Racism in the United States and police abuse of power in the United States are both really hot topics right now. They are separate topics, though they very much overlap. And I'm not sure right now how to handle that overlap. I'm not sure how to teach police officers not to be racist when this is something they should be able to figure out on their own by 2020. So today I'm going to focus on more generalized solutions to everything that's wrong with the police. I didn't think up most of this stuff on my own but it's the stuff that in my judgment I believe would work and absolutely should be implemented yesterday. I'm sure some of the other proposed solutions would also be effective but I don't feel qualified to comment on them. Let me be clear that while the law enforcement and criminal justice systems in this country are a festering cancer for which I have very little respect, I do not condone harassing, threatening or attacking random police officers, most of whom are probably decent guys and gals. If someone had shot Derek Chauvin, that would have been nice, but it's a bit late for that. So anyway:
Give police officers more and better training
A popular performance piece about George Floyd's murder points out that police officers in the United States undergoes fewer training hours than freaking barbers. Maybe that explains why barbers have killed fewer people. (Sweeney Todd notwithstanding.) They, the officers I mean, are also required to know surprisingly little about the actual laws they're supposed to be enforcing or about de-escalating tense situations without violence or threats of violence. I recognize that violence is sometimes necessary and justified, but thanks to the support of mindless right-wingers in this country who for decades have insisted that violence by a police officer is by definition always necessary and justified, it's become their default tactic far too often.
Screen police applicants better
Some people absolutely should not be cops, and some people who absolutely should not be cops are becoming cops anyway. We'll never be able to catch all the "bad apples" at the beginning, but surely we can do better. Most people don't become power-hungry fascists overnight.
Make police officers carry liability insurance
Most doctors are required to carry malpractice insurance to protect them from the brunt of massive lawsuits when something bad unexpectedly happens to one of their patients. Cops are already largely protected from lawsuits by qualified immunity, but if this method were used instead, their rates would skyrocket after they murder someone and they couldn't just get hired by the next police department that doesn't care about their record. "Don't hire police officers who have murdered someone" is too big a no-brainer to put on this list, yet not big enough to actually hold true in reality.
End special police protections
Everyone knows that police officers are held above the law through means both de facto and de jure. I'm sure it hurts their feelings to hold one of their friends and colleages to the same standard as normal people, and I'm sure it looks great on paper to give them some leeway for potentially controversial split-second decisions, but they've abused this privilege much too often and for far too long. Reform may already be gaining traction, as this week a federal appeals court cited George Floyd in a case against five cops who shot another black man twenty-two times in 2013. Police unions seem to exist for the sole purpose of protecting members from consequences for their actions, so they should probably be abolished if they can't come up with a really darn good reason not to be.
Make police officers wear body cameras at all times
George Floyd's murderers would still be free men if the murder hadn't been caught on a passerby's cell phone and a nearby restaurant's security camera and uploaded to the internet. Even knowing this, they still had the audacity to lie and claim George Floyd was resisting - which, again, if four cops can't restrain one man already in handcuffs without one of them kneeling on his neck while the other three do nothing, that's almost more embarrassing than being murderers. I see no reason whatsoever why every police officer in the country isn't required to use a body camera so they can't lie their way out of trouble. Literally the only thing I can think of is that it might make them hesitate more to use deadly force even when it is justified. Well, so what? They should be a lot more reluctant to take lives than they currently are. They should be afraid of the possibility of killing someone who shouldn't be killed. If they can't handle that, they shouldn't be cops.
End ticket quotas nationwide
Perhaps a small issue compared to the overall corruption and brutality, but nonetheless, it's pretty messed up that some police departments require officers to issue a certain number of tickets regardless of what people are actually doing, so they get to waste their time harassing and fining people to generate tax revenue instead of solving real crimes. Don't get me wrong, traffic laws should be enforced, especially in Utah, but it's a matter of priorities. Maybe if cops spent less time prowling for people to give tickets to, they could respond faster to actual crimes. Some parts of the US have already abolished ticket quotas but the whole country needs to follow suit.
End no-knock search warrants nationwide
These warrants allow police to just barge into somebody's property, instead of announcing their presence before they barge into somebody's property. As you know, one such instance recently ended with police officers murdering 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in her sleep after her boyfriend exercised his Second Amendment right to defend his home from intruders. They were at the wrong address looking for someone who had already been arrested, but whatever. If they had handled their idiotic mistake a little differently nobody would have died. They do claim that they did announce themselves before barging in, but the neighbors disagree, and that would kind of defeat the purpose of having a no-knock warrant in the first place, and police officers have a pretty consistent track record of lying their butts off every time they screw up. So I'm not buying it.
End civil forfeiture nationwide
If you have in your possession an amount of cash that the police think is suspiciously large, they can just take it from you and never give it back. They don't have to charge you with a crime. They can literally just take it from you and never give it back. Of course, there are very good legal constitutional reasons why the police have this power, and they understand the burden to use it responsibly and never abuse it, and I'm the Queen of Sheba.
Decriminalize all drugs
Portugal implemented this policy nearly twenty years ago and it's objectively been a phenomenal success in reducing both drug abuse and law enforcement expenses. The people who warned that it would be a disaster have admitted that they were wrong. Literally nobody claims it isn't working - so in other words, it's the opposite of the U.S. war on drugs. Law enforcement in this country wastes an obscene amount of time and money trying to punish people for having addictions, in the process creating far more crime than it stops and diverting resources away from much worse problems like sex trafficking and child pornography. And the war on drugs disproportionately ruins black men's lives just like Richard Nixon intended, so while this is admittedly be a band-aid solution, ending it would resolve that racial injustice as well.
Stop giving the police surplus military weapons
Back in the nineties, someone had the brilliant idea (that was sarcasm) of giving extra bayonets and hand grenades to police departments. In a sane country, an excess of bayonets and hand grenades might have raised some questions about budgets and priorities, but that's not the American way! So instead we decided to outfit cops like they're literally at war with the people they're supposed to serve and protect, further stroking the egos of the "bad apples" who now get to play with even more cool toys, and making all cops thus outfitted look like somebody a normal person would want to stay the hell away from. And, as their behavior has demonstrated, for good reason. Tear gas? What's up with that? Not okay in actual war zones, but okay to use on peaceful protesters?
Stop making police deal with mental health cases they aren't qualified for
In January, as I previously discussed at length, I was privileged to learn firsthand that the Logan Police Department knows less about mental health than a dog. They gave me the worst day of my life, but I was lucky. Some people out there have worse mental illnesses and/or disabilities than mine, and they constitute almost half of the people killed by police because neurotypicals have for some reason defaulted to using police to take care of everything they don't want to deal with, including problems much better suited to therapists or social workers whose skill set encompasses more than bullying. Not that the social worker I had to talk to afterward did a stellar job either, but at least she tried to make me less suicidal instead of more.
Make police undergo stress and anger management tests at least once a year
The stress of police work and the constant exposure to the ugliness in the world can really take a toll on one's psyche and desensitize one to basic human decency. If they can't handle that, they shouldn't be cops. Police departments should check in periodiodically to weed out the "bad apples" who slip through the initial screening process, and the "good apples" that are starting to rot. Frequent psychological checkups could even prevent them from rotting in the first place. I realize that the crappiness of this job has skyrocketed in the last couple weeks, and I legitimately feel bad for the good cops dealing with pressure and stigma they don't deserve, but it has to happen. That pressure is the only thing that can force the necessary changes to the godawful system they belong to.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.