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‘Defund the police’ is not about eliminating law enforcement but imagining something new

Attorney Scott Pilutik wrestles with the news of the day, from a lawyerly perspective…

[Regarding this story: Defund the police? Here’s what that really means]

Smart take on what “defund the police” actually means. It’s not about eliminating law enforcement but rather acknowledging how the criminal justice system has evolved to exacerbate problems instead of solve them when solving them should be the goal, and using this moment to imagine something new.

‘Imagining something new’ is the hardest part, of course, because the resistance to making these long-needed changes is so deeply entrenched. The problem is less institutional stasis than Audrey from Little Shop of Horror — police departments have been insatiably devouring money and spending it on military gear.


It hardly needs to be said who has borne the brunt of the militarization. You can point a finger at broken storefront windows and some looting to argue the necessity but I’m fairly certain that whatever that price tag turns out to be, it’ll be many zeros away from what we’ve increasingly spent to arm police for domestic war.

You might argue the chicken or the egg in this argument — don’t we invite war by preