June 9, 2020
[Also see an amazing confession of a former cop who explains why "Yes, all cops are bastards" in his article titled, "Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop."]
[Read here how the oh-so-liberal and "gentle" Boston police ROUTINELY oppress people, because that is their primary job description]
[Read how, and why, people in Chicago are saying the police should be abolished]
[Read "What Replaces the Prisons?"]
[Read about who REALLY controls the police]
[Read the exceedingly well-documented detailed article, "Hidden in Plain Sight: Racism, White Supremacy, and Far-Right Militancy in Law Enforcement"]
[Read this detailed academic study documenting systemic racism in the entire Massachusetts judicial system, from the police to the prosecutors and the courts--A Report by The Criminal Justice Policy Program, Harvard Law School Submitted to Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ]
As more and more people are very properly now demanding, the police should be abolished. Not reformed, but abolished.
But if the police are abolished, what should replace them? How will we deal with burglars and murderers and rapists and car thieves and child molesters, not to mention motor vehicle drivers who speed dangerously or just don't stop fully at stop signs?
What about people who pass counterfeit bills (as George Floyd was accused--never proven--of doing and, by the way, as probably 80% of Americans have unwittingly done one time or another)?
And the list goes on.
Some people, reading this list of crimes, imagine that if we abolish the police then criminals will have a field day and good people will sorely regret having eliminated the police. Those opposed to abolishing the police love the memes on this theme that are going around, such as one that asks, "When you're being raped or mugged, who're you going to call? A social worker?"
Before I discuss what I think should replace the police, let me point out that the fears of what will happen when there are no police are not supported by actual experience. There is an article in a very prestigious science journal (Nature) titled, "Evidence that curtailing proactive policing can reduce major crime." It says:
"We examine a political shock that caused the New York Police Department (NYPD) to effectively halt proactive policing in late 2014 and early 2015. Analysing several years of unique data obtained from the NYPD, we find that civilian complaints of major crimes (such as burglary, felony assault and grand larceny) decreased during and shortly after sharp reductions in proactive policing."
I also want to point out that there are ways people have apprehended criminals in the past before there were police, ways that we might very well re-institute or at least learn from after we abolish the police. The Encylopaedia Britannica describes how people did this in England:
"Hue and cry, early English legal practice of pursuing a criminal with cries and sounds of alarm. It was the duty of any person wronged or discovering a felony to raise the hue and cry, and his neighbours were bound to come and assist him in the pursuit and apprehension of the offender. All those joining in the pursuit were justified in arresting the person pursued, even if it turned out that he was innocent. If the criminal bore apparent evidence of guilt on his person and if he resisted capture, he could be killed on the spot; if he submitted to capture, his fate was decided by due process. The various statutes relating to hue and cry were finally repealed in the early part of the 19th century.
"Frankpledge, system in medieval England under which all but the greatest men and their households were bound together by mutual responsibility to keep the peace. Frankpledge can be traced back to the laws of King Canute II the Great of Denmark and England (d. 1035), who declared that every man, serf or free, must be part of a hundred, a local unit of government, that could put up a surety in money for his good behaviour. By the 13th century, however, it was the unfree and landless men who were so bound. While a freeholder’s land was sufficient pledge, the unfree had to be in frankpledge, generally an association of 12, or in tithing, an association of 10 householders. Frankpledge existed more commonly in the area under the Danelaw, from Essex to Yorkshire, whereas tithing was found in the south and southwest of England. In the area north of Yorkshire, the system does not appear to have been imposed. The system began to decline in the 14th century and was superseded by local constables operating under the justices of the peace in the 15th century."
My point here is that abolishing the police is not the same as giving criminals a free reign. There are many ways that we can deal with dangerous criminals without relying on a police force that exists primarily for the purpose, not of protecting good people from bad people, but rather the very opposite: of enforcing class inequality, just as the slave patrols (which are one of the origins of United States police forces) existed to enforce slavery, not to protect anybody's personal safety or justly owned property. To read about this actual, oppressive, origin of police in the United States, click here and also here and here and here.
Egalitarianism--No Rich and No Poor--Should Replace the Police
The primary reason to abolish the police is that the police enforce class inequality; they are one of the main instruments that the upper ruling class uses to keep the have-nots at the bottom of our very unequal society, using violence or its credible threat routinely to force people to accept the unjust way that the upper class routinely treats us like dirt, as described in some detail here.
Consider the War on Drugs, something that occupies the time of the bulk of our police.
Nixon Aide Reportedly Admitted Drug War Was Meant To Target Black People: “Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
I have written in great detail here about how the War on Drugs is fundamentally racist. In that article I also discuss the actual purpose of the War on Drugs:
"The American ruling class clearly is not concerned about making things better for ordinary people, and the War on Drugs is not about making things better for ordinary people. It is about fomenting racism as a divide and rule strategy. It is about generating deceitful "evidence" for a racist stereotype in the form of black and Hispanic men thrown in prison and branded criminals for doing what even Barack Obama admitted to once doing--using cocaine.
"The War on Drugs increased the prison population from 300,000 to 2 million; it targeted black and Hispanic men because they were black or Hispanic, not because they were using or selling drugs more than whites and not because crime was increasing. This was a bi-partisan racist attack. Bill Clinton's "tough on crime" policies increased the prison population more than any other president. "He and the 'New Democrats' championed legislation banning drug felons from public housing (no matter how minor the offense) and denying them basic public benefits, including food stamps, for life. Discrimination in virtually every aspect of political, economic, and social life is now perfectly legal, if you’ve been labeled a felon."
"In U.S. federal prisons 40.5%of prisoners are non-white whereas in the U.S. population only 22.1%of the people are non-white. Linking criminality with being black or Hispanic by reminding the public of the disproportionately black and Hispanic character of prisoners (with all sorts of TV shows among other things) fuels racist fears that in turn allow racist policies to continue. When the ruling class of a nation wrongfully imprisons people to advance a racist strategy of social control, they need to be removed from power."
I also discuss in that same article how the Portuguese government, despite being still capitalist and still enforcing class inequality, nonetheless deals with its drug problem in an entirely different manner than the War on Drugs police manner used in the United States. My source is Carl Hart's book High Price (the author is an eminent associate professor of neuroscience at Columbia University):
Dr. Hart points to Portugal's way of dealing with drugs as a far more sensible approach (from the point of view, that is, of people who really care about solving social problems rather than from the point of view of a plutocracy that creates these problems as part of its way of controlling us.) In Portugal, users of illegal drugs "stopped by the police and found to have drugs are given the equivalent of a traffic ticket, rather than being arrested and stigmatized with a criminal record. The ticket requires them to appear before a local panel called (in translation) the Commission for Dissuasion of Drug Addiction, typically consisting of a social worker, a medical professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist, and a lawyer.
Note that a police officer is not included. The panel is set up to address a potential health problem. The idea is to encourage users to honestly discuss their drug use with people who will serve as health experts and advisers, not adversaries. The person sits at a table with the panel. If he or she is not thought to have a drug problem, nothing further is usually required, other than payment of a fine. Treatment is recommended for those who are found to have drug problems--and referral for appropriate care is made. Still, treatment attendance is not mandatory.
Repeat offenders, however--fewer than 10 percent of those seen every year--can receive noncriminal punishments like suspension of their driver's license or being banned from a specific neighborhood known for drug sales."
Dr. Hart reports that in Portugal, "The number of drug-induced deaths has dropped, as have overall rates of drug use,especially among young people (15-24 years old). In general, drug use rates in Portugal are similar, or slightly better, than in other European countries... No, it didn't stop all illegal drug use. That would have been an unrealistic expectation. Portuguese continue to get high, just like their contemporaries and all human societies before them. But they don't seem to have the problem of stigmatizing, marginalizing, and incarcerating substantial proportions of their citizens for minor drug violations."
