Me, quoting @ohtarzie: 484 mass murder deaths since 1982. Meanwhile over 9000 cop-related deaths in the same period (almost 1 per day). Ban cops.
(Mass Murder: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map?page=2 Cops: http://www.colorlines.com/archives/2007/11/killed_by_the_cops.html)
Dan: I’m not denying there’s corrupt cops or that there are unjustifiable civilian deaths, but to say to ban cops is extreme, I have several family members who are cops, my uncle was shot in the line of duty trying to help someone being held up at knife point, realize there are police officers that exist that try to do good
Me: It’s not that there are corrupt cops, or that there are not good people who are also cops; it’s that the social function of cops is pernicious to the vast majority of the population. A cop can only be a good person to the extent that they are not acting like a cop.
The job of cops is not to help citizens, after all, but to preserve the public order. And the tool of cops that differentiates them from anyone else is a monopoly on violence: what defines a cop is that they are allowed to use lethal force. The discourse of “corrupt cops” and “unlawful police shootings” misses that it is the point of cops to shoot people, and to be immunized from any consequences of doing so; to the extent that cops are prosecuted for shooting people without provocation, they aren’t cops. (Everybody is supposed to have a right to self-defense, after all.)
Look at when the power of cops have been increased. First, public police systems in the US originate as protection against theft after the development of industrialized mass production and interchangeable parts; when everything started to look the same, stealing became much easier to get away with. The police were very specifically a gift to large corporations from the state, a security force paid for by taxpayers that protected corporate earnings.
Since then, cops have been perennially tied to nasty business: anti-communism and the Red Scare. Union busting. The Civil Rights movement. The Drug War. The alter-globalization movement (the Battle in Seattle). The War on Terror. Occupy. Each of these is not about helping ordinary citizens, but in fact about putting ordinary citizens in their place and reaffirming and expanding the power of the state and corporations. The reason cops exist is to shoot the people who threaten the corporate state; all other functions they perform are secondary.
(I won’t even mention the US prison system and the astonishing and abhorrent rate of incarceration and treatment of prisoners, including routine torture that is trivialized in e.g. prison rape jokes…)
Again, look at the statistics: if cops exist to protect us from mass murderers, violent criminals, and the like, the evidence suggests they’re doing a spectacularly terrible job. Maybe there would be 10,000 more shooting deaths if cops didn’t exist, but I find that highly unlikely (especially since there is extensive evidence that police training increases violent responses–cops are spousal abusers at a significantly higher rate than the general population, and a huge number of shooting deaths are carried out by either ex-cops or ex-military, who fulfill a similar function overseas in serving the state and capital at the expense of ordinary people).
We don’t need cops to protect us. Most of the time they make things worse. If you read my feed, I post stories on an almost daily basis of completely unnecessary police shootings, many of them straight-up murders, for which no one is punished. (And if you want to look to why mass shootings happen, the fact that we live in a culture that glorifies and valorizes violence as a problem-solving tool and allows cops to routinely get away with murder would be a good place to start.)
In sum: fuck the police.
Dan: Even if you did get rid of the police force, and violent crime did go down, and I’m not denying that it would, it surely wouldn’t eliminate violent crime entirely, what do you propose then for dealing with the crimes that would occur ( I’m not trying to come off as a police force supporter, I’m genuinely curious)
Me: 1. Note that the 484 statistic is for mass murders (like the one today) rather than violent crime in general. Not sure what the numbers are for violent crime, but I know it’s been on the decline for something like thirty years despite constant calls for increased police militarization (most police shootings are drug-related anyway).
2. If violent crime went down, or regardless of decrease/increase was less without cops than the total of violent crime deaths+cop shooting deaths with cops… then cops are obviously hurting us, right? Cops aren’t a solution to violent crime if MORE PEOPLE DIE with cops than without.
What’s a better solution? Well, that question requires a lot of setting assumptions first, because a world without cops would be vastly different… as I said, cops are first and foremost tools of enforcing state power and the corporate privileges granted by state power. The law, after all, is only the law to the degree that the violence monopolized by cops enforces it; if there’s no violence behind it–the threat of death or imprisonment–it’s not a law, it’s a suggestion. So without cops, there is literally no law in the sense that we think of. (Which also points to why our conception of laws as formal rules set forth by legislature is completely bullshit; the law is what the police and the state’s attorneys and the judges say it is, which is vastly different from what the laws on paper say, as anyone involved with drug prosecutions can tell you.) So without cops, there is no state, just voluntary associations.
Of course, any such thought experiment immediately comes to the question of, without cops or the state, wouldn’t some gang organize themselves and take over?
And the answer is: yes. And they’d call themselves the cops/the state. The cops are the cops because they’re the gang with the biggest guns (or are backed by the gang with the biggest guns, the US military) and the most willing to use them to achieve power. Everything else is dressing.
Dan: Idk about the rest of the country, but I know the murder rate, and just shootings in general are way up in Chicago this year from last year, lots of them gang related, or just innocent people caught in crossfire, the city is quite fucked up, in the short term what would you propose for a situation like ours
Me: Well, to answer that requires looking at why the violence is occurring, on a structural level. Gang violence, for instance: why do gangs exist? Why do people join gangs? Why does gang violence happen? Etc. The answer, almost universally, is artificial scarcity.
Urban centers like Chicago were originally organized around industrial manufacturing. (It’s also worth noting that the population of these urban centers were by and large forcibly relocated by capitalists getting the state to seize land from previously self-sufficient farmers; the early capitalists wrote quite explicitly about this re: e.g. the Enclosure Acts in England and how the poor would never work hard in their factories if they could be lazy and self-sufficient on their own land. Thus, they stole the land via state violence and destroyed the farms. In the US, this was sometimes done in the same way, though it was easier thanks to the bedrock of Puritan morality which held that those who weren’t constantly working were immoral.)
