to not get the police involved.

> Political protests are a threat to the order of this system. And so policing has always been the primary tool for managing those threats to the public order. Just as we understand the use of police to deal with homelessness as a political failure, every time we turn a political order problem over to the police to manage, that's also a political failure.


I think that’s made much more true because that’s the image police forces in America have of themselves. “We’re here to beat up the bad guys”. Police here in Australia are far from perfect, but they are much more seen as part of the community. They don’t even carry firearms any more.

In Australia I wouldn’t hesitate to contact the police or talk to them on the street if something happened. (Just like I wouldn’t hesitate to call an ambulance if someone gets hurt). When I lived in the Bay Area that attitude seemed naive and stupid / dangerous.


> They don’t even carry firearms any more.

That's certainly not the case in Victoria. Aussie cops might be better than American ones, if you're respectable looking, but they still have the same attitude that comes with carrying a gun and being willing and able to use it.

Victoria and NSW police have a bad track record when it comes to abusing their powers and unnecessary violence. Just look at the recent case of an NSW police officer slamming an aboriginal kid to the ground because he'd had a "bad day", or the multiple cases of unlawful strip searches on minors, or the vicpol officers who pepper sprayed and verbally abused a disabled man who they were called to do a welfare check on, or the gay man who's arm they shattered when they raided the wrong house.

The way the police treat you here is highly dependent on how they perceive you. If you ever have the misfortune of getting in trouble with the police, they'll grill you on all sorts of irrelevant shit trying to get a read on you: what suburb you live in, what you do for a job, whether you have a girlfriend/boyfriend. If you're a single man living in a western suburb (in Sydney/Melbourne) with a blue collar job, they'll treat you like dirt. I ended up getting arrested a while back, and when they found out I'm a software engineer living in a more affluent suburb, their demeanour changed instantly.


Based on this comment I can infer two things: 1) You're not aboriginal 2) You've had very limited interactions with police officers

They definitely still carry firearms, and (although they're not as bad as american police) they definitely do abuse their power.

Just this week we had yet another story about this: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jun/02/video...


Police in the small US college town I live in is pretty much part of the community. I personally know many of the officers - and they are fine people. Even so, they are still a target for antifa agit-prop tactics. The playbook is always the same, catch the one cop that said or did, or appeared to say or do, the wrong thing, once, and you can tarnish the entire department, the entire profession, forever. And it works. Somehow we lost all perspective and have come to expect that our officers, whose jobs regularly confront them with mortal danger and the darkest parts of human nature, will always display the same perfect virtues we carefully signal everyday on Facebook.


You are presenting people exposed while doing wrong as victims of the citizens risking their safety to expose them.

If the police have an image problem then perhaps they need to promote a culture of restraint, civility, and justice by enforcing the law against their own at all times not just when the criminals behavior makes it onto television and sparks riots that threatens to burn down the nation.

> Somehow we lost all perspective and have come to expect that our officers, whose jobs regularly confront them with mortal danger and the darkest parts of human nature, will always display the same perfect virtues we carefully signal everyday on Facebook.

We can work on the them becoming paragons of virtue after they stop executing citizens in the street, attacking people peacefully protesting, planting drugs on people, and raping them.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/11/us/florida-deputy-arrested-pl...

https://www.thedailybeast.com/pennsylvania-police-officer-ch...

After we get we stop raping, framing, and murdering people yes I do in fact expect those charged with serving law and order to deal with bad people without themselves becoming bad people. People in most of the developed world seem to be managing this so I don't agree that it is an impossible dream.

Many people expressed and believed that automotive fatalities were just an inevitable consequence of the the mode of transport while others insisted on pushing for systematic reforms that drastically reduced fatalities.

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/27/automobiles/50-years-ago-...

Similarly you argue that bad behavior by some police is inevitable. I don't agree

https://8cantwait.org/


Its a very large country. Bad stuff happens every day. For any group of people you can support any narrative by cherry picking the right events. Using that technique, you could "prove" anything you wish about any group and then proceed to demonize that group. This isn't to say we could not do better, we always can, and criminals should go to jail whether they happen to be police or not. But the idea that America is some sort brutal police state where the cops specifically hunt black people for being black I find absurd.


> whose jobs regularly confront them with mortal danger and the darkest parts of human nature

Police officers in the US face 12.9 fatalities per 100,000 workers. In comparison, construction workers see 14.3, agricultural workers see 17.7, farmers and ranchers around 24 and truck drivers 26.9.

As for the rest of your argument, if the 'fine' police officers don't do anything to stand up to the bad police officers or adhere to the blue wall of silence: Then they are not fine people.


Also, the average homicide of working age males (87% of police are male) is about 10 per 100,000. This is slightly higher than the rate for police (about 8-9 per 100,000). The remaining 4.9 per 100k police fatalities are mostly car accidents, which is also pretty small considering how many miles they drive every day).

I can understand how it might feel scary, though. Just because they don't have much worse outcomes than the average American of their demographic doesn't mean that they don't have more terrifying experiences than average. That's not an excuse, though. Abusive parents are often reacting to past trauma that was inflicted on them, but we still shouldn't allow them to abuse their children. Protecting the public in a constitutional way needs to be the top priority. Officer safety and wellbeing come close behind, but they should still always be in second place.


Its not about the mortality rate, its about the psychological toll which is unparalleled: cops commit suicide at higher rates than any other profession. On a daily basis they deal directly with more violence and horror then most of us are ever likely to encounter over a lifetime. They do this for low pay, on behalf of people they do not know, in a society that increasingly despises them. Most of them are fine people indeed and no one is arguing that the ones who are not should be protected.


The actual accountability and check on power+conduct is important for any group of people. Exposing cops who did something wrong, even if they are fine people to their friends is important.


>Somehow we lost all perspective and have come to expect that our officers, whose jobs regularly confront them with mortal danger and the darkest parts of human nature, will always display the same perfect virtues we carefully signal everyday on Facebook

I don't know about you but I don't have to "carefully" display not killing people who are on the ground unarmed. You're depicting people with 6 months of training as if they were in a fucking warzone every day.


Just to correct you on firearms. Police officers in Australia are generally issues firearms (semi-automatic pistols).


I thought British police mostly don't carry firearms.


They don’t, but Australia is not part of Britain, so different rules may apply.


I think it's funny that people are so focused in correcting him about Australia that they miss the point of his argument.


Same with police in New Zealand. It's part of the Peelian Principles and policing by consent: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peelian_principles


I don't know what part of Australia you're in, but literally every cop I've ever encountered here carries a firearm.

They also have a pretty decent rep for brutality themselves, particularly if you're indigenous.

So you are presenting a very misleading view.


Yes most police in AU carry a firearm.

No they don't have a 'decent rep' for brutality, whatever that means. Comparing AU police to US police is insane. Every encounter with police like a traffic stop in the US is a nonzero chance of getting killed. That's not at all comparable to Australia where there are no tasers and the use of lethal force is in the single digits per year nationally.

The view you're presenting is significantly more divorced from reality than the GP. Just like GP said, calling the police in the states even if you need their aid, is a gamble. In Australia I would not hesitate to call or interact with the police under any circumstances. Even in the immediate vicinity the Bourke St incident, I felt safe approaching and interacting with the SRG guys decked out in their military gear and automatic rifles. They went out of their way to make sure me and people with me got a safe corridor to leave the area. In the states, that'd be about a 100% chance of getting shot.


Compared to US police, Aussie cops are pleasant and agreeable. But compared to New Zealand police, they're still brutes. I've never had an encounter with police in another developed nation, so that's my only real comparison I can make, Colombian police certainly aren't polite and civil.

Don't just judge the police on your experiences as an innocent bystander, but by how they treat those they think are less innocent. Police in Australia are far more likely to use violence and intimidation than Kiwi cops, in a large part because they are armed. Carrying a firearm creates an inherent power imbalance and a willingness to use violence and force to resolve an incident than deescalation techniques. NZ cops are much more likely to attempt to defuse the situation, or avoid the situation becoming (potentially) violent in the first place, using force is seen as a last resort than a first option (although it's a different story if you're Maori or Polynesian).


Sure. Aussie cops aren't angels at all. But comparing Aussie cops to US cops in terms of use of violence, poor judgement, etc. is insane.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFaPooJBDSg

Imagine this situation playing out in the states. Guy would be riddled with bullets in seconds.


Cops fatally shoot about 1000 people in the US every year from what I read. The US has over 300 million people.

Not nonzero but... well, you can do the math.


When I traveled to Unites States, I was told that if cops stop me, I have to keep hands on wheel otherwise they might shoot me. I got no similar advice anywhere else. In other western countries, I know cops wont shoot me if I move hands around noramly.

This sort of thing add to the perception of American police.


Ya for sure. People get strange ideas from the news, I think because the news reports, well, newsworthy things. Someone being shot by a cop is news. Someone getting a warning not to speed is not.

It is true American cops do shoot more people than their counterparts in non gun owning countries. And they can get a bit jumpy until they see what a person is about, which is somewhat understandable given the environment.

The advice to keep your hands in plain sight and don't make quick movements is good. It's very unlikely you'll get shot (as per the stats above) but to help keep everyone calm and happy. It's not really a big imposition.

This probably sounds like weird advice coming from another place. But every place has it's strange things. You have to understand, America is not far removed from it's frontier days. It's always been a fairly violent country. That doesn't mean it's not in general safe, it is for the most part, it's just there are a lot of guns and a fair amount of violence compared to Sweden or some place like that.


You are also greatly exaggerating the risk to citizens in the USA when calling the police. The risk is not to the caller, the risk is to the alleged criminal that may get manhandled (or shot) way out of proportion to the offense. But you don’t make a mental “death chance calculation” when you call the cops.


> You are also greatly exaggerating the risk to citizens in the USA

"Noor was convicted of third degree murder and second degree manslaughter for killing Ms Damond Ruszczyk just minutes after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her Minneapolis home in July 2017."

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-08/mohamed-noor-sentence...

> The risk is not to the caller

Just yesterday there was news coverage of a store owner who called police for aid against looters and was attacked and handcuffed by those same police when they arrived on the scene.

Also, incidents like this:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/08/26/kazeem-oyen...

Any single one of these stories would provoke a national outcry here. They're unthinkable here. But it's everyday life in the US.

> But you don’t make a mental “death chance calculation” when you call the cops.

Yeah I do. When I was visiting the states my friend was instructing me to do things like turn on my interior car light and slowly put my hands on the steering wheel and do absolutely nothing that could possibly provoke the cop. That sounded fucking insane to me, coming from Australia.


Believe me - I am not a fan of the police in general - but you are cherry picking some extreme examples. There are many cases of police brutality in Australia.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/it-does-happen-here-calls-to...

> “The family of an Aboriginal man who died in custody says protests against police brutality in the US should be a wake-up call about the plight of Indigenous Australians in the justice system.

> Speaking in the wake of video footage of an Aboriginal teenager being kicked to the ground by a NSW policeman, Paul Francis-Silva, whose uncle died in a Sydney prison in 2015, said: "It does happen here in Australia - the brutality, and the injustice against the First Nations people.”

You could also agree Australians are full of racist, evil cops as well, yes? Or is picking a few extreme examples not allowed for your country?


You're comparing single-digits per decade incidents which incite national outcry, with triple-digits per year incidents which are taken as a fact of life in the US. And you're trying to set a narrative that somehow those are comparable. They are not.


Regarding single digits vs triple digits: absolute metrics are pretty useless unless the US population is the same size as AU.


In relative metrics, the US is still worse off by an order of magnitude. :(


A key difference is almost surely the prevalence of guns. As you suggest at the end, cops in Australia don't approach every situation assuming there might be a gun in play.


Good luck with that.

Because domestic calls are so unpredictable in a gun-owning society, callers can expect to see a drawn gun pointing at you.

The police often do no-knock residential intrusions, while throwing a grenade into the house.

(For non-US readers: I'm not exaggerating. "Dirty Harry" movies are documentaries about living in the US.)


You are reading news on the internet and extrapolating to the entire USA. Yes, there is a real problem with police brutality here, no question. I am not a fan of the police in general. But we are not living in a wild-west hellscape where anything goes. The protests are necessary and so is reform, but these are the extreme cases in a country of 330mil people.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_killings_by_law_enforc...

US 30.4 vs Australia 1.7

So yeah, there are are issues with police in Australia, but the issues are far more extreme in the US.


The claim may be true, but the stats you quoted aren’t enough evidence to support it. A better comparison would account for the number and type of police encounters and might also account for the types of weapons they are likely to encounter in the course of their duties.


I wonder if it would work to have the police split into two separate units (kind of like how the swat team is separate). So you have a general response police unit, which is unarmed or lightly armed (taser / nightstick, etc). They would respond to most situations, and would be highly trained in de-escalation techniques. Then have the backup units be the muscle. In situations that they feel are dicey, the backup could show up at the same time, but hang back unless they are needed.

The main problem with this is that they don't know what they will be facing when they get to the scene. In most cases things go smoothly (traffic stops, domestic calls, detective work). But when things go bad they go bad quickly.

Of course if the first-responding police wore different uniforms, then there may be less chance of escalation. And people would know that as soon as the first responder has to call backup, then things will get really bad for them -- kind of like if you harass a social worker, you will have a very bad day.


" So you have a general response police unit, which is unarmed or lightly armed (taser / nightstick, etc). They would respond to most situations, and would be highly trained in de-escalation techniques. Then have the backup units be the muscle. In situations that they feel are dicey, the backup could show up at the same time, but hang back unless they are needed. "

That's how the Brits do it and I think the Germans too.


In Britain the Tazer is considered a firearm (after all you can't have one), and so only trained officers can carry them. A great many officers are so trained, especially in some urban areas, but not all of them by far.

They do all have extensible batons and training in how to use that to defend themselves against somebody who is a bit handy with their fists or waving a blade about while they retreat, as well as training in how to de-escalate.

Even when there's an armed suspect retreating is very often the appropriate thing. Because you've got time and numbers on your side. Why risk getting stabbed (or shot) to make an arrest now, when in the not too distant future the suspect will be asleep and you or your colleagues can trivially disarm them?

There are scenarios when police need an immediate armed intervention, but they just aren't (and shouldn't be) common enough to justify giving every single cop a handgun and the training needed to use it effectively.

Of course the Americans seem to have largely skipped the second part of that, which doesn't help at all.


Police in Germany definitely are armed. As far as I know they always have a Pistol and they might have less lethal options as well. Sometimes you see them with a MP5 as well which is a compact submachine gun.

I do agree with the training in de-escalation though. German Police has a much more extensive training then the US.


> police are violence workers

That's a rather pejorative way of expressing the point. (Thanks NPR.) It would be better to say that policing is about protecting law-abiding citizens from people who are acting antisocially and often violently.

Many of those people are simply criminals. They belong in prison, and often force is required to get them there.

Others are experiencing mental-health problems to varying degrees. Some force may be required, but it's a lot to ask that policemen also serve as social workers, psychologists, etc. The place I live has a parallel organization to provide this, and they work hand-in-hand with the police. It seems to work pretty well.

The lack of such a parallel organization is not a failing of policing, though. It's a failure our elected politicians, and perhaps ultimately ourselves.


Agreed. Police are, within our borders, uniquely permitted to be "violence workers". That is their core competency. Everything else that can be accomplished by others should be.


Abroad in well-developed nations with healthy economies, violent police aren't so much a thing. Our police mimic our own American society, which is inherently violent and promotes criminality (through a draconian justice system that has been dolling out harsh penalties for minor crimes for decades, allows white collar crime to thrive, promotes racial injustice through segregationist state laws, removes social support for the vulnerable people who are most likely to become criminals through necessity, etc). And we're surprised that within this framework, the authorities abuse all the latitude we give them. American police aren't uniquely screwed up, they're just American.


The use of the word 'violence' felt odd and inciting and disingenuous and very loaded in these contexts. I think the word the author is actually describing is 'force'. Police have the legal capacity to use force, not violence. That's why we have a legal concept of deadly force, but not one for deadly violence.

Putting someone in handcuffs is not necessarily violent, but it involves using force to impose the will of the state on an individual.


Would you consider the threat of violence to be violent? I agree that you can handcuff someone without hurting them, but I would argue that 'force' is only possible due to the implication that non-compliance will lead to violence.


This framing of the police seems very strange to my Canadian sensibilities. I'm curious about whether Americans largely agree with this description.


As an expat Canadian living in a suburban county in the US, my personal interactions with the police here have always been cordial engagements as peacekeepers and caretakers of the community. I have called for welfare checks on neighbors, called the sheriff when I found a garage opener on the street, that kind of thing. Of course they were present in the aftermath of a case when a highschool kid entered a house and shot another highschool kid (who lived, surprisingly), a real shock in the sleepy community I live in. They asked around if anyone had video of the suspect approaching or departing the home.

But maybe that's just me, as a Canadian, with unrealistic beliefs that the police are on my side.


As an american living in Canada, I can assure you it's not much better here -- cops are generally cordial to my white affluent self, but black and indigenous people, especially those in poverty, are not served by this justice system.


Yes. Generally speaking, the expected value of any encounter with police is negative. They generally won't help you (although they may call someone who can help), but they might give you a hard time. The most common "good interaction" is one where they show up, insinuate that they could make trouble, and decide not to.

It's slightly better in very small towns where everyone knows everyone and e.g. the chief's kids go to school with your kids


To directly answer your question, I -- a brown man -- have never had a bad interaction with police. I assume Canadians are also annoyed when given tickets, but really police have been nothing but helpful, and I feel free to approach police officers and ask questions.

My dad -- also brown -- has also had the police called on him (usually because he's berating someone at a store or something), and the cops have only ever diffused the situation, never added to it.


I don't. Whether or not you agree with this gross oversimplification is going to depend on your worldview, your experience and whether you feel disenfranchised by the system. It has nuggets of truth - the police do step in to handle violent criminals - but this assessment is largely a subjective interpretation.


I'm an american and I do not agree with the description.

If I was ever in a bad situation and a cop suddenly showed up, I'd feel huge relief.


Canadian police are no different. Living under a dangerous illusion.


I'd like to know why you think so. In my experience, at least in Vancouver, police tend to use violence and force as absolutely the last resort, and generally play a lot more of "social worker" type of role, especially when it comes to handling issues associated with drug addiction in the downtown east side.

But I could be very wrong so I'm interested in hearing other viewpoints. Or maybe you're thinking of different organizations that I'm less familiar with (perhaps the RCMP?)


There’s no contradiction between abusing you wrote and police being violence workers. Police cannot do their jobs without resort to the threat of violence and occasionally actual violence. The degree of restraint varies wildly between different forces but that does not. When traffic wardens, paramedics, social workers or firefighters need someone to do legal violence they don’t do it themselves, they call the police. They are one of the forces the state has delegated its monopoly on the legitimate use of force to, along with the military. They are not primarily in the business of violence, like the military, but they can’t do their jobs without the capacity to be violent either.


>In my experience, at least in Vancouver, police tend to use violence and force as absolutely the last resort

Meanwhile on /r/all today... https://old.reddit.com/r/onguardforthee/comments/gvu8fz/cana...


Oh? How quickly we forget.

The 2010 G20 summit in Toronto must have been a walk in the park. One can see the police hand in hand with protesters singing kumbaya. Noted that this event had police officers from all over the country participating. Many conveniently forgot to wear badges and nametags, some conveniently had masks on:

https://www.google.com/search?q=g20+toronto+police+brutality...

And Vancouver, lovely city! Until they lose the Stanley Cup of course:

https://www.google.com/search?q=vancouver+stanley+cup+riots&...


Perhaps you are unaware of the VPD's extensive use of attack dogs.

https://www.vancourier.com/opinion/number-of-vancouver-polic...


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But here is this complete disconnect in how Americans think about this. As a European you point out that cops are trigger happy and shoot people 100x more frequently than say in London. Then Americans respond "well we have way more guns so cops are on the edge and shoot more easily."

Well how about introducing some gun control then and reduce the number of guns in society?

But no, Americans don't want that. So many American problems are self inflicted wounds due to a dogmatic adherence to particular principles and ideas which simply are unworkable.

No society has managed to maintain the kind of inequality and high gun ownership that the US has without leading to violence. Inequality combined with high gun ownership and lax regulation, just doesn't work. There is no way to make it work.


Gangs aren't affected by gun control though -- most gang guns are gotten illegally (when they're not being supplied by the government of course). Moreover, states with strict gun control, like California, have more gangs than others. Chicago used to ban guns entirely but its murder rate was higher than today, when guns are allowed (by the Supreme Court). And inequality is not what leads to gang violence. We have less gang violence now than in the 90s, despite more wealth inequality. These are all distractions.

So no.... there's no disconnect, Americans just realize what's going on.

https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-la-gangsters-homem...

http://www.ecineq.org/ecineq_paris19/papers_EcineqPSE/paper_...


Why are American gangs not affected by gun control but European gangs are ? Is this some sort of American exceptionalism ?


I've noticed over time that things that can be done elsewhere on the world are impossible in America according to most Americans. I even particularly like America because it has more of the sort of liberty I like but it also has some of the most unbelievable defensiveness.

For years, fibre was impossible in America. Turns out it wasn't. For years, bicycling was impossible in America. Turns out it isn't. Nothing is really possible in America. It's too diverse here, or too big, or too sparse, or has too many people, or has too few people, or too many cultures.

Even electric cars weren't possible because America is too big for you to charge on your ride. But it's not.

I think that's still the thing I like about the Bay Area in real life compared to the online America. In the online America, the current state is fully optimal under the constraints. It cannot improve. It is actually hyper-optimized to these constraints. In the Bay Area, there are no boundaries. Some fool will decide that freely available electric scooters are the future of urban transportation and some other fool will decide that laying fibre is a winning prospect and some other fool will decide that high-end bus services have value. Then it'll turn out that despite the assumptions of online America that the country is hyper-optimized to the constraints, the constraints don't actually exist, and of these three fools, none are fools, and one is very very right.


Profitable home delivery of groceries really does seem to be impossible in America, for some reason!


You know, that market appears so attractive but no one seems to be able to really succeed. I idly sometimes dream of an alternative model where you make money providing a white boxed delivery solution to the supply side using a general fleet. Not convinced yet that it’ll work but maybe it’s worth a shot sometime.


Okay great. Then why does California a state with severe gun restrictions have such a problem with gang violence? Can you please explain?


I don't think you know what you are talking about. California is experiencing the lowest level of gang violence ever. Oakland, LA, and San Francisco are seeing lowest homicide rates in decades. SF just had 35 homicides last year, compared to nearly 100 in 2007. Oakland had 75 last year, compared to close to 200 in the 90s.

Based on data and stats, 3 things are true 1. CA has no gang problem 2. As South and Central population in CA has gone up, homicides have dramatically dropped 3. As more gun laws are introduced gun violence has radically reduced

https://www.ktvu.com/news/oakland-murders-dip-to-lowest-leve...

https://laist.com/2020/01/15/violent_crime_Los_Angeles_LAPD_....

https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/san-francisco/san-fran....


I don't disagree that California is safer now than ever. However, in the heydays of gang violence in CA, CA still had restrictive gun laws. They seem uncorrelated.


I don’t think there’s profit to be made there so I haven’t given it much attention. But the patterns of reasons you’re using match the just-so stories that are common in these discussions that make facile models of the world. In my experience these models are generally wrong. So I’m content walking away without adjusting my priors because the work/reward is low.


Because america is next to Mexico which is actually quite literally run by warlords. Did you read the article I sent you?

Central and South America have the highest murder rates in the world. Of course that spills over into the US. Turkey, Russia dont come close and those are the land borders of europe.


Europe is a boat ride away from extremely poor African countries that are run over by gun toting rebel groups


Criminals will still get weapons without restriction if you ramp up gun control. They don’t follow the law, why would they follow gun controls? All gun controls do is make it harder for lawful citizens to protect themselves.


After we shrunk the size of our military in the 1990s, closed a bunch of bases etc there was a surplus of military hardware that was no longer being purchased by the military. Mysteriously at the same time we passed a bill allowing police to do things like buy tanks etc under the guise of anti-riot equipment, despite not needing it before for well over a century. All sorts of equipment deemed only necessary for fighting wars on foreign soil, suddenly became part of the equipment catalog for rural police forces in places like Vermont and New Hampshire.

The concept that the local police force and national military should own/use the same equipment is fairly recent, only happening in the last 25 years, and in great numbers only post-9/11.


>if we legalize drugs, they'll just find something else to do, like child prostitution, unless you wanna legalize that too)

If you legalize gambling, adult prostitution, and drugs it is disingenuous to suppose that criminal enterprise will somehow replace all that revenue off underage prostitution.

It would absolutely pull the rug out from under them. If you give most underprivileged American youth a way to have a better life you would further decimate their recruiting.


Well we were doing that. Before covid induced economic damage we were experiencing record low unemployment among black and minority youth. Record low poverty levels, etc. In the meantime you still need crime enforcement lest you let all that earned wealth be stolen and looted by gangs.

And it is not disingenuous to suggest that criminal enterprises will switch to new enterprises when old ones are no longer profitable. Hell some gangs have switched the smuggling oil of all things.


Presumably this "oil smuggling" (couldn't it simply have been buying and selling?) took place before the current steep drop in the price of oil...


https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/mexico-v...

A few morsels:

> Over the next two years, Arredondo said, he would be hounded, kidnapped, pistol-whipped and stabbed so severely that surgeons removed his gall bladder. In December 2016, he fled to Canada, where he now seeks asylum from gangs that steal fuel from Salamanca and five other refineries operated by Pemex, the state-owned oil company.

...

> Fuel theft is fast becoming one of Mexico’s most pressing economic and security dilemmas, sapping more than $1 billion in annual revenue from state coffers, terrorizing workers and deterring private investment in aging refineries that the government, following a 2014 energy reform, hoped instead would be thriving with foreign capital.

...

> Between 2011 and 2016, the number of unauthorized taps discovered on Mexico’s fuel lines nearly quintupled, according to a recent report by the federal auditor. Repair costs surged almost tenfold, to 1.77 billion pesos ($95 million).

...

> A May 2017 study, commissioned by the national energy regulator and obtained by Reuters via a freedom of information request, found that thieves, between 2009 and 2016, had tapped pipelines roughly every 1.4 kms (0.86 mi) along Pemex’s approximately 14,000 km pipeline network.


>The police seem like soldiers because we have asked them to fight a war, and we're okay with civilians being collateral damage.

A war on... what? Drugs? Gangs? Are those things that can be fought with assault rifles and MRAPs? This whole situation is reminiscent of the wars of vietnam, iraq, and afghanistan.


The tyranny Athens imposed on others it finally imposed on itself. -- Thucydides


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Precisely zero people are out protesting excessive use of force against organized gangs running child prostitution rings.


I think the point was that removing war weapons from police damages their ability to forcefully oppose organized gangs running child prostitution rings.


You mean, like... Jefferey Epstein?

We spend so much time defending the rights of police to use military-grade weaponry on individual citizens that we forget that the people who are actually looting this country and committing its most grievous crimes are largely ignored.


Um okay... That's a demand for more police and police like units not less


It's a demand for accountants, lawyers, and law enforcement that focuses on egregious offenders and systemic injustice, eliminating the root causes of crime. Not tear gas and tanks.

You were speaking about crime in the 70s and 80s. That probably has a lot to do with the War on Drugs [0] (have we won yet?), brought to you by the same administration who gave us Iran-Contra [1], which largely introduced the US (LA specifically) to crack cocaine [2]. I believe every single person involved with that scandal was pardoned. Oliver North even had his own show on Fox News and became president of the NRA!

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_on_drugs

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reagan_administration_scandals

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_on_drugs#CIA_and_Contra_co...


> It's a demand for accountants, lawyers, and law enforcement that focuses on egregious offenders and systemic injustice, eliminating the root causes of crime. Not tear gas and tanks.

Right, that's another word for police.

> That probably has a lot to do with the War on Drugs [0] (have we won yet?)

No, but that didn't cause gangs, and you know it.


> Right, that's another word for police.

I guess we agree then: more police so we can stop targeting minorities in street-level busts and instead target the big offenders: white collar crime that destroys minority communities and keeps them in perpetual bondage. If you want to haul the rich and powerful out of their homes with tear gas and tanks, who am I to disagree?

> No, but that didn't cause gangs, and you know it.

Now we're getting somewhere. By itself, no, it didn't. Institutionalized racism in the forms of employment, education, and housing discrimination carried from the 1960s caused largely-minority communities to remain segregated and poor while at the same time, white flight took money from the inner cities and moved it to the suburbs, leaving behind an underfunded and broken education system [0]. The Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act are relatively recent developments: 1964 and 1968, respectively -- just a little over 10 years before your father got to LA. By the 80s, increased class stratification and tough-on-crime initiatives from the federal government meant minorities and the poor faced even more disproportionately aggressive policing and incarceration. With little hope of achieving the same success as their more affluent counterparts in the suburbs, many individuals turned to crime as a mode of survival. Then came Iran-Contra, crack cocaine, and gangs.

Of course, if you're talking about true gangs in the US during this time, we can also discuss the American mafia, white supremacists like the Aryan Brotherhood, the KKK, or even the gangs depicted in the film, "Gangs of New York" in the "Five Points" area of NY (but this is an example of some of the first gangs in the US, around the late 1700s -- thought some historical context would be interesting). These gangs, however, have faced less scrutiny because of their close connections with law enforcement and government.

[0] For a heartbreaking account of the devastating long term effects of this, I highly recommend Jonathan Kozol's 1991 book, "Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools"


I should also clarify that this history is focused on the Los Angeles area around 1960s-1990s, viewed from the lens of the drug war. Gangs had existed in the country for a long time before the 60s (and in LA, too -- Bloods and Crips), but the proliferation of crack into the US via Los Angeles caused an explosion in the crime rate.

For brevity's sake, I'm also ignoring a lot of other serious issues related to police relations with the citizens of LA (e.g., Watts riots in '65, Rodney King in '92), which should be considered to paint a full picture of the antagonisms that have led us to where we are today. The drug war didn't create gangs (they existed before), but it poured fuel on the fire which led to a lot of the violence in that area in the 80s/90s.


That's because roughly 99% of the public is already convinced that they are a bad thing.

~50% of the public believes that police accountability is a bad thing. If it didn't, nobody would be out, protesting against it.


Wrt to the drugs, even if the gangs switch to something else for their income, surely it won’t be nearly as profitable as the drug trade? Still seems like you could deal a serious blow, especially against the cartels.


https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/first-drugs-then-oil-now...

It doesn't seem that way at all. They will just mutate. There's lots of illegal stuff to sell, that cannot reasonably be legalized.


It definitely seems that way to me.

$150B estimated market FTA is much smaller than the $400B estimated for drugs. Humans are much more difficult to traffic than drugs so there would be much higher operating costs and risks due to the fact that it is not a victimless crime.

https://www.worldometers.info/drugs/


Um, okay, but there's lots more other than humans to sell. You can sell endangered animals. You can sell stolen oil (yes, gangs steal fuel too). You can sell all kinds of illegal things that we simply cannot outlaw.


Those are all easier to face problems with even smaller markets and worse logistics. Do they have an underground refinery they take it to with 100 ft. tall fractional distillation towers, etc? Most things that people want are legal because most people want them - law is defined by community standards. There aren't many things besides drugs. They would have to start smuggling medicine or other things that people actually want to replace recreational drugs.


Meanwhile American police killed 9 unarmed black men in 2019.

(In 2015, 36 unarmed black men were killed by American police)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/polic...


The actual violent crime is not overall that much higher in United States. Majority of homicides are people who know each other, killing family and friends.

I dont think actual crime situation in United States explains tanks and no knock raids.


Lol, most gangs are coming from Central America and Mexico ?? Have you even heard of Bloods and Crips ? The most legendary gangs in the US ?


I find this silly. It acts as if people are incapable of assessing situations and then selecting the best action based on that situation.

Yes, police have the authority to use violence; that doesn't necessarily mean they have to have some sort of essence of violence that drives them to be violent all the time. Indeed, police in many situations do successfully negotiate situations without employing violence. So, clearly resolving situations peacefully is possible even while maintaining the capability of violence; just, often the police have no particular incentive to do so.

Indeed, you can look at the military; soldiers are also violence workers, and yet they seem to be much better at not being violent than the police are, staying disciplined and not firing until the rules of engagement allow them to, where the police seem to often start shooting as soon as they get a bit scared.

The problem is there's hardly any accountability; the feedback loop is horribly broken. A police offer's incentive ought be to employ violence precisely and only when it is called for. To, y'know, correctly use their judgment to discern in the moment what action is most appropriate. It is far from impossible! But since there's minimal accountability for police, well, that's not what happens.


The military aren't police.

Yes, they are pretty good at RoE, and when it's time to shoot, they shoot the hell out of their target. But their job is distinctly not to spend all day in pursuit of individual criminals and apprehending them.

Military tries to avoid contact with criminals until it's fireball time.


Sure! The military shouldn't be police, and the police shouldn't be military. My point is just they suffice to demonstrate that it is possible to be a violence worker, and yet employ that violence with discretion; and to say that the police necessarily cannot is expecting too little of them.


That isn't police's job either. As Stuart Schrader recently documented on "Intercepted", the average cop makes one felony arrest per year. [0] Most of the time they're doing exactly what we've somehow noticed them doing recently: menacing people who don't have resources to defend themselves.

[0] https://theintercept.com/2020/06/03/the-rebellion-in-defense...


I am from Mexico and --at least in the environment I grew up-- we don't have a positive view of our police. I don't know anybody who thinks of them as heroes. Same with the military.

So I always found it fascinating how the police --and its public perception-- is portrayed in US media.


Just because someone has the ability to escalate to use force, does not reduce them to being a 'violence worker'. A parent has the ability to punish a child, is the parent a 'child punisher'?


we should convert 80% of cops with guns to investigators, and civics officers who teach civics and encourage civility in the communities in which they live. we don’t need that many cops with guns on the street, as there’s very little violent crime relatively speaking.


If you believed such a role was appropriate to establish in society, why on earth would you want the police doing it?


You do need some people to be in charge of violence. If you make that their only job you'll be in a situation of hammers seeing nails wherever they look. You'll be much better off assigning that unavoidable violence duty to people whose main responsibilities and qualifications lie elsewhere.


> If you make that their only job you'll be in a situation of hammers seeing nails wherever they look.

That depends entirely on how much power you give them, and how much accountability you impose upon their use of it. The primary role of police in society is to simply be the wide end of the funnel for the incarceration pipeline. Trying to give them duties that conflict with those objectives is simply always going to fail. Personally I wouldn’t want my children receiving civics instruction from somebody who has to hedge against the possibility that one day they’ll be trying to put them in jail.


No amount of power removal and accountability will change the "nails" perception if the only job they have is hammering.

> The primary role of police in society is to simply be the wide end of the funnel for the incarceration pipeline.

Only if your idea of a perfect society is one where everybody is incarcerated. I'd rather have one where as few people as possible need to be incarcerated to keep order.


> No amount of power removal and accountability will change the "nails" perception if the only job they have is hammering.

Providing the police with conflicting responsibilities isn’t going to solve that problem. At best it’s a waste of resources, and at worse it makes everything worse. You can’t expect the police to earnestly participate in improving a community when at any moment their responsibilities may obligate them to decide that it’s the community members who are the problem, and that they need to go to jail.

The very nature of the justice system is adversarial, and the police are it’s enforcers. Attempting to burden them with responsibilities that directly conflict with their role in the system isn’t going to fix anything.


Thanks, you helped me a lot in understanding why the US are in so deep troubles.


taking your question in good faith, it's not literally taking the same people and changing their uniforms and job duties from one day to the next. it's taking the funding for cops-with-guns and reallocating that to civics officers with knowledge and charisma.

civics officers would encourage civic knowledge, pride and engagement, and would only be enforcers at the thinnest of margins. they'd teach people about how government works and and what help is available, rather than being antagonistic.

also, investigation--solving harder, bigger crimes--should get more resources relative to enforcement, which tends to be directed at insignificant crimes of (opportunistic) desperation rather than crippling, serial crimes like corruption and embezzlement.

it's a focus on encouraging trust and cooperation rather than safety and paranoia.


On HN there should be an expectation that people actually read the articles before commenting.


Another interesting fragment:

> Q: Are the interactions that are happening right now between police and protesters something that you think is predictable? Or is this something new that we haven't seen before?

> A: It's not completely new; it's just the intensity of it compared [with], let's say, five years ago during the Eric Garner and the Mike Brown protests. What we're seeing is really an immediate escalation to very high levels of force, a high degree of confrontation.

> And I think part of it is driven by deep frustration within policing, which is that police feel under assault, and they have no answer. They trotted out all the possible solutions: police-community dialogue sessions, implicit bias training, community policing, body cameras. And it just didn't work. It didn't make any difference. And so they ran out of excuses.

> So the protests today are a much more kind of existential threat to the police. And the police are overreacting as a result.


I stopped reading TFA after the characterization of police as “violence workers” to claim that all they can bring to a situation is violence, which is absurdly reductionist.

I think these quotes are not much better. The primary purpose and responsibility of our government is to protect life and property and maintain the rule of law. What we’ve seen in the last week is peaceful protests subverted by essentially militant groups into what is perhaps best described as insurrection.

If anything the initial police response was mismanaged and totally insufficient. The lack of policing gave space and air to the riotous members hiding within the protests to spread mayhem, destruction, and death. (e.g. [1])

That much at least is my own opinion from following many hours of social media, live-streams and first person accounts.

I would also take issue with the idea that body cameras have not increased accountability at least, even though the cameras do nothing to change the baseline level of danger and violence inherent in police work. I think most police are happy for the camera as it will tell their story and protect them against false accusations.

Of the 10 cases last year where an unarmed black person was shot and killed by police, in most cases the police officer(s) involved were being violently attacked by the person they shot, and video footage was often crucial in evaluating the use of force after the fact. In the two cases that did result in charges, body camera evidence was a material factor in at least one case (Atatiana Jefferson).

[1] - https://twitter.com/stillgray/status/1268176768822685696?s=2...


I think it’s insane to expect police to handle those issues. The only thing they can do is “clean up” after the problems that society has otherwise failed to deal with. The very nature of their role is adversarial with the citizenry. They’re also under no obligation to protect anybody from anything. They carry guns to protect themselves, not you and me. If somebody intents to harm you, the best you could reasonably expect from the police is that the perpetrator will be prosecuted once they’re done with you.


Police count the bodies so to speak. Preventive/interventive policing doesn't fit well in a free country. Policing in free countries is pretty much a reactive system.

For example, in the recent mass protests, the police generally stay pretty chill until something triggers them -- one too many water bottles thrown after curfew, or whatever. Relatively, minor offenses by a few people in the crowd can trigger the police to shutdown the entire protest or the entire city. They can't be expected to do much else, except stand still as more bad actors (emboldened by police non-action) keep ramping up their provocations, eventually leading to the same outcome. Crowd dispersal and mass arrest is really their only tool when things start to slide out of control.

I can't imagine how a young police officer feels when their age peers are screaming epithets at them inches from their face, when last Tuesday some of the same people were crime victims and damn happy to see you. The old cops probably have zero fucks to give at this point.

Mayors and Chiefs are also stuck between doing too little or doing too much. Many careers have been ended by going too far in either direction.

It is interesting to see how different cities are handling the mass protests. I think LA and Atlanta are doing well now. They seem to calmly start arresting everyone who is still out right after curfew. I think last night, Atlanta began dispersing the crowds 30 seconds after curfew (they did use tear gas though). Similar for LA, where the cops and national guard slowly corner curfew violating groups of people and drivers. Then they systematically arrest everyone.

In contrast, Seattle, waits and waits hoping everyone will just go home, but that doesn't seem work. Eventually, it is late and inevitably the police get triggered and then it is tear gas, flash bangs, and rubber bullet time.

The Seattle process seems like it is designed to guarantee violent confrontation between protestors and police. Where the LA process seems like it designed to clear the streets safely before it gets dark, enabling LA police to focus on rioters or looters (if any)

Edit-to-Add:

Watching live as the Seattle Mayor is addressing a crowd at the City Hall, she can barely be heard over the crowd booing her. She is not going to get an outcome she is hoping for. I expect more violent police/protestors confrontation tonight.


Issuing a blanket city-wide curfew, when no looting, or rioting is taking place, to give the police license to arrest literally anyone is something that is done in an authoritarian police state, not in a free country.

A peaceful protest is not a justification to issue a curfew. It is explicitly protected by the first amendment. A blanket curfew is a gross violation of it. The Lt. Governor of Washington happens to agree with me on this.

https://twitter.com/cyrushabib/status/1268283353528066049


Like most rights, the right to peaceably assemble and protest is not absolute.

Here, but for a limited curfew the people can still protest at will.

I am sure you know why there are curfews in Seattle and other places. It is because of the violence of the past few days. It is not to suppress free speech. Cyrus knows that.

I think it sucks, but until the late night violence subsides this is probably the new normal.

An alternative, I guess would be enabling the police to use more force against active rioters/looters, but that isn't going to happen. The man power isn't available. Besides King County (where Seattle is) does not prosecute property crimes or pretty much any misdemeanor (except for domestic or sexual violence and hate crimes).


The violence in Seattle on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday was started by police. There's numerous videos, both from the ground, and from the air, that quite clearly demonstrate this.

On Tuesday night, the violence was started by a water bottle thrown into the police line. In response, the police gassed four city blocks, including residential apartments. People in those apartments were trapped between gas pouring into their rooms from the streets, the police, and the curfew. There's a baby in intensive care, because

If you want to reduce violence, don't issue a curfew. Disarm the police, instead. They've started violence on three out of the four days. Or, alternatively, protect the protesters from it. [1]

It should be noted that Seattle's protesters have done a remarkable job of preventing instigation and vandalism, but they can't do that, when they are running from flashbangs and gas.

[1] The national guard is there, unarmed, standing behind the police line. It has behaved with dignity, restraint, and respect - but it should be deployed on the protest side of the police line. The police is completely out of control.


The police did not instigate Sunday's criminal raids in Tukwila, Bellevue, and Southcenter. Nor, did they force people to throw molotov cocktails at Nordstroms or light cars on fire in downtown Seattle on Saturday.

Some act like that stuff has nothing to do with the curfew being imposed.

Now, as you may now, the local subreddit is filled with people suggesting different Hong Kong style tactics to exhaust the police or stretch their resources. Of course, exhausting the police will make it more dangerous for everyone. Because the police will be forced to take shortcuts or make mistakes which will increase the risk for everyone.

To what end? Seattle is a progressive city that could reform the police tomorrow if they wanted too.

edit-to-add:

Looks like Seattle police are getting to disperse the crowd. They are putting on gas masks and the scanner report objects being thrown from the crowd at 12th and Pine.


Tukwila, Bellevue, and Southcenter are not in Seattle, and are not covered by the blanket Seattle curfew. And, quite obviously, the looting there had nothing to do with the police attacks in Downtown/the East Precinct.

And on Saturday, they started off kettling protesters, and then followed it up with unprovoked gas attacks, long before the curfew, or the burning started. Again, there is plenty of video footage, and detailed timelines of all of this.

> To what end? Seattle is a progressive city that could reform the police tomorrow if they wanted too.

Seattle is a progressive city with an abusive police force that has successfully resisted reform for two decades. Its police union is one of the most sheltered from accountability in the country. It is under federal sanction for police brutality, that both the union, and the city has done its best to push back on, and ignore. The current mayor is a former federal prosecutor, that ran on a campaign of, among other things, police accountability that she immediately abandoned, as soon as she got into office. She is currently turning a completely blind eye to what is happening in her own town.

Meanwhile, the governor is telling everyone that everything is fine, and that the Office of Police Accountability will handle any police misbehaviour. The OPA consists of 9 police officers, and 1 civilian... And its decisions aren't even binding - but are carried out at the pleasure of the police chief.

If reform were so easy, we'd have done it a decade ago. Instead, we have a nightmarish quagmire, where the none of the checks and balances work, and the government is actively covering for the police. For an outside observer, if you didn't know this were about Seattle, you may assume that I described the political situation in East BuFu, Flyover Country.


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