Hope for Police Reform
Posted on July 12, 2016
I feel strangely optimistic for progress on containing police shootings.
Pandemic police shootings have been a historic constant in the US, as is the immensely disproportionate victimization of young black males. However two things have changed:
1. private sources are now collecting the detailed statistics that the FBI had failed to gather; and
2. each day on Facebook I and other millions see a new video somebody took of an unjustifiable police brutalization or killing.
This witnessing has a cumulative effect that is amounting to a sea change. It is no longer that case that any well-meaning liberals want to deny we have an extreme and systemic problem.
Those on the center-right can easily avoid seeing most of these videos, but they can’t avoid knowing the videos are out there, and they grow increasingly defensive in their acts of denial.
All of this has a cumulatively erosive effect on most of the ideologies that maintain police shootings, e.g. claims that in all cases
–shootings are isolated, or
–people don’t get shot when they are unarmed, or
–people who get shot were resisting arrest, or
–police were legitimately fearful for their lives, or
–the victims were bad guys who had it coming, or
–all police are heroic figures standing up for justice, or
–being a cop requires great courage and entails high risk.
Next to fall will be claims that police shootings are necessary as the downside of violence needed to maintain law and order. In particular, a new style of policing will emerge in response to citizen demands in the more liberal communities. It will gradually become apparent that low violence policing is far more effective than high violence policing.
After that, I believe violent policing will simply lose its legitimacy and fade away in most parts of the country.
More generally, I believe democracy armed with full information can actually work, in at least a few happy cases.