In trying to snidely sneak in his snarky rejoinder, Jake managed to almost raise a point without ever touching anything of substance. But because I like Jake and don’t want him to be sad or unvalidated, the least I can do is help him down the path of cogency right up to the point where the path is blocked by a fence. Chesterton’s fence.
Yes. We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a transformative new model of public safety. https://t.co/FCfjoPy64k
— Lisa Bender (@lisabendermpls) June 4, 2020
This was the “second part of the Minneapolis city council plans” that, as Jake snarked, I ignored. Their plan isn’t just to shutter the precincts, fire the cops, lay down their weapons, for that would be anarchy and that would be nuts. No, they are serious people, and their plan is to “replace it with a transformative new model of public safety.”
“We have an opportunity to reimagine what the future of public safety looks like,” said Steve Fletcher, a City Council member who pushed that effort.
With the gusto of an intersectional critical theory Ph.D. dissertation, words are strung together that inspire us to peace, kindness and, dare I say it, a reimagined Utopia. There’s just one small problem.
But he acknowledged that the effort to build a viable alternative to the police on social and mental health issues would take years and that no one could be sure what it would look like in the end.
That’s kind of a problem. Of course, the insipid point to others, like the Nordic model, but the fundamentals fail miserably to transfer over well to a huge, diverse, carceral nation. No one who has given serious thought to the problem would believe the experience elsewhere, even if bits and pieces could be borrowed, would be viable here.
“It’s very easy as an activist to call for the abolishment of the police,” said Mr. Fletcher, himself a former activist who protested a 2015 police shooting. “It is a heavier decision when you realize that it’s your constituents that are going to be the victims of crime you can’t respond to if you dismantle that without an alternative.”
The question isn’t whether there is much wrong with how we do policing, prosecuting, imprisoning. It may be the one thing most of us can agree on, that what we do now ranges from bad to absolutely awful. How to make it better, however, is a far more difficult task than recognizing that it’s bad. Where we don’t necessarily agree is what is wrong with the system, and this is where those on the side of fixing it come into conflict.
It’s not just a matter of whether the better solution is to try to reform what we have, whether the usual “go-to” solutions like de-escalation training or implicit bias training will cure what ails the system. To the most radical reformers, the problems are wrapped up in catch phrases like “systemic racism,” which doesn’t help much when black guys kill other black guys, or when students in city public schools have the best textbooks available and use them to beat the nerdy kid into submission for laughs.
But who could argue that a force dedicated not to policing, but to public safety, wouldn’t be better than what we have now?
“What does that even mean?” asked Steve Birch, the chair of the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council. “Then who provides the public service of policing? I don’t even know how to answer that.”
The well-intended and deeply passionate activists will be happy to tell us, with warm words and fuzzy ideals. They have a beautiful plan. It will be transformative. Once they reimagine it.
One of my regular reminders is that the alternative to bad isn’t necessarily good. It can always get worse. Policing in America is bad. Deeply bad. But soothing words aren’t going to do much to stop that guy from robbing you, beating you or killing you, and no matter how much you believe, that bad dude will be out there, waiting for his moment. The cops know this. You do too, if you’re being honest with yourself. We can’t “reimagine” him away.