No one is at ease in the presence of a loaded weapon. The police, armed and authorized to use force, even deadly force, as they see fit, are loaded weapons. Cops are dangerous — intentionally so. People are uneasy around them, and granting them impunity only makes it worse (We’ve seen how the police circumvent prison and their jobs though they assault and kill people).
We’ve tried to reform the police — to connect them with their communities. Besides not working, those reforms may lull people into a dangerous complacency. Regardless of that, the threat remains (Einstein once said insanity is to repeat an action over and over while expecting a different outcome).
The threat of our police not needed handling most non-violent offenses — in our schools, issuing traffic citations, or addressing the homeless. It’s not suited to handling domestic disputes, the troubles of sex workers or drug users. And it’s not welcome where there’s been no crime committed — patrolling our neighborhoods, or at peaceful events.
The threat of arrest, incarceration and violence does not prevent crime, nor does it produce the best outcomes when addressing most criminals. But we define the operational parameters for the police, and we can change them.
We must defer funds to workers not associated with the police, with the expertise to help people in need and reduce the likelihood of crime in the first place. The day-to-day police presence in our communities is antiquated and expensive. It’s time for a change.