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What Police Reform Should Look Like
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Each high-profile killing by police of an unarmed Black citizen — this week he’s Tyre Nichols, 29, of Memphis — prompts calls to reform the police. But how?

We should begin with two questions:

What is the police for, currently?

What should they be for?

Police currently fulfill two primary roles: generating revenue for local municipalities and terrorizing marginalized people.

If you’re white, middle- or upper-class, almost all your interactions with law enforcement will come in the form of a traffic stop, most likely in a small town, rather than in a big city, because big cities enjoy strong tax bases, and even more likely in a cash-strapped municipality.

Tickets for speeding and equipment violations, both of which can generate fines costing hundreds of dollars each, are by far the most common reason for a traffic stop. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis conducted a fascinating study of North Carolina traffic stops that concluded that “significantly more tickets” were issued when localities experienced financial difficulties, suggesting they were “used as a revenue generation tool rather than solely a means to increase public safety.” Some towns finance as much as 90% of their annual budgets from traffic tickets.

Defenders of the status quo will argue that the flashing disco lights in your rearview mirror enforce public safety. Indeed, motorists who speed or run red signals are a danger to themselves and others. If safer roads is the goal, however, why fine money for a moving infraction? Adding points to your license for dangerous violations, with suspension of driving privileges over a set sum, serves as ample deterrence to the wealthy and poor alike.

Only 9% of traffic stops involve suspicion of criminal activity, according to a national RAND survey of police officers.

Policing in poor and minority neighborhoods assumes the character of foreign troops patrolling hostile occupied territory. “Jump-out boys” squads like the Scorpion unit that murdered Nichols snatch people on little to no pretext, eager to rack up arrests in order to please police executives who themselves serve “tough on crime” politicians.

Cops in tough areas roust the homeless, purportedly for the “crime” of loitering but really to sweep away the unwholesome evidence of poverty that would reduce property values and street traffic to businesses if it were visible.

Police respond to countless domestic disputes — romantic relationships turned toxic, parents struggling with out-of-control children, drug abusers and their long-suffering family members, victims of schizophrenia and other untreated mental illnesses — to which a saner society would dispatch social workers and welfare case officers.

Armed cops enter homes, not to help (they can’t) but to enforce the simulacrum of peace that allows landlords to find takers for bedraggled rental properties. Recruited from the ranks of returning war veterans (who are more likely than other cops to use excessive force), jacked with steroids and trained to throw their weight around, the threat of violence is omnipresent when a uniformed officer arrives at the scene of people in emotional and psychological crisis. Shut up and calm down or we’ll lock you up/take your kid/beat you down.

What should police be doing instead?

They should make us safe. And make us feel safe.

We want cops to arrive quickly to defend us against violent people and thieves. We need them to protect us during natural disasters. We want them to provide deterrence by being present and ready to help in places where we are afraid: subway platforms, deserted city streets, public parks. But public safety is incompatible with revenue enhancement: “Police departments in cities that collect a greater share of their revenue from fees — conceivably because their governing bodies put pressure on them to generate revenue — solve violent crimes at significantly lower rates,” a recent New York University study found.

Cops should not be intimidating. They should present as friendly, polite, affable, calm, eager to help with our problems and unfailingly professional. The Nichols snuff video, in which the killer cops repeatedly shout profanities, urge one another to escalating violence and are laden with combat gear, portrays the exact opposite of what we want cops to be.

How could we get from where we are to where we want to be?

Police departments should change their training and incentive structures away from the current warrior mentality, in which cops see us as potential enemies and their main objective to return safely home every night, to a guardian mode in which their own safety is secondary, even to people suspected of lawbreaking.

We should disarm the police. Three out of four cops have never fired their weapon on the job. Among those who have, a surprisingly high proportion have done so repeatedly. In the United Kingdom and 17 other countries with unarmed policemen, being a cop is as safe a job as any other. Separate SWAT teams can respond to unusual situations like hostage standoffs.

“Three strikes” laws turn fugitives into desperados with nothing to lose. These statutes, which incentivize shooting a police officer, should be repealed.

The police should be demilitarized in every respect, including their equipment and their uniforms. When I see a NYPD officer wearing Kevlar, it conveys that he sees me and other New Yorkers as a threat rather than a taxpayer who pays his salary. Cops should lose the bulletproof vests in favor of uniforms designed to look friendly and approachable.

Use of anabolic steroids, which cause aggressive behavior, should be banned. Current recruitment policy, which favors officers hired straight from the battlefields of the Middle East, should be abolished in favor of cultural, social, class, racial and gender diversity.

No little girl or little boy dreams of becoming a cop to write speeding tickets. Municipalities should wean themselves off revenues from traffic stops, but until they are able to do so, they should assign their cash-gouging duties to separate traffic enforcement agencies and speeding and red-light cameras. Free the police to focus on public safety.

Similarly, no one ever became a cop because they wanted to deal with crazy people in a psychotic crisis. Social workers and other mental health professionals should be recruited into new social-service agencies specialized in dealing with the mentally ill.

Unless we enact these and other forward-looking changes to American policing, we will continue to see promising young people like Tyre Nichols destroyed by the people paid to protect them.

Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, co-hosts the left-vs-right DMZ America podcast with fellow cartoonist Scott Stantis.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Black Lives Matter, Police 
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  1. SafeNow says:

    Unfortunately Ted we are not living in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” in which Lloyd Nolan says “You’d better run along now lads, or I’ll be telling your mothers” and the boys say, “We’re really sorry officer, golly, it won’t happen again, please don’t tell our mothers” and they do indeed run along because they know their mothers would tell their fathers because they do indeed have fathers who would get home from this thing called work.

  2. Anonymous[296] • Disclaimer says:

    Huh. This is good. Disarm and demilitarize.


    1. Community control. We the consumers of dispute resolution services hire and fire. Chiefs on down.

    2. No qualified immunity. No immunity of any kind. If I kill a guy, things happen to me. If a cop kills a guy, exact same thing happens to him.

    • Agree: Jim Richard, PJ London
    • Replies: @The Anti-Gnostic
  3. The idea of the “Peace Officer” is long dead. The Police long ago became the tool of the powers that be to intimidate and cow the proles. There are only two types of people to the police

    1. Perps that have been caught
    2. Perps that haven’t been caught. yet.

    If you actually think that is going to change, you are deluded.

  4. I had to look out the window to see if there were 2 moons in the sky. I am boggled. I agree with you! One more thing, which I consider top of the list necessary, end all federal funding and support of state and local police departments. It would be nice if the police would also stop working with the Feds to enforce federal laws. The underlying problem with all this is of course “The War On” the Feds push. War on drugs being the main one. Policing is a state and local issue and not a federal one. Show me where in the constitution policing is addressed.

    • Replies: @Catdompanj
  5. BuelahMan says:

    Ted Rall thinks there is some sort of police bias against blacks and for whites. Ted Rall’s idiocy doesn’t take into account that Tyree was dating one of the black cops’ baby mamas, and that this is simply a case of nigs being nigs.


  6. Eliminate street cops. Give the citizenry back their natural rights to carry their weapon of choice and the killing of the miscreants in the society will rapidly reduce their numbers.

    The criminal justice system should be renamed the criminal protection racket since it protects the criminals from the retribution from the victim or victim’s family.

    The very idea of having a judge declare a sentence is stupid in the extreme. It is the victim that should declare the punishment and I’d bet that most perps would be dead in short order thus reducing the criminal element in the society.

    • Replies: @H. L. M
  7. George says:

    This article cites a series of things Rall wants. The problem is the budget available. The US is facing a financial crisis where a decision will need to be made as to what to prioritize. For example should you prioritize active or retired police? In Seattle, state of Washington, not city of Seattle, politicians decided to incentivize police retirement.

    Seattle PD chief warns new legislation aimed at helping officers could lead to more departures

    Prison populations in Washington has dropped. While it appears related to covid, I suspect the budget will not be increased to house more prisoners.

    News For Reasonable People is a good source of Seattle and Portland and beyond news, especially crime, homelessness, ect.

  8. anarchyst says:

    Ever notice that police unions are “fraternal”? This should tell you something. The “thin-blue-line” is a gang, little different than street gangs–at least when it comes to “covering-up” their questionable and quite often, illegal and criminal behavior.
    In today’s day and age, “officer safety” trumps de-escalation of force. This, in part, is due to the militarization of the police along with training in Israeli police tactics. This becomes a problem, with the “us vs. them” attitude that is fosters. “We are all Palestinians, now”.
    There are too many instances of police being “given a pass”, even when incontrovertible video and audio evidence is presented. Grand juries, guided by police-friendly prosecutors, quite often refuse to charge those police officers who abuse their authority.
    Police officers, who want to do the right thing, are quite often marginalized and put into harms way, by their own brethren…When a police officer is beating on someone that is already restrained while yelling, “stop resisting” THAT is but one reason police have a “bad name” in many instances…this makes the “good cops” who are standing around, witnessing their “brethren in blue” beating on a restrained suspect, culpable as well…
    Here are changes that can help reduce police-induced violence:
    1. Abolish police unions. Police unions (fraternities) protect the guilty, and are responsible for the massive whitewashing of questionable police behavior that is presently being committed.
    2. Eliminate both “absolute” and “qualified” immunity for all public officials. This includes, prosecutors and judges, police and firefighters, code enforcement and child protective services officials, and others who deal with the citizenry. The threat of being sued personally would encourage them to behave themselves. Require police officers and other public officials to be privately “bonded” by an insurance company, with their own funds. The basic cost of the bond would be borne by the municipality; any surcharges would be borne by the individual officer or official himself. No bond=no job. Insurance companies would be more diligent in weeding out the “bad apples” than that of our present “system”.
    3. Any public funds disbursed to citizens as a result of police misconduct should come out of police pension funds–NOT from the taxpayers.
    4. Regular drug-testing of police officers as well as incident-based drug testing should take place whenever an officer is involved in a violent situation with a citizen–no exceptions. Most of today’s police department union contracts prohibit drug testing of police officers.
    5. Testing for steroid use should be a part of the drug testing program. You know damn well, many police officers “bulk up” with the “help” of steroids. Steroids also affect users mentally as well, making them more aggressive. The potential for abuse of citizens increases greatly with steroid use.
    6. Internal affairs should only be used for disagreements between individual officers–NOT for investigations involving citizen abuse. State-level investigations should be mandatory for all suspected abuses involving citizens.
    7. Prosecutors should be charged with malfeasance IF any evidence implicating police officer misconduct is not presented to the grand jury.
    8. A national or state-by-state database of abusive individuals who should NEVER be allowed to perform police work should be established–a “blacklist” of abusive (former) police officers.
    9. Most people are unaware that police have special “rules” that prohibit them from being questioned for 48 hours. This allows them to “get their stories straight” and makes it easier to “cover up” bad police behavior. Police must be subject to the same laws as civilians.
    10. All police should be required to wear bodycams and utilize dashcams that cannot be deactivated. Any police officer who causes a dash or body cam to be deactivated should be summarily fired–no excuses. Today’s body and dash cams are reliable enough to withstand harsh treatment. Body and dashcam footage should be uploaded to a public channel “on the cloud” for public perusal.
    11. All interrogations must be video and audio recorded. Police should be prohibited from lying or fabricating stories in order to get suspects to confess. False confessions ARE a problem in many departments. Unknown to most people, police can lie with impunity while civilians can be charged with lying to police…fair? I think not…
    12. Any legislation passed that attempts to restrict the rights of ordinary citizens, such as firearms magazine capacity limits, types of weapons allowed, or restrictive concealed-carry laws must apply equally to police. No special exemptions to be given to police. Laws must be equally applied.
    13. Militarization of police departments must stop. No tactical gear, body armor, or other military-type hardware to be used except in very specific situations. Military rank structure must be abolished as well. Police officers ARE civilians–no better or worse than the general public.
    14. Abolish appointed police chiefs and operate municipal police departments like county-wide sheriff departments. In most American counties, sheriffs are elected and are responsible to the electorate, not mayors and city councils. This one move would remove a toxic layer of political coercion and restore accountability to the profession.
    Police work is not inherently dangerous…there are many other professions that are much more dangerous.
    A little “Andy Taylor” could go a long way in allaying fears that citizens have of police.
    That being said, I have no problem with police officers who do their job in a fair, conscientious manner…however, it is time to call to task those police officers who only “protect and serve” themselves.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  9. @Jim Richard

    Enforce federal laws??? Like immigration law? When? Where?

  10. No, seriously… can we remove this communist piece of shit from this website? Why are the posts here? Does a single person who uses this website believe a word that this dialectical pervert has to say? It’s all propaganda. It’s all lies. Fucking get rid of it. It’s disgusting. I come here to get away from proven jewish lies, as seen on every single other fucking website on the Internet. Get it out of here.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
    , @PJ London
  11. Legba says:

    Without the blacks, we would not be having this discussion

    • Agree: SafeNow
    • Replies: @CelestiaQuesta
  12. Che Guava says:

    Police must be subject to the same laws as civilians.


    Police officers ARE civilians–no better or worse than the general public.

    although I agree with the first part of the
    latter and have stated it before. ‘better or worse’ though, not the best choice of words. ‘No different legal status from …’ would be better.

    That is international law. Except for officially paramilitary police, the police are civilians.

    • Agree: anarchyst
  13. Che Guava says:
    @Tallest Skil

    Rall has his moments. Sure, he is full of stupid modern-western-left doctrine, but also makes sense at times and draws (or used to draw) many good cartoons at times.

    It would be fun if he would go past his ideological line in the sand, and engage commentors here, but I doubt it will happen.

  14. @Legba

    “ Without the blacks, we would not be having this discussion”

    To be fair, Hispanic gangbangers (wetbacks) are also a major problem, most all arrive via anchor babies and chain migration that originated from illegal border crossing.

    Make all gangbanging criminal, send all wetbacks back to country of origin, if they return, they’re executed within five days, no trial, no legal bs, gone forever.

    Same with niggaz, if you burn loot murder rape snatch ‘n grab, death sentence within five days.

    Elect CQ, I’ll have these niggaz and wetbacks wishing they could live another day.

  15. PJ London says:
    @Tallest Skil

    Why not tell us how you really feel?

    • Replies: @Tallest Skil
  16. anonymous[115] • Disclaimer says:

    Cars created the police state.

    For a century, the automobile has been sold to Americans as the ultimate freedom machine. In her groundbreaking new book, “Policing the Open Road,” historian and legal scholar Sarah Seo explodes that myth. Seo shows how modern policing evolved in lockstep with the development of the car.

    The Automotive Police State

    Lord, Mr. Ford, what have you done?

    • Replies: @Catdompanj
  17. Mac_ says:

    What should reform look like, no cops and no ‘courts. Pervasive vile, supposed good are minority, can’t do anything. know case of couple cops tried to report scum cops but were harassed then fired, then when they sued, were put down by lawyers judges court cons. The courts reward scum, also in ‘civil cases, was always point of courts. Supposed courts and cops are smiley con gang, also supposed social workers, and ‘gal’ court cons, note bogus label so could femy abbreviate ‘gal’, as they take over property, children, older people and scheme against individuals and families, and forced to pay them, and, handed bogus ‘immunity’ same as bogus cops judges lawyers. Wouldnt be difficult to shut courts and just rid criminals ourselves. People sit though theft and assault increasing. Corps hawking ‘security cameras’ is to spy, as lazy people claw at fake solutions instead of make effort.

    Should make note, false ‘courts scheme steals our place of right revenge and doing actual justice, to make scum world instead. End of article below ‘prosecutors claim two other possible’ nonsense, to distract, also repeatedly taunt ‘no right to respond’. If lived by natural law, is our ‘right’, yet people sit back hand to courts who protect criminals, let out to do again. The cons use fake paper law, to threaten and stop people from stopping criminals.

    washingtonpost .com/dc-md-va/2023/02/02/adnan-syed-conviction-vacated-appeal-hearing — blue links annoying, close gap between .com copy to browser. Lot of that been going on years. Media only ‘show this or that, and changes nothing. Is on each person to make effort. Scheme works for courts as crims attack others but not lawyers who ‘free them. People should stop being femy, make effort, share focus.

    Appreciate the article, many points.

  18. @anonymous

    I dont see this as an epiphany or a groundbreaking theory. Didn’t criminals evolve lockstep with the car too? How about delivery men? Firemen? Etc etc.

    • Replies: @anarchyst
  19. anarchyst says:

    The automobile is not the enemy…
    The automobile has been the most liberating of populations of any device invented by mankind as it allows the driver to go anywhere he wants at any time. If this is not freedom, I don’t know what is.
    The automobile allows one to live wherever one wants without limitations. It’s called FREEDOM.
    The “war on the automobile” is being waged by those who HATE the concept of free persons having mobility wherever and whenever they want.
    “Livable cities” is laughable, especially here in the USA.
    There are those who HATE both “urban sprawl”, suburban and rural living and would force people to live in cities…not being given a choice.
    “Livable cities” means people living like sardines in soviet-style apartments is just something that any normal, decent people would be loathe to accept.
    The oft-repeated lie that GM bought mass-transit systems to force people to purchase automobiles is laughable.
    People don’t want to ride stinky miserable mass-transit systems on someone else’s time schedule but prefer to use their own vehicles. Once again, despite many intellectuals’ disdain, it’s called FREEDOM.
    The USA is not Europe.
    I among most others relish the freedom that the automobile gives to humanity.

    • Agree: Joe Joe
    • Replies: @Che Guava
  20. Che Guava says:

    Agree and disagree. That driving is a joy is undeniable. Also undeniable is that car makers and paid bureaucrats ripped apart transport systems all over the civilised world.

    The destruction of the railway system in the land of the birth of the rail age, Britain, is ugly.

    Likewise, the U.S.A. used to have a legendary rail system.

    Growth and spread of giant roads, usually sprawling, ugly, and very hot in summer.

    I think you would also recall when it was less so.

  21. @PJ London

    I’m in the process of writing a book to do just that, honestly…

  22. @Anonymous

    Who do you think you’ll get to do your local cop job? Would you do it?

  23. @Che Guava

    Nobody likes to use public transit in Diverse countries. Nobody wants to be in the train car when the Diversity decides to go apeshit.

    • Agree: Che Guava
    • Replies: @Che Guava
  24. Che Guava says:
    @The Anti-Gnostic

    For some years, I had to travel to work on ridiculously overcrowded trains. The capacity, standing and sitting, by the label on the sides of the carriages, was 128. I did a rough calculation of the number of riders, a few times, about 320 to 340. I was groped more than once by men, but sometimes women would do it too, not groping but intentional rubbing. Numerous WWW sites for men existed to advise on the most crowded lines and the best ones for groping others. So, in extreme crowding, not thanks to vibrant diversity. It’s like those old experiments with rodent overcrowding.

    I don’t have to ride such lines much now, and the worst one I did have to ride every day has been improved by new tracks. Still sardine-can crowding at times.

    Odious diversity was not uncommon pre-coronamania. They wouldn’t dare go apeshit, though, and Africans are thankfully in small numbers, smaller post-corona.

    The three that most annoy me are

    i. Sub-continentals and middle-easterners with their hideous ‘perfumes’ designed to mix with their hideous body odours, they make me sneeze.

    ii. The many who insist on loud cell-phone conversations, but that includes Chinese and some Japanese, as well as Yanks, sub-continentals, and others. I scold them at times. It works at times.

    iii. Yanks who insist on spreading their thighs as wide as possible, and have to sit on opposite sides of the aisle and SHOUT AT EACH OTHER BECAUSE THEY ARE TERRIFIED of being seeing as closet fags, which in many cases, they likely are, if not, they wouldn’t be so averse to sitting next to each other and speaking in a normal tone of voice.

    I could go on. I read enough to know that things are far worse in many other places, and that the biggest lie in the Joker movie, which I liked otherwise, was having him attacked by a group of white
    yuppies. We all know who really would have been likely to at least try to murder him if it had been reality on N.Y.C. subways.

  25. anarchyst says:
    @Che Guava

    You are missing one important point.
    European cities are much older, heavily concentrated and are much more amenable to public transportation systems. In many cases, there is no room for automobiles. In fact, roads in most European cities were made for oxcarts and horses, not for modern-day transportation systems.
    The united States of America is so spread out, public transportation is not viable, unless your premise is to force people to live in crowded cities.
    For one, I don’t relish the thought of living in a city.
    When I go on extended trips, being able to drive myself and go where I want when I want without having to rely on bus or train schedules is a real plus.
    The automobile was an advance in technology, something that could no longer justify the use of public transit in many areas and has been a much greater liberating factor in civilization, something that those who decry true freedom criticize.

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