Don’t Abolish the Police

Mariame Kaba op-ed in the June 20, 2020 edition of The New York Times, Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police.  She wrote:

“When people, especially white people, consider a world without the police, they envision a society as violent as our current one, merely without law enforcement…People like me who want to abolish prisons and police, however, have a vision of a different society, built on cooperation instead of individualism, on mutual aid instead of self-preservation.”

I’m one of those people who envision a society without police being as violent as our current one.

Like Kaba, I want to build a society based on cooperation instead of individual and on mutual aid instead of self-preservation. The problem I have with her argument is that she doesn’t offer a credible plan for dealing with predators and others of ill will who intrude into peaceable communities. She cites a long history of evil perpetuated by people who hold power – people who achieved power because they sought it, not because anyone conferred it on them – but says nothing about what becomes of those people once police cease to exist. That’s a failure of imagination which will get a lot of us killed. Abolishing organized law enforcement creates the conditions for vigilantism and for local authoritarians to take power. I appreciate many of her points but her lack of a coherent plan for dealing with evil is pathological. The need to protect one’s community from predators and people of ill will has existed for as long as communities have existed and will continue for as long as they do.