As post-industrialization set in (which is to say, industrialized manufacturing was outsourced overseas to places where it could be done with more human rights violations and therefore cheaper), large urban centers like Chicago no longer had enough jobs compared to their population. These jobs were not replaced because the state and capital doesn’t actually have an interest in providing jobs (or food, shelter, medical care, etc.) to people. Unemployment is good for capital, after all–a high supply of labor lowers the price. (The Federal Reserve explicitly and openly works toward higher unemployment for this reason.) Large portions of the urban population became, in essence, surplus people, whose only value to the corporate state was their pressure on labor costs by being unemployed.
Now, while sustaining a living outside of the jobs economy–that is to say, surviving through growing your own food, making your own stuff, and building cooperative networks with others to make this easier–is more difficult in an urban environment, it’s not impossible, and many urban populations began to work toward this out of necessity. The police, again, were responsible for intervening in this process: via a variety of regulations and sometimes without any justification whatsoever, the police cracked down on such things. (Most famously, J. Edgar Hoover proclaimed the most dangerous thing the Black Panthers ever did was to set up soup kitchens and organize schools outside of the state–creating their own independent society.)
In such conditions, I think it’s easy to see the role of gangs and drugs among the urban poor: the drugs provide a means of getting food and other necessities after jobs and sustainable living were denied to them by the state, while the gangs protect them from state intervention and allow them to fight over the scraps the state leaves to them.
There’s a reason what happens to urban centers is called ghettoization, comparing this process to the Nazis walling off sections of German cities and leaving the Jews inside to slowly die of hunger and in-fighting over the few resources available, as well as German police arbitrarily and not infrequently simply shooting them. This comparison is far more apt than most people want to accept: the police have, in practical terms, done the same thing, deliberately depriving areas of these cities of resources, leaving them to fight over what is allowed in, and routinely intervene to arbitrarily shoot people without justification or consistency. Poor urban families are constantly torn apart by police violence–among urban blacks, for example, the statistics of imprisonment over trivial drug charges are obscene (something like 50% of black men will spend some part of their life in prison).
So you want to know how to fix this? Again, it’s cops and the state who created this problem, and the solution is to get rid of them. If these people were allowed to take care of themselves–as is happening in parts of Detroit, a city that has been in many places just abandoned by the state entirely–you will see a rebirth, as people extract themselves from the utter failure of corporate capitalism (which again required massive state intervention in the first place to get people into the factories that powered it) and learn to live sustainably again, with local gardens and local manufacturing (which has always been, absent state violence, more efficient than centralized factories, and is even moreso today with the development of 3D printing). When people are allowed the material abundance that we have the easy ability to produce, most people will have no interest in fighting.
The thing you have to realize is: people can take care of themselves. The people who say they know better than you, and threaten you with violence if you don’t do what they say? Those are the people who bring evil into the world–because that act of arrogance and violence is the first and only evil act. If you want to know why something bad is happening, ask yourself who is using violence to take charge, and you will have your answer.
(APPARENTLY I AM WRITING A TEXTBOOK ON ANARCHISM 101 TODAY)
[A friend and domestic abuse survivor says that cops protected her from her abuser, that we need structure and rules, and asks if I think rape and murder would disappear in a world without cops]
I understand your position and I of course would not try to speak to your experiences. I definitely understand that there are instances when the police are beneficial, even save lives.
There are two things I would say with regard to your comments. The first is that I’m not suggesting we simply abolish the police; I don’t believe that’s possible on a practical level and, as I mentioned above, even if we did magically make them go away, there would simply be another group that set themselves up in that position. The only situation in which the police don’t exist is a situation in which it is not possible for a group to set themselves up in a position of domination via violence. I’ve written before about empowering everyone with the ability to wield equal violence (and having to take responsibility for that power), the idea being to create a world where what happened to you isn’t possible in the first place. But until we get to that point, we do often face the choice of trusting one group wielding violent power to protect us from other groups wielding violent power, and I would never suggest that someone making that choice in the face of real, ongoing violence is doing something wrong. (For example, there were frequent arguments in the original Occupy camps about bringing in the police after sexual assaults occurred–I don’t think anyone has a right to question the survivors’ decisions to involve the police in those matters.) Rather, I simply want people to recognize the choice they are making–as I mentioned above, studies have demonstrated that domestic abuse is significantly more common among cops than the general population; allying yourself with a violent, dominating force may be necessary, but it’s not something we should be happy about; you should never have had to do it in the first place, and I want to get to a world where you don’t.
(As to your example of your break down in freezing weather: the cop’s behavior in that case doesn’t seem to have anything to do with him being a cop. A state official without the ability to shoot people or even just a passerby could do just the same, no? As I said above: I don’t think there can’t be cops who are good people, but that a cop is only a good person to the extent they’re not acting like a cop. In that situation, they weren’t.)
As to your question about rape, murder, and sexual exploitation: no, I don’t think they would go away. I’m not suggesting that a world without the state would be a utopia, merely that we would experience less violence than the massive, systemic, structural violence of the world as it is today. I’m not against rules and structure; I’m merely against rules and structures that are enforced by violence. But your question is apt: anarchism as a political and economic organization solves material scarcity, which is the driving cause of probably the vast majority of violence in human society; but it does not directly address the other major cause of violence, sexual pressures and patriarchy. Again, I do think the empowerment necessary to prevent domination via material scarcity and violence will also prevent a lot of sexual violence, but there won’t be abundance in the same way that will make the tension go away for most people, and it’s an issue that would require vigilance and cultural education.
I want to stress, though, that until the point where we can defend ourselves, I don’t think it’s wise or even possible to try to get rid of cops.