My point is that our police departments are not protecting good people from bad people; they are protecting bad people from us. Read here how this was true right from the beginning of the creation of our modern police forces after the Civil War, when their primary task was to break labor strikes. Abolishing the police is a necessary part of making ours a good, just, fair and decent society, what I call an egalitarian society as I describe it here. Good people have, and will have even more, great imaginative ideas about how to solve problems such as dangerous criminals without having an oppressive police department SUPPOSEDLY doing it for us.
In a good--egalitarian--society with no rich and no poor, the number of truly dangerous criminals will be DRASTICALLY reduced, as I discuss in some detail here. We will be able to deal with the remaining criminals intelligently, since doing THAT, rather than using that aim merely as a pretext for enforcing class inequality (like the War on Drugs), will be our actual goal.
What about black on black crime? Black on black crime is indeed a serious problem for black people, but the police, by enforcing the status quo of class inequality and its systemic discrimination against blacks and Hispanics and Native Americans, are part of the cause of it, not at all part of any solution for it. Here's why:
Black-on-Black Crime is Caused by Systemic Racial Discrimination
Here's How it Works:
Black on black crime is caused by black involvement in the illegal sale of drugs. First, let's be clear why blacks are involved in this illegal business? Here's why.
The minimum wage dead-end menial jobs that are the best jobs many black and Hispanic youths can hope to ever get--jobs that are viewed with great disrespect by all of society including by blacks and Hispanics--are hardly going to seem attractive to many non-whites compared to the allure of dealing drugs, which seems to offer not only much higher pay but also high prestige and a chance to rise up in the "business." Read here about the systemic racial discrimination that limits so many black and Hispanic people to these menial dead end jobs.
The Connection Between ANY Illegal Business and Violent Crime
According to the Justice Department, "Street gangs, outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs), and prison gangs are the primary distributors of illegal drugs on the streets of the United States." And according to this report, gang activity accounts for an average of 48% of violent crime in most jurisdictions, and up to 90% in some jurisdictions. This 90% figure refers to what is known as "black on black" crime.
The poorest, disproportionately black and Hispanic, people in the United States are told to either accept low paying dead-end jobs that are disrespected by everybody including themselves, or to try to gain wealth and prestige in the illegal gang-controlled drug business which, because it is illegal, can only "do business" (compete and enforce contracts) by violent means, as opposed to relying on the legal state apparatus with its official use of violence or its credible threat, as legal businesses do.
All illegal businesses--not just those run by blacks or Hispanics--rely on illegal violence or its credible threat; this is illustrated by the notorious violence used by the Jewish gangster Mickey Cohen, the Italian Mafia, and the Irish gangster James 'Whitey' Bulger.
The Solution to the Problem of Crime, Including Black on Black Crime
The solution to the problem of crime--including "black on black" crime--is an egalitarian society with no rich and no poor, with an economy that is based on everybody being able to work who wants to, and providing everybody who is willing to work according to reasonable ability (no matter how little that may be) everything they need or reasonably desire for free (or equitably rationing scarce things according to need).
In an egalitarian society nobody will feel trapped and forced to choose between abject poverty in a minimum wage dead end job or the lure of escaping poverty by criminal behavior. The crime caused by poverty will vanish and be remembered only as a problem of the past, like legal chattel slavery and explicitly racist Jim Crow laws.
But in a society like our present one, based on extreme class inequality, in which an upper class treats (in fact, must treat) the rest of us like dirt--especially racial minorities--the poorest people are going to be attracted to illegal businesses that rely on criminal violence, and there will be black on black crime.
Anti-racists should not avoid the question "What about black on black crime?" They should answer it head on. The true answer is not one that racists want to hear!
There is only one reason--a morally wrong reason but logical and based on the facts--for opposing the abolition of the police, and that is to oppose the abolition of class inequality. If one wants to preserve class inequality--as virtually all of our top politicians and mass media pundits do, not to mention of course the ruling billionaire plutocracy, notwithstanding their claims to support the BLM protesters--then one will very logically want to preserve the police and only call for modest reforms that will enable the police to continue to do things such as forcibly evict people from their homes or from their workplace when their landlord or employer requests it. There is no good reason to oppose abolishing the police. The police are a vile, oppressive institution, the modern version of the slave patrols.
