The Hard Work That Must Be Done to Improve Police Accountability
As I observe it currently, the three strategies currently being taken by Progressives to increase police accountability are
- Demonizing all police officers, good and bad
- Making large cuts to police budgets and/or salaries
- Looting Apple stores
I have lamented before that none of these approaches are likely to succeed at reforming police accountability or more broadly at helping black Americans. Remember that while black Americans disproportionately come in contact with police and the justice system, they also are disproportionately victims of crime. All the current approaches listed above are unlikely to improve the police and justice system but may make crime worse.
One of the seldom discussed differences between Progressives and libertarians in this country is their skill set for change. Progressives are very good at creating a “moment” where everyone in the country is forced to look at an issue and potentially agree that change is needed. Progressives can grab both the streets and the headlines. But they often suck at the hard work making real change happen in a Democratic system. They don’t seem to have an interest in the drawn out 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense needed to make reforms city by city. Libertarians are just the opposite. We suck at building mass desire for change — we write 5000 word think pieces with lots of graphs but you don’t see us in the streets. But we can be good at actually getting change to happen — I think of ALEC (which is really more Conservative than libertarian, but work with me here) and how it works. Let’s say we decide it would be a good thing to have legal authority and process to build private toll roads. ALEC goes out there city by city and starts working the local government process. It finds a location, no matter how small, where it makes progress and gets laws changed. It then bundles this work into case studies and model legislation and takes it to other communities.
This is exactly the hard ground work that is needed to take the goodwill BLM has built up with the public and convert it to real change. And, correct me if I am wrong, I have seen exactly zero interest out of anyone in BLM to do this — it’s all street protest and, among the richer folks, high-profile virtue signaling.
Walter Olson had a link on Twitter to an article my Mailee Smith that really gives one an idea how hard the local work is going to be:
Reformers are calling for broad changes. Many of the contemplated reforms—such as making it easier to fire problem officers—are meant both to protect citizens from police brutality and to protect the vast majority of police officers who serve honorably from having their reputations tarnished by the conduct of a few.
These efforts could prove meaningless, though, in states like Illinois that give public-employee union contracts greater power than state law. Buried deep in the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act, which gives collective bargaining power to police unions, is Section 15, entitled “Act Takes Precedence.” Section 15 explicitly provides that when a government-union contract conflicts with any other law or regulation, the contract prevails.
It would be unthinkable, in any other context, to permit an agreement negotiated by unelected third parties to trump state law—but that’s exactly what Section 15 demands. Illinois could enact the best police reforms in the nation, but those reforms won’t matter if they run contrary to a police-union contract.
Good God, this is awful.
Postscript: There are a couple of added barriers, I think, beyond just skills and interest that keep Progressives from digging down into these issues
- Public employees unions have always been a keep political bulwark of the Left, and I think folks on the Left struggle to challenge a public employee union
- A cynical interpretation is that hard-core Progressives want to chuck democracy altogether, and thus see no reason to do the hard work of making change happen in a democratic system
Update: One idea that has been raised by Progressive of late is unbundling the police force, taking social work or civil enforcement tasks from them into other groups. These seem like approaches worth considering — I always have wondered why traffic or parking enforcement have to be police functions. However, this would not have addressed recent high-profile shootings that are driving a lot of the anger