Tuesday Talk*: Defund Police, The Video

There are more flavors of “defund police” than ice cream at Baskin Robbins, each of which claims ownership of possibly the worst slogan ever. A group called Project NIA put together a video to pitch their version of “defund police.”

It’s a curious effort, indulging in stereotypes, ahistorical claims and grossly simplistic “truths,” which are only “truths” because they want them to be. On the other hand, it makes some valid points about many of the intransigent problems in policing and society.

What’s right? What’s wrong? Is it persuasive or not? Putting aside the misbegotten slogan, what of the seeds of ideas that form the basis for changing the relative dedication to policing, not to mention its cost both in terms of money and social damage?

Maybe you think we would be better off without police at all, or maybe you’re of the view that if less money was spent on policing, we would have more money to spend on more socially beneficial services like education and healthcare. Would it matter? Could it be done? Or is this a naive, pie-in-the-sky notion that ignores the reality that people do bad things and, love them or hate them, cops are a necessary part of the landscape.

After all, black people, more than woke white people, want to maintain at least the level of police presence in their communities as currently exists. What do they know that the unduly passionate do not?

And finally, has the “defund the police” cohort poisoned the well for serious reform by its varied, excessive and simplistic demands? At a time when many in America are more open to reform than they’ve been in many years, if not ever, has this blown the chance to get real things done?

30 thoughts on “Tuesday Talk*: Defund Police, The Video

    1. Steve King

      I had to clean the coffee spew off the screen after I watched the video and typed the above.

      I agree with our gracious host that we need a serious look at policing, incarceration, the bail system, etc. I believe that the Japanese word applicable here is “kaizen”-continuous improvement of the process. The moral superiority inherent in the video destroys any hope of that. These people do not-indeed will not-recognize reality and are doomed to fail. The cost of that failure will fall upon those who least afford it, the poor and minorities

      If you don’t like the police, try vigilantes. If you don’t like jail for murderers, where do you put them? Do you kill them out of hand?

  1. Sgt. Schultz

    It surprised me to learn the other day about a school district that created a program to provide computers and internet access for the benefit of black and brown students who lacked the facilities to engage in distance learning because of “systemic racism.” The problem was that almost no students took advantage of the program.

    The “Field of Dreams” fantasy (if you build it, they will come) is a core tenet of social justice, because it must believe that the only reason for disparate outcomes is “systemic racism” and not any failure on the part of the marginalized. But they built it and nobody came.

  2. L. Phillips

    Being a cranky old white guy I’m sticking with the theory that shutting down police departments is self correcting. Expensive in lives and property, but self correcting.

  3. Pedantic Grammar Police

    If I’m understanding this video correctly, we need to get in our time machine and go back to the mid-1800’s and stop those evil racist police from chasing slaves, strikebreaking and keeping native people out of white towns, and then return to a police-free utopia, like we had before 1800. Ah, the good old days, when everyone lived together in love and peace, and there were no police. Kind of like a woke version of Back to the Future.

    Never mind the ancient Egyptians who had police in 1500 BC, nor the police in England in 1800 who doubled as firefighters. Forget about looking for real solutions to the real problems of policing. No, the problem with police is that they have always been racist and must be eradicated.

  4. B. McLeod

    I doubt that most of the rioters (or even the “peaceful protesters”) ever intended to get anything done. It was just part of their ongoing need for attention, and their need to be “special.” Making demands so stupid that they fall flat is just part of making sure the “need” to keep protesting never goes away.

  5. Ron

    I couldn’t make it through this propaganda video, so I apologize if this was addressed. One my best friends became a teacher in an inner city school. His dream was to help black kids to learn and succeed. He knew it would be hard, but he was dedicated to the task.

    He lasted five years before he quit. He told me that the part that killed him was that there would be a couple kids in his class who wanted to learn, had aspirations other than being a pimp or drug dealer, but between classroom disruption and their getting beaten up regularly, they didn’t have a chance. By the time he quit, he was certain that there was no hope.

    One story he told me stuck with me, that he heard a commotion outside the classroom and went to see what it was. A kid was taking a shit in the hallway. He yelled at the kid to stop, and the kid told him “fuck you” together with some other choice words. His take was that no matter how much money they put into schools for buildings, textbooks, teachers, whatever, you can’t make kids who take a shit in the hallway care. And the commotion wasn’t outrage or disgust from other kids, but cheering and laughter.