Don't Be Like Some People in the 1800s, Who Said about Abolishing the Slave Patrols Essentially This:
"We can't abolish the slave patrols. If we abolished the slave patrols, then who would protect us from rebellious slaves? Who would maintain law and order [i.e., slavery]?
"Besides, we've ALWAYS had slave patrols. Civilization would be impossible without them, duh. It's just idiotic to think about abolishing the slave patrols.
"Sure, maybe they should be trained better, and paid more so they attract better educated patrollers, and maybe they shouldn't be getting so much overtime pay. But ABOLISHING the slave patrols--that's just CRAZY."
I have focused above on the supposed "protecting us from dangerous criminals" role of the police--and I cited how people dealt with that problem in the past before there were police and said we could come up with similar ways to do it today--because that's the main argument given for not abolishing the police. Obviously the other things that police do--as public relations essentially, to distract attention from their main oppressive function--such as directing traffic and escorting children across the street, and investigating crimes (like murder) after they've occurred, and intervening when a mentally disturbed person is acting out (ideally by not shooting them, as one cop properly refused to do and was fired for doing the right thing!), and tracking down online child abusers and sex traffickers, etc., are things that could and should be done by other professionals, not armed police trained to cow us into submission violently.*
Abolish the police to make a more equal and democratic and just and decent world.
It will take a revolution (as described here) to truly abolish the police because the police departments are an integral part of the dictatorship of the rich that is the reality we live in. The CIA has covert "police officers" in the police departments of all the major cities**. These CIA cops get their orders from the CIA, not the mayor who is nominally their boss; and they know how to scare the shit out of any politician. All they have to do is remind them how the CIA killed the popularly elected Congolese prime minister, Lumumba, and aided Pinochet in killing Chile's popularly elected president Allende, and orchestrated the killing of JFK when he tried to end the Cold War. (Read my article about this here: it's article #2 on that linked page.)
The ruling class top members are thugs who make the Mafia goons look like kindergarten teachers. If our rulers will kill elected prime ministers and presidents of foreign countries to maintain their power abroad, it should be very evident that they will not shrink from being just as, if not more, ruthless to maintain their power in the United States itself.
The ruling class makes sure that no mayor will truly--in substance, not just nominally--abolish the police department or do anything else that seriously weakens the grip of the ruling class on the population if the rulers warn them not to do it. The ruling plutocracy will let these mayors say pretty much anything to get elected and to calm the waters of rebellion without letting them cross the line they tell them not to cross. Minneapolis Mayor Frey and NYC Mayor de Blasio are clearly under the ruling plutocracy's control, refusing to reign in "their" police departments the way they promised in their election campaigns, no matter how furious their base is at them now for ignoring those very promises.
We may very well see mayors using phrases such as "defunding" or even "abolishing" the police, but they will still make sure that class inequality remains enforced by hook or by crook. People who can't afford the rent (because they are paid dirt wages) will be wrongfully evicted with the threat of forcible removal by goons, whether called "the police" or not. People who are fired (for, say, not bowing to the authority of the owners of the corporation) and told to quit the premises will be dragged out by goons if they don't leave on their own steam, and it will not matter if the goons are called "police" or "peace keepers" or whatever. The have-nots will be kept down so the haves will be kept up high. Non-whites will be treated worse than whites, one way or another.
It is even possible that, in order to seem to have "abolished" the police, something like what happened in Camden, NJ, will start happening elsewhere too. CNN says that Camden "disbanded" its police department. NPR gushes about Camden, NJ "dissolving" its police department and creating a new one with its officers all newly hired on the basis of being really nice people. It's a new, friendly, "community" police force. But a New Yorker article reports "the other side of the story":
"The most prominent example of police disbanding took place in Camden, New Jersey, in 2013, but once the city department was dissolved and the union abolished, the state of New Jersey hired a replacement force that was not only a recognizable police department but a larger and more expensive one, which managed to reduce civilian complaints but did so while patrolling the city of Camden more, not less."
