Using the requirements of the constitution to Re-constitute the Police for better Policing
There is a recurring argument between those who want "order" and suppression of crime, and those who want community policing where the police respect the right of local citizens. In community policing police are often asked to fill roles that they aren't trained for. When they operate on a purely law enforcement level they tend to act like occupying armies. The reason for this is that our society neglects to systematically apply principles of good government locally. We claim to be a democratic republic, yet our communities are often voiceless, powerless, neglected and sometimes feel oppressed. We need to apply principles of democratic subsidiarity to our policing. When we start doing that we'll get better outcomes. The answer is to restore Policing to it's relationship with the militia requirements of the Constitution, and diminish the "standing army" portion of modern policing to a general aid function called on by communities in need or the courts. All that is part of applying principles of democratic subsidiarity to local government.
General Government Policing and Local Government
For one thing the rules for policing within a local neighborhood or community, are different from those of a general government. Local Government implies volunteerism, participation, conflict resolution and local accountability. General government requires professionalism, objectivity and the use of forensic and other tools for getting at the truth. We don't do local government well in most of our country. We don't integrate it into general government well. And consequently many people feel left out of our government in general. A Town of a million people cannot be a direct democracy. A neighborhood can be well run with empowered citizens. A city requires all its neighborhoods to be well run to be completely healthy. If we want healthy cities, we need democratic republican government locally. Locally means walking distance. It means everyone knows each other or can know each other. Anything larger, in numbers or area, is general government.
It's a Community Problem and it takes Communities to solve it
This post segues off of Time to Reinvent the Police by Johnathan Simon: [http://www.laprogressive.com/reinvent-the-police/], it also follows on a series of posts I've done on the related issues. Referring to the policing mess in 2015 New York, in which efforts to get Police to reign in brutal practices were met with a police revolt, Simon writes:
“Angered that citizens and their elected officials should ever question how the police behave, NY “finest” are saying in effect, “you’ll have it our way, or you won’t have it at all.”[Reinvent the Police]
The Police were frustrated. The communities they were occupying were frustrated. Everyone was pointing fingers and eventually this police revolt would lead police around the country, especially ICE, to support the Presidential Candidacy of Donald Trump. To activists, the police were in the wrong:
Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to say “let’s not have it this way at all, and if you can’t change, we need a new alternative.” [Reinvent the Police]
Simon was kind of like the little boy at the parade who notices the Emperor is marching naked. Our Police were marching down the street talking of honor, "protect and serve" and community. While at the same time, some communities were (and are) scared as heck of them. The police were scared of their communities enough to vote in nativist, anti-immigration, "law and order" politicians. The result was fascist rhetoric and the Police were in the middle of that acting like they wanted to be an occupying army. They didn't want community policing, to play judge, social worker or drug counselor. They wanted to knock heads, arrest perps, find the bad guys and lock them up. Fact is they weren't and aren't trained for community policing and thus aren't competent at it. Some police districts sought to train officers in community policing. You see them playing basketball with local kids and such. It's nice. It is getting rare.
Policing includes the functions of both formal adjudication and informal Adjudication. However, most of the informal adjudication is a function that is done at low level conflict level. Essentially it is pre-crime or conflict resolution aimed at preventing crime. General police aren't there for that mostly. They are trained to evaluate facts and make arrests. When Cops are put in the middle of conflicts, if they don't know the people they are dealing with, they can be prone to errors. This is true Whether those conflicts are somebody selling drugs in their neighborhoods or someone fighting with his wife. We will bash them if they make those mistakes but it's police who have to separate them from each other and US. And sometimes the police get shot at by both sides of a fight.
Of course what is going on with the police is that they've formed an institution with traditions, habits, privileges and immunities. Changing those roles involve giving and taking power and privilege and people don't give up power or privilege easily. Looking at the police from a Process Point of view the current system is not the best. It's working as badly designed. Our police have been patched, rebuilt, patched and rebuilt again; so they've evolved into an institution that provides services that are otherwise neglected.
“police departments are really conglomerations of services: traffic, detectives (homicide, robberies), narcotics/vice, SWAT team, patrol. In our current model, the generalist patrol officer who can wield a gun and a pair of handcuffs is the paradigm and all other variations have to come through this central paradigm. Perhaps we should take a lesson from our neoliberal corporate friends and think about breaking up this conglomerate, reshuffling the segments so they can develop training methods and cultures conducive to their greatest efficacy.” [Reinvent the Police]
And deconflicting the various roles involves separating general roles: traffic, detective work, SWAT Teams and community aid, from local patrol, incident response, community policing. Community policing has to be done within communities by the people living in those communities. Most major Police Departments are aware of this but have no idea how to fix it.
Systematic Republican Subsidiarity as a real Fix
“In reimagining the police, questions of level of governance are worth considering. Some functions, like detectives or SWAT teams, seem best organized and deployed from the center of the city with equal application to all neighborhoods. Patrol, in contrast, might well be organized very differently in different neighborhoods to achieve the optimal forms of police presence in the community.” [Reinvent the Police]
Detectives are necessary to the courts in prosecuting crimes and so the courts have an interest in centralizing their function, while SWAT Teams are necessary for the drug wars and so have a constituency in those who make money from fines and charging the citizenry to imprison people. Detectives and SWAT teams should be centralized and part of the General Government of a Town or City. Detection and Arrest teams are a service provided to other police and are relatively expensive so centralizing them just makes sense. They are analogous to having army backing for police dealing with demonstrations or revolts.
But if neighborhoods have the right to local government, then one can use reserve police officers, community representatives and informal adjudication for local patrols. Like neighborhood watches but with far better training and integration into the general system. Such local government would be allowed to integrate local security, volunteerism and local representation into the policing function. Not so much to make arrests as to prevent the need to arrest anyone. Local constables would be trained primarily in conflict resolution and psychology. The local mayor in a neighborhood can also be the man who makes sure that the sewers and broken windows get fixed. Police can live in their neighborhoods and be available informally. Community Activism and policing all in local packages of educated people. That is what "broken Glass theory suggested before Giuliani and the demagogues got their hands on it.
“My criminological colleagues will be cringing. Cannonical doctrine suggests that while better policing may lead to better public safety results, even the worse police department is better than none at all. In a famous natural experiment in 1944, documented by criminologist Johannes Andeneas, the Nazis arrested the entire police force of occupied Copenhagen (fearing that they would aid an Allied effort to liberate the city). Despite the Nazis’ own credible threats to execute criminals on site, and what one might expect to be strong feelings of solidarity among the citizens of the occupied city, robberies and larcenies soared; similar results have emerged from police strikes” [Reinvent the Police] redirect to ncjrs study.
We aren't arguing that we don't need policing. Just that local communities should do the lions share of it. He was writing during a period when the Police were deliberately neglecting neighborhoods and he noted:
“Do we really need the police? So far, crime has not gone up in New York City, but criminological doctrine suggests it is only a matter of time before the criminally inclined decide there is little price to be paid for acting on those impulses.” [Reinvent the Police]
Yet crime didn't go up.
“On the other hand, crime is highly situational, and responsive to individual and collective sensibilities. Perhaps the same emotions that have led tens of thousands of New Yorkers to protest against aggressive policing (and earlier to vote for Bill DeBlasio) has led more individuals to feel a sense of legitimacy in the public order of the city and a sense of collective efficacy.” [Reinvent the Police]
The key is that we need local democratic subsidiarity because the locals are the closest to local issues.
“I would not want to rely on individual consent and collective efficacy to keep crime low on their own indefinitely. We need something like the police, but not “the police” as we’ve known them. Police are important, but they are not like air. We can live without them when that is necessary. And we can reinvent them.”[Reinvent the Police]
So let's reinvent policing, starting by creating a Police militia and requiring all those doing security work to be licensed members of it.
Background And further reading:
Modern Police theory emerged out of experiences with militia and local policing. It emerged due to the inadequacies of ad-hoc policing and militia formations. It also emerged in response to communities experience with military policing. Modern USA policing emerged out of experiences with the violent and oppressive nature of military policing. The authors of the Constitution wanted a small controllable military supplemented by militia formations. They feared "standing armies" and by standing armies meant formations analogous to modern police. Indeed, "The Declaration of Independence goes into detail about the vile inadequacies of "Standing Armies" See:
- Police As Standing Armies [http://holtesthoughts.blogspot.com/2015/01/police-as-occupying-standing-army.html]
- "Broken Glass theory" illustrated this reversion to "police as occupying army. See:
- Garner Decision illustrates need for community policing [http://holtesthoughts.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-garner-decision-illustrates-need.html]
- Centralization Versus Delegation and Networking
- the Community Policing hypothesis has been that increasing the quantity and quality of police-citizen contact (Kelling, 1988) reduces crime.
- Note, I started this post July 10 2016, based on even older posts, but was busy on other matters. The subject is important enough that I'm finishing this post now. I've had a lot to say on the subject before. But the post makes even more sense in the light of principles of democratic Subsidiarity and the importance of local Democracy. This post helps illustrate the importance of actual local government in both specific government (neighborhood policing) and general local government (towns, villages, districts). I thought I'd posted this already.
Democratic Subsidiarity and Justice
We can fix this. But it's not just fixing the police. It's fixing the Justice system, and that means fixing our local governance and realigning our governing functions. Ironically the principles are already available. Some of them were outlined in our founding documents and have been refined since. It takes Republican, Democratic, Commonwealth and Federation principles to make the system work.
Policing in the Scheme of things.
Policing is a function. The word "police" for those who carry out policing is a relatively new term. In English Tradition the function of policing belonged to Sheriffs and constables, and their deputies before the modern concept of police was invented. The Modern Concept of police is based on military structures. And Police are essentially militia. They are standing armies as envisioned and feared in the roiling arguments of our founding times. Their connection with militia was illustrated with the recent funerals of officers killed in the line of duty. On the positive side they are also an implementation of Hamilton's admonition that we need to be able to enforce rule of law, and that there are only two ways to do so:
"This penalty, whatever it may be, can only be inflicted in two ways: by the agency of the courts and ministers of justice, or by military force; by the COERCION of the magistracy, or by the COERCION of arms." [Federalist 15]