Thursday, June 18, 2020

Bad Cops Bad Cops Whatcha Gonna Do

Too much of the debate over what to do about policing is abstract. If police abolition represents the radical boundary of our discourse, if “defund the police” sounds baffling to people who are rarely policed and scary to people who believe they depend on police for their safety, it might be easier to move from the general to the specific. What should be done about the Minneapolis Police Department? If you’re scared of what sound like radical demands, or on the fence about a slogan like “defund the police,” I urge you to read both of these articles, and think about “the police,” not in the abstract or even in the personal (who would I call if someone broke into my house?) but in terms of the currently existing institution of the Minneapolis Police Department. Maybe the question “Does Minneapolis need cops?” can be answered after a more urgent question: “Does Minneapolis need the Minneapolis Police Department?”

This is a police department in a very liberal city, run by a black man who once sued the department and who replaced a chief who had, during her own term, already brought in the Justice Department to study its practices. And yet, despite that leadership, it still could not rein in the Third Precinct—or implement a program that could’ve taken Derek Chauvin off the streets. As a result, it has lost its legitimacy as a civic institution and therefore its right to exist. Those demanding activists explain precisely and in great detail how public safety will be maintained after we “abolish police” in general should explain why maintaining the existing Minneapolis Police Department is preferable to disbanding it and building some sort of alternative.