To evaluate such a reform, the principle must be "The proof is in the pudding." Let's look at the "pudding."
What happens in Camden, NJ, when people try to live as they ought to be able live, as they would be able to live in an egalitarian society? Read this egalitarian law, for example, about how squatting is legal. This is how things ought to be. If some people in Camden, NJ who contribute reasonably according to ability squat (don't pay the rent) in their appropriate-sized rented home because their dirt poor wages make it impossible to afford the rent, what would happen?
And what would happen if the workers in Camden's (or neighboring) factories--the Standard Merchandising Co., the F.W. Winter Inc & Co.,Georgia-Pacific Gypsum, Art MetalcraftPlating Co. Inc., Thermoseal Industries, etc., and all the other workplaces--all decided to share their products and services with people in Camden according to the egalitarian principle of "From each according to reasonable ability, to each according to need or reasonable desire with scarce things equitably rationed according to need" and told the owners of the factories and businesses that they were no longer the owners because the factories and businesses were social wealth, not their private wealth?
What if, in other words, the working class people of Camden took it into their heads to abolish class inequality?
Maybe the new Camden friendly community police would not evict people from their homes or workplaces. Maybe those police officers would bring roses to the workers, who knows? But the upper class would sure as hell use some goons by some name-- be it Federal Marshals, National Guard, "Special Mayor's Task Force," "Pinkerton Detective Agency," "Camden Citizens Committee," or whatever--to impose class inequality with whatever violence or its credible threat was required. And these goons would be, in fact, the real Camden police even if they were not called that.
The "pudding," in other words, stinks!
There will no doubt be changes, perhaps on the Camden, NJ, model made to "calm the waters" of our rebellion, but they won't be substantial improvements. Just as the old Jim Crow was replaced by the New Jim Crow of racist prison incarceration, and the old South African apartheid was replaced by the new arguably even worse oppression, as long as the rulers remain in power we will not be able to say we have won.
Electing "good" politicians will not remove the ruling plutocracy from power. Only a revolution to create an egalitarian society with no rich and no poor can do that. The good news is that such a revolution is possible because the vast majority of people would love it.
* The following is the excellent reply somebody (h/t D.R.) wrote to a person, named James, who said he wanted to keep the police so he would be safe:
"James, in the last ten days thousands of peaceful demonstrators were viciously attacked by police, and hundreds of those incidents were caught on video. Granted, we’re not at the point where police show up at your door and take you away in the night because you said something against them in a private conversation. But police departments are better funded than any other government agencies, have the ability to attack or kill with impunity, and have unions that keep it this way. That’s why I say we’re living in a police state.
I didn’t say all police are evil. But all police work for an organization that was born in strike-breaking and slave catching. All police enforce laws that hurt poor people and people of color. They bust people for minor infractions like riding bikes on the sidewalk or having an open bottle of beer on the street. They keep poor people from making money by doing things like selling loose cigarettes, and evict people from their homes. Until recently, they arrested people for selling pot in your state, and they still do that in mine. They also arrest people for possessing psychedelics, or even for having prescription drugs that they have a prescription for if they’re in the wrong container. Most cops who have worked at the job for very long have also witnessed a fellow officer do something they know to be illegal, whether it was taking a bribe, using unnecessary force, or committing a murder. To really be a good cop, you would have to seek justice when you witnessed another cop do something wrong. But cops are legendary for their silence and their loyalty to the department. Even when they’re not, they tend to fear consequences of whistle-blowing, such as losing pensions, or possibly being murdered. As a result, we have a police force made up of people who value themselves more than others, and act accordingly. It’s hard for me to imagine a future that includes both a continuation of the current police forces and justice.
