weather icon Partly Cloudy
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

JONAH GOLDBERG: Abolishing police would make things much worse

In these trying times, it’s difficult to find something to smile about. But I’ve found some modicum of mirth watching very sympathetic liberals go the extra mile to help hone the message of activists calling to “defund the police.” For instance, Katy Tur, an MSNBC anchor, had Isaac Bryan, the executive director of the Black Policy Project at UCLA on “Meet the Press Daily” to explain what “Defund the Police” really means.

“I think there are a lot of people out there who hear defund the police and (think) it means abolishing a police department. It doesn`t. So can you explain it to me?”

Bryan politely replied that he disagreed with the premise of the question. Defund the police doesn’t in fact preclude abolishing the police. Bryan says the term means taking that idea “as far as the political imagination and the political will of our leaders across the country is willing to push this idea.”

Most Democratic politicians understand that abolishing police departments would be close to political suicide (and terrible policy). They also understand that nobody in America wants the Democrats to embrace this idea more than President Donald Trump.

That’s why many liberals want “defund the police” to mean “reform the police” or “reinvent the police.” The problem is the activists who hold the emotional and psychological high ground won’t play along. When the Minneapolis mayor spoke with protesters recently, he said almost everything the crowd wanted about fundamental reform, systemic racism, etc. But when a leader of the protests asked him, “yes or no” do you favor outright abolition of the police, he said no. The crowd booed. He wandered off to chants of “shame” and a sea of extended middle fingers.

What we have here isn’t a failure to communicate but a legitimate difference of opinion. Some people favor serious reform. Some favor actual abolition. It doesn’t seem unreasonable that the people who favor abolition should continue to say so and the people who don’t should probably stop trying to prove their solidarity by using a slogan they disagree with. And, so far, most prominent Democrats, including Joe Biden, have done exactly that.

But what about the actual ideas?

Let’s start with reform. Banning chokeholds, redirecting some responsibilities to mental health professionals, EMTs and social workers has been tried with some success. Moving further on that front is sensible.

Repealing “qualified immunity” laws so that police officers can be held more responsible for their actions is more complicated but worth exploring. I’m certainly open to fresh thinking about police unions.

But abolishing the police? That’s insane. No, really: It’s insane. Who will respond to school shootings? Social workers? What about bank robberies? Who will investigate murders? The police function is essential to a civilized society. And there are times when that function can only be performed by agents of the government willing and able to use force.

Some defunders propose community patrols. Do you really want untrained groups of cop wannabes confronting “suspicious” characters in a neighborhood? That’s how Trayvon Martin got killed by George Zimmerman. All of the problems with race, but also class, would be exacerbated if local communities took it upon themselves to do police work. Affluent, mostly white, communities would have more resources and poorer, mostly black, communities would have fewer.

Anger over George Floyd’s killing is justified. But what is true of individuals is also true of mass movements: You don’t do your best thinking when you’re really angry.

Jonah Goldberg is editor-in-chief of The Dispatch and the host of The Remnant podcast. His Twitter handle is @JonahDispatch.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.