...And Replace Them With What?

A Chicago BLM activist names Jessica Disu calls for the police to be -- well, she isn't very clear about what she wants. She says she wants them "demilitarized," "disarmed," and "abolished." From my perspective, that's three options rather than one. FOX News took her to be insisting on abolishing the police outright, but one could merely demilitarize or merely disarm them. One of those solutions isn't terribly radical -- I've been advocating for years that the police be armed like citizens, rather than like a branch of the military or some other specialized force. The other two are more radical.

The problem is that, asked the inevitable question, she didn't have a clear answer. That's too bad, and it might be worth trying to find out if there's a better answer forthcoming on reflection.

I think that for maybe 90% of the country -- by land mass, not by population -- we really could shift to the model of having the police work like fire departments rather than operating as patrols. Especially given the prevalence of cell phones now, it's almost always going to be the case that you could call for help if you needed it. I think this would have a very positive effect on police/citizen relations, as I have written a couple of times lately. It's very close to how policing works where I live now, and would probably work fine for most parts of America where the population is not deeply dense and crime rates are quite low.

However, Ms. Disu is talking about the least plausible places for that model. Most of America continues to enjoy historic lows in violent crime. That is not true for certain parts of several cities, where there has been a sharp uptick in crime of late. These are all poor, densely-populated urban areas with criminal gangs and drug violence. There is a plausible argument that police withdrawal from these communities, out of fear of sparking a BLM protest, is what is behind these upticks in violence. It doesn't seem like fewer police patrols is helping these areas.

So this is the real question: is it possible to replace the police in these areas with some sort of community action? Like a local citizen militia, say? Or is the answer going to be a more robust police enforcement -- say of Project Exile laws that would raise the costs of criminals carrying guns high enough that they'd stop doing it?

Or why not both? You could organize local militias like volunteer fire departments, to operate with the professional fire-deparment-like police in most of the country. As with volunteer fire departments, the government would support the volunteers by helping to fund training exercises and limited facilities. In the urban areas, whether a militia's citizens' arrest or a peace officer's arrest was at work, the Feds would back them up by actually enforcing these robust Federal laws against felons and drug gang members who carry firearms.

It seems as if we could get this under control, while also improving citizen/police relations.


MikeD said...

The issue of having police work like fire departments is pretty much like most other problems. We're trying to make a one size fits all solution, and in a country of ~3.75 million square miles and nearly 320 million citizens, those things just don't work. There are going to be places where you'll need a heavily armed, patrolling police force (like the Army did in Baghdad, in fact). But most places would need no such thing. But by the same token, I don't think having a police force sitting around the station, waiting for a call to come in is particularly helpful either. It's a matter of response times. In a life or death situation, 15 minutes will basically mean they'll sadly shake their heads and start to gather forensic evidence from your corpse when they arrive too late. But if they happened to be a couple of blocks away, maybe you've got a chance.

I don't disagree that the over regulation of daily activities turns police into a hated form of tax man. Jay walking is dangerous, sure. And you shouldn't do it. But collecting a $150 fine because you got caught crossing the street (even with no traffic coming) is not going to be popular with anyone. Ok, ok... the bureaucrats love that kind of thing. Granted. But frankly, I think they could do with a little more disappointment in their lives.

J Melcher said...

How about having the head of law enforcement for a local jurisdiction be an elected official? Then, if crime gets too bad, or if enforcement seems to be unfair, or if raising public revenue rather than ensuring public safety seems to be the goal of that leader, the next election would allow a change.

We could call this elected official -- oh,I dunno -- "sheriff" or something.

Grim said...


I'm very much in favor of local solutions that are not one-sized-fits-all. I'm more trying to sketch approaches that might be implemented locally, than trying to design an overarching solution.


Sheriffs in Georgia used to be called "the Dixie Mafia" even by District Attorneys, not that long ago. I prefer the system to an unelected police chief who reports to the government rather than the people, to be sure. But there's room for spreading the power among the citizens, too.

I am increasingly fond of the idea of restoring local militias along the volunteer-firefighter line, with something like Ranger-style periodic anonymous peer review so that crazies can be excluded. I think that would be a good way of keeping the common peace in much of the country without having to invest so much cash and power in formal police, but without losing the goods that only formal police create.

Still, in much of America, the crime rate is so low it almost doesn't matter what approach you take. Here, I rarely bother to worry about any property I've left locked in my truck (or unlocked on my motorcycle). Out in western Wyoming where my sister lives, it's common practice to leave your keys in your ignition with the vehicle unlocked. After all, one of your neighbors might need to borrow the car if there's some emergency, and you can be sure they'll bring it back.

E Hines said...

We could call this elected official -- oh,I dunno -- "sheriff" or something.

We already do that, if at a remove. We call the guy "Mayor."

Eric Hines

Texan99 said...

Our community actually works kind of like that. We don't enforce our own (minimal) traffic regulations, but if there's an immediate danger, armed neighbors crawl out of the woodwork and block the streets, often communicating through the volunteer fire department network. It's true that they also call the sheriff and expect official backup--that way, there's a chance the guy can be arrested rather than shot.

I think jacking with a neighborhood should be like stirring an antpile with a stick. There should be a vigorous reaction.

Ymar Sakar said...

They should call in the Japanese police forces who had to deal with self armed clans and Yakuza, to see if they have any new ideas of how to implement things.

After all, the FBI were in Japan advising them of various counter terror issues.

This subject deals with a hybrid Top Down and Bottom up organization. Militia who are bottom up, but also the top liege or authority, tend to become vigilantes or "Dixie Mafia" so to speak.

Ymar Sakar said...

The organization would need to have 3 layers.

The bottom up layer of militia volunteers, no registration or license to exclude them. This is the peer review group which gathers intel and sometimes makes arrests using non lethal force.

The second layer is the middle layer, the negotiators, who are licensed to work as private security, much like the ones in Detroit. They aren't supposed to arrest criminals after crimes, but to deter crimes, and to help bolster the bottom layer with greater firepower, intel, and support.

Then there is the top layer, the city or state police, who are the official "heads" but have little to nothing to say in the daily operations of the other two layers.