Rolling Stone recently turned from rape fiction to nonsense of the kind on display in José Martín’s “Policing Is a Dirty Job, But Nobody’s Gotta Do It: 6 Ideas for a Cop-Free World” (December 16, 2014). Some excerpts and commentary (in bold):
- Unarmed mediation and intervention teams
Unarmed but trained people, often formerly violent offenders themselves, patrolling their neighborhoods to curb violence right where it starts. This is real and it exists in cities from Detroit to Los Angeles. Stop believing that police are heroes because they are the only ones willing to get in the way of knives or guns – so are the members of groups like Cure Violence, who were the subject of the 2012 documentary The Interrupters.
It’s real? Wonderful. How effective is it in Detroit, for example? Does it prevent all crime? If not, shouldn’t there also be neighborhood courts? (Yes, says Martin; see #3.) And shouldn’t those courts reflect neighborhood mores, which seem to condone a wide range of anti-social acts, like looting and burning? (And what does the straw man non sequitur about cops as heroes have to do with anything?)
- The decriminalization of almost every crime
What is considered criminal is something too often debated only in critical criminology seminars, and too rarely in the mainstream. Violent offenses count for a fraction of the 11 to 14 million arrests every year, and yet there is no real conversation about what constitutes a crime and what permits society to put a person in chains and a cage.
Well, there’s the answer to the problem of crime: Decree that here’s (almost) no such thing as crime. So, there’s really no need for neighborhood patrols, is there? All that’s required is a “conversation” about what constitutes crime. I thought that “conversation” took place several thousand years ago, when God spake to Moses. It also takes place in legislative chambers across the land. What Martin really wants isn’t a “conversation” about what constitutes a crime. Clearly, he wants a definition of crime that suits him. I doubt that his definition would include the theft of cigars from a convenience store.
- Restorative Justice
Also known as reparative or transformative justice, these models represent an alternative to courts and jails. From hippie communes to the IRA and anti-Apartheid South African guerrillas to even some U.S. cities like Philadelphia’s experiment with community courts, spaces are created where accountability is understood as a community issue and the entire community, along with the so-called perpetrator and the victim of a given offense, try to restore and even transform everyone in the process.
Yes, let’s “transform” thugs. What a great idea. Rehabilitative justice has such a wonderful track record — just ask the victims of real rapes, real muggings, real thefts, and real murders (oops, can’t ask them). And let’s “restore” property and lives that have been “transformed” beyond restoration by the acts of violent criminals.
- Direct democracy at the community level
Reducing crime is not about social control. It’s not about cops, and it’s not a bait-and-switch with another callous institution. It’s giving people a sense of purpose. Communities that have tools to engage with each other about problems and disputes don’t have to consider what to do after anti-social behaviors are exhibited in the first place.
- Community patrols
This one is a wildcard. Community patrols can have dangerous racial overtones, from pogroms to the KKK to George Zimmerman. But they can also be an option that replaces police with affected community members when police are very obviously the criminals.
Let’s hope that the “affected community members” are armed, so they can defend themselves from thugs like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.
Who are the “obvious criminals” among the police? Darren Wilson, who shot Brown in self-defense? Daniel Pantaleo, who was attempting to arrest Eric Garner for breaking a law? Cops aren’t angels, but consider what they’re up against.
- Here’s a crazy one: mental health care
In 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed up the last trauma clinics in some of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods. In New York, Rikers Island jails as many people with mental illnesses “as all 24 psychiatric hospitals in New York State combined,” which is reportedly 40% of the people jailed at Rikers. We have created a tremendous amount of mental illness, and in the real debt and austerity dystopia we’re living in, we have refused to treat each other for our physical and mental wounds.
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