    1. SHG Post author

      Whether that story is indicative of anything more than one person’s experience, I dunno, but while lack of funding may be part of the problem, money without a sincere appreciation of and desire for education isn’t going to fix schools.

  6. Rengit

    Obviously the police are going to have historical links to capturing runaway slaves, to breaking strikes, to arresting poor people who stole valuable goods from the very wealthy to put bread on the table, because prior to the creation of the public police force, laws were enforced privately and thus only accessible by the wealthy: slave plantation owners, steel and railroad barons, and uber-rich Hudson Valley landlords and the like. A major achievement of the final decades of the 19th Century and the Progressive Age was the socialization of law enforcement (amongst other services) to the public, i.e. police as a public service to all.

    Not perfect, no, because the poor still disproportionately have the laws enforced against them in even trivial ways such as driving with expired tags because they can’t afford to get their car to pass inspection, but better the police belong to the much broader middle class and its norms and interests than the norms and interests of modern day Henry Clay Fricks and Cornelius Vanderbilts.

    1. SHG Post author

      Putting aside the ahistorical claim that police were created as an adjunct to slavery, which is simply false, there remains a question as to what people want of them. If some child is killed by an unsafe car, people scream about the dangers of unsafe cars and require cars be subject to safety inspections.

      The job is given the police to check because they’re positioned to do so. Should we have a new “kinder gentler” force for every law that doesn’t inherently involve violent crime? Does the threat of police stopping, ticketing, drivers serve to compel people who choose to have cars provide an incentive to keep them safe, have them inspected, comply with the law?

      If people can’t afford to maintain safe and inspected cars, do they get to drive unsafe and uninspected cars?

  7. F. Lee Billy

    “No Special Duty”/Radiolab/WNYC, Oct. 2, 2020. Warren v. District of Columbia, 1981. Jessica Gonzales v. Castle Rock, CO. (10th Circuit). DeShaney v. Winnebago County, 1989.

    I thought this was a law blog? The Law of Diminishing Returns applies to law enforcement as well as other human endeavors.

  8. thomas kellum

    Not many modern cars are unsafe. Mandatory Safety inspections exist mainly to benefit auto inspection businesses. If a child is injured, people don’t blame unsafe cars, they rightly blame reckless drivers.

    1. SHG Post author

      Modestly sentient people understand the use of examples, even if their feelz suggest they are imperfect. Others go to reddit, where they’ll feel more at home. And some fall below the level of reddit intellectual acceptability. For them, there is no hope.

  9. thomas kellum

    Modestly sentient people don’t get their feelz hoit when they encounter less than 100% praise for their
    over-exaggerated sense of intellectual superiority.

    1. Rengit

      So are you a twitter reply guy who decided to come to a blog full of actual lawyers to display your “””””wit”””””?

  10. MollyG

    The idea of re-allocating some of the police budget to social services and trained professionals that can respond to calls that the police are not trained for is good. The slogan “Defund the poilce” is about as bad as it gets as it both fails to communicate the policy goal, and tuns off people who may have been supportive.

    1. Rengit

      We’d likely still need police to escort these social service workers, despite defund advocates’ belief that the mere presence of police represents an escalation, as social workers, parole officers, and the like are most often not armed (except pepper spray) and do not have the legal authority to make an arrest in the event of criminal behavior, violent or not. So there wouldn’t really be too much, if any, reduction in the police budget.

      Anecdotal, but since this is TT, an extended family member of mine quit her job as a social worker decades ago when, in the course of a child welfare check on a family under suspicion of child neglect, she had a pistol waved in her face by the father with little warning or escalation; hard to see how the specter of this happening doesn’t mean cops will routinely be on standby for social workers, you can call it “the Reasonably Scared Social Worker Corollary” to the “Reasonably Scared Cop Rule”. Either that, or we will turn the social workers into armed quasi-police. Militarized social workers, maybe?

  11. Lee Keller King

    NYPD was founded in 1845. I didn’t realize New York was a slave state in 1845. Maybe my education wasn’t as good as I thought.

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