You say you’re worried about dangerous times. Well, Black people have been living in “dangerous times” for 400 years. As soon as slavery ended, laws were intentionally created to keep them from gaining equality, and the police enforced them. Segregation is now illegal, but drug laws and “broken windows” policing continue to persecute Black communities, and again, these are enforced by police. Consider what it would feel like if you were Black, and had to worry about being killed every time you went outside, or even in your home. Consider how scary it would be to not have anyone to call for help, to know that by calling 911, you might be inviting your murderer into your home. Because that’s what life is like for Black Americans.
Who are you afraid will hurt you if police aren’t there to protect you? Are you afraid of people hurting you for financial gain, like the gangs that attacked you before? I agree that’s a problem, but police aren’t the solution. Instead, let’s work together to make sure that people can get what they need without hurting anyone. Gangs happen when poor people don’t have other options. You never would have been attacked if those gang members had access to jobs where they could do meaningful work for fair compensation. That would be possible if the majority of the wealth in the world wasn’t tied up in the hands of a few hundred people.
Are you afraid of people hurting you because they have anger management issues and lack self control? Well then, let’s divert funding from cops towards mental health, so those people get the care they need and aren’t a menace to society.
Are you afraid of people hurting you because you got into an argument with them? Then let’s fund restorative justice initiatives to give both of you a way to solve your differences non-violently.
Are you worried about random rapists and murderers? If so, then consider that study after study shows that cops are not very effective at preventing or solving these crimes, except on TV (I’m happy to provide sources if you’re interested).
Rape and murder are serious problems, and we should be putting money into solving them instead of funding police departments that aren’t.
If I’ve missed something, let’s talk about it, and how we could solve it without involving police. I’m glad that you haven’t had bad experiences with the police, and I’m sorry that you were victimized by gangs. But please consider that, just because they’re nice to you, that doesn’t mean they don’t work for an organization that hurts people.
The police are no different than Whitey Bulger, who was kind and helpful to people in his community, but murdered people outside it. Are you comfortable with a world in which you feel safe because you are White, but other people in your community aren’t because they’re Black?
I want you to be safe, but I also want all innocent people to be safe. I think we can come up with ways to achieve that goal, but I don’t believe it’s possible while maintaining the current police structure. That would be like maintaining the SS in post-war Germany and expecting Jews to feel safe. It’s necessary to start fresh.
If there are cops who are good people who want to be a part of that, then great, they are welcome to join us. But the institution has got to change. What values or morals of mine do you not share? Do you not want all people who agree not to harm others to feel safe? Do you not believe that it’s important for all people to share in this, regardless of skin color?"
** “At 4: 30 a.m. on December 4, 1969, six years after the arrest of Thomas Arthur Vallee, Sergeant Daniel Groth commanded the police team that broke into the Chicago apartment of Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. The heavily armed officers shot both men to death.[ 154] In 1983 the Black Panther survivors of the raid and the families of Hampton and Clark were awarded $ 1.85 million in a lawsuit against federal, state, and Chicago officials and officers including Daniel Groth.[ 155] Groth acknowledged under oath that his team of officers had carried out the assault on Fred Hampton and Mark Clark at the specific request of the FBI.[ 156]
"Northeastern Illinois University professor Dan Stern researched Daniel Groth’s background. He discovered that Groth had taken several lengthy “training leaves” from the Chicago Police Department to Washington, D.C., where Stern and other researchers believed Groth “underwent specialized counterintelligence training under the auspices of both the FBI and the CIA.”[ 157]
"According to Stern, “Groth never had a normal [Chicago] police assignment, but was deployed all along in a counterintelligence capacity,” with an early focus on the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.[ 158]
"From his research Stern concluded that “the CIA and the Chicago police were very tight,” and that while technically a member of the Chicago police, Daniel Groth probably worked under cover for the CIA.[ 159] When a journalist confronted Groth and asked him point-blank, “Are you CIA?” Groth just shrugged it off.[ 160]”
— JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters by James W. Douglass