The Dirty Little Secret of Abolishing Police

With the tragic death of George Floyd has come a renewed interest in ramming through punitive policy to kneecap law enforcement in high-crime communities. These policy prescriptions are rooted in raw emotion rather than facts, and their support has been amassed through fear rather than sensibility. What initially began as a unified condemnation of police brutality in a specific case has now grown into an indictment of the country writ large and a movement away from solutions to actually solve problems. The short-term game is about signaling unquestioning commitment; the long-term strategy involves a sacrifice of urban communities of color for the sake of a particular political agenda.

Much of politics now is about signaling commitment to a cause instead of taking tangible steps to solve real problems. This isn’t because the people signaling their commitment don’t want to solve problems, but because those coercing their support have deliberately refused to define the objective. As Ben Shapiro wrote last week, “Confusion is a political weapon. Clarity is a shield. If our media and political class can prevent clarity, they can prevent unity; if they can obscure, they can demand acquiescence.”

The immediate strategy couldn’t be clearer. Critiques of specific policies and particular institutions backed by actual evidence might result in change. After all, Americans do agree that police brutality should be punished and that racism is evil. But change would mean that America isn’t actually an irredeemably racist country. The narrative would fall apart and any revolutionary change contingent upon the alleged existence of deeply-ingrained systemic injustices would be proven unnecessary. In order for the movement to proceed, then, racism has to be readily available for citation. Thus, the goal is to redirect outrage over the Floyd killing – which is communally shared – toward nebulous accusations of systemic racism, about which there is rightful, and politically useful, disagreement.

By lamenting the “system” and demanding that the police be abolished, politicians can safely signal their commitment to the ideal without actually having to shoulder any political consequences. By refusing to point at specific policies, they can whip up a fervor with no explicit target. Rather than harness unity against police brutality to enact real policy change, they can play on disjointed angst over generalized, undefined systemic racism to create the chaos necessary for tearing down institutions. Fueled by staunch opposition, which breeds polarization, the narrative thrives and phase two becomes apparent.

The ultimate goal isn’t to actually abolish police. Most Americans – left, right and center – believe that police are a net good. The objective is to reallocate funding from police departments to various social programs. As the argument goes, investing in communities negates the need for policing. This, of course, has never been true. But now is a perfectly cultivated opportunity to win reform. The dirty little secret, however, is that this reform comes with a price.

Less policing means more crime, not less – regardless of how much cash is funneled into poorly-governed localities. Study after study proves that the previous two weeks of rioting aren’t merely anecdotal evidence. And, as it turns out, police don’t even have to be restrained by budget cuts. A recent study by Harvard economist Roland Fryer found that homicide rates spike when police are put on the chopping block following high-profile shootings in major cities. Naturally tentative under hostile scrutiny, police shy away from civilian contacts; violent crime spikes; and thousands of lives – mostly black – are lost which otherwise would have been protected.

African Americans don’t want to see members of their community abused by police or imprisoned en masse. But they don’t want their businesses stolen from or their neighbors robbed or their children attending unsafe schools. If we were willing to have serious conversations, we could reach policy solutions that protect black communities from brutality while also enabling police to do their job. But solutions aren’t politically useful.

The natural consequence of this movement is twofold: First, the only officers willing to take the job will be those seeking authority for the wrong reasons. The vast majority of police officers are good people with families who aren’t going to take a brick off the head before self-defense is permitted. Second, there will be a major spike in crime when this is done. And because crime is supposedly caused by insufficient community investment, the sacrifice of black communities will serve to justify increasingly radical political initiatives, most of which will only perpetuate the decay of inner cities.

The only force standing between safety and chaos will be inhibited. Good people will pay the price for cynical and emotionally-driven policy. The movement will press on, and nothing will actually change for the better.

(Photo: Flickr/Peter Burka/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Heroes Media Group

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