Saturday, June 13, 2020

1889 Institute: This is Too Serious for Nonsense Like Defund the Police


Dangerously Silly: This is Too Serious for Nonsense Like Defund the Police
By Mike Davis

I would like to invite Minnesotans, especially those from Minneapolis, to Oklahoma. But you’d better come fast. Once your police force is dismantled how long will it be before your city resembles a dystopian hellscape? And make no mistake, while some using the “defund” slogan want to reduce and redistribute police budgets, others are calling for a total abolition of police forces.

Oklahoma is far from perfect. Our police, like our citizens, are imperfect. But we will not renounce the rule of law. We recognize that where major reform is needed, it does not justify permanently disbanding the police. Lawlessness and anarchy are never the answers.

If a police department is irredeemably corrupt, start from scratch. “Reboot the police” could create a new entity with new leadership that would guarantee police accountability. This is a reasonable starting point to fix broken institutions. “Defund the police” is so patently absurd that it invites people to ignore deadly realities. Serious problems deserve serious people proposing serious solutions. There are many such solutions, and some were gaining traction, but the groups behind them have been pressured to apologize that their justifiably radical proposals were not extreme enough. This will lead many to dismiss the entire cause of police reform.

Radical changes are not only justified, they are moral imperatives. Let’s fix qualified immunity, so that people harmed by police can find justice in civil courts. Let’s decouple the politicians who oversee police from union control, so that bad cops can be routinely fired and prosecuted. Let’s make sure it doesn't take nationwide protests for justice to reach bad actors with badges. Let’s make de-escalation mandatory, so that using force becomes a rarity, and deadly force is truly a last resort. Why did we ever allow things to become so broken?

As bad as things are, the “cure” of anarchy is worse than our current disease. If the police are permanently disbanded, cities will be left to outlaws. Food will become scarce as grocers and restauranteurs look for a safer place to do business. Upstanding citizens will flee. The only people who can afford to take police dissolution seriously are criminals and those who can afford to hire private security.

What do “defunders” hope to achieve? Lasting positive change will not come from dissolving police. Give people reasons to listen and act, not excuses to disengage. If the serious people with the serious proposals are afraid to contradict the zealots, their good ideas will never be heard over the noise. The nation's attention is currently fixed on the racial and police problems facing the country. Don’t waste the opportunity for real reform by pitching a ridiculous utopia that can never safely exist. When absurdities are cheered and chanted, debated and defended, it gives those who could be persuaded by serious proposals an excuse to turn their attention elsewhere, ensuring that nothing gets done. The situation is too dire to tolerate such dangerously silly distractions.

Mike Davis is an Attorney and a Research Fellow at the 1889 Institute.

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