Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was a great stand-in for The Man, a wonderful punching bag, but calls to abolish police departments are losing the American public at a time when they’re probably more willing than ever to take apart our police departments piece by piece and to put them back together again, only right this time.
I’m sure that those gathered who on Saturday made the modest demand to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey that he promise on the spot to simply abolish the city’s police department felt great about themselves.
I hope that they really savored the moment (they certainly appeared to have done so), because they just wounded their movement, perhaps fatally.
The protesters apparently thought that they were some real badasses, driving Frey away to a chorus of boos like a scene from “A Game of Thrones” (which even has a villain by the surname of Frey), but they made themselves look like mega-asses — like irrational bullies — to the entire nation.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not at all a fan of the cops. I’m aware that a huge chunk of them, if not the majority of them, are white, right-wing supporters of “President” Pussygrabber who verge on fascism if they’re not already there.
And yes, of course this brand of cop is racist, unconsciously so to wholly consciously so, and yes, this racism obviously has real-world consequences, from smaller ones to fatal ones, for those civilians who are within the racist cops’ sphere of influence.
However, to claim that we need no police officers at all — that we can do this thing called life entirely on the honor system — is beyond ludicrous.
I wish that we had no need for police officers, that we could regulate ourselves to the point that we made cops superfluous. But we’re nowhere near that point yet.
Crimes like assault and battery, murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, rape and other serious sexual assualt, kidnapping, arson, robbery, burglary, drunk driving and animal cruelty cannot just be ignored.
And nor can these serious crimes, which cause or can cause serious pain and suffering or death, be handled by an Officer Friendly, a cop, such as a community services officer, who isn’t fully trained to deal with the worst of what we human beings can come up with.
We absolutely must fire (and where appropriate, prosecute) law enforcement officers who display racism, as they cannot do their jobs equitably, responsibly and safely, and we must demilitarize our law enforcement officers across the United States — cops who want to play G.I. Joe should join the military (which needs to be largely defunded, but that’s another commentary) — and I agree that the word “reform” rings awfully hollow when, “reform” after “reform,” we still see abominations like the slow, cruel, sickeningly casual murder of George Floyd by a white cop.
I am all for taking a bad police department apart, piece by piece, deciding which pieces to keep and which to eject, and then putting the whole thing back together again, with as many new, good pieces as necessary.
But I reject calls to do away with law enforcement altogether. The United States of America already is looking like a third-world nation as it is. (My own neighborhood is filled with buildings with their windows and doors covered by plywood, either because they’ve already been vandalized and/or looted or because they have been concerned that they might be.) It doesn’t need to get even worse. It could, and if we let it, it would.
Aside from whatever I think, pushing the abolition of law enforcement officers would be fatal at the ballot box, perhaps especially on the presidential level. Hidin’ Joe Biden is not at all on board with the idea, so you know that that’s true.
Black Lives Matter already has the majority of Americans on its side. Recent nationwide polls show, among other things, that: two-thirds of Americans believe (correctly) that our criminal “justice” system favors white Americans over black Americans; more than 80 percent of all Americans support those who peacefully are protesting police officers who abuse their power; 60 percent of Americans oppose the deployment of the U.S. military to deal with civilian protesters; and twice as many Americans are more concerned about the abuses of power committed by our cops than they are concerned about even protests that have become violent.
That said, a nationwide Monmouth University poll taken recently shows that 41 percent of the respondents are “very satisfied” with their local police departments, while 30 percent are “somewhat satisfied” — and only 15 percent called themselves somewhat or very dissatisfied.
Americans appear to be a bit schizophrenic where our cops are concerned, but public opinion, I believe, would be behind serious efforts to take our bad police departments apart, brick by brick, and to put them back together again in a way that is safer and more just for all civilians.
Simple “reform” won’t do the trick because nothing is actually being re-formed, that is, completely taken apart and put back together again, with the parts that don’t work being replaced with good parts. What is called “reform” more often than not is just window dressing put up with the hopes and expectations that the political storm will pass soon enough and we can get back to business as usual again.
But with a clear majority of Americans actually being satisfied with their local police departments, pushing for the abolition of the police altogether is worse than a political non-starter; it can harm efforts that otherwise would have made a big difference — because the American public was just way too turned off by calls to abolish the police altogether, and so stopped listening altogether.
P.S. Terminology is important here. To me, a demand to “defund” a police department, without explaining exactly how that would work, essentially is a call to abolish that police department — it’s only that to “defund” sounds less ludicrous than to “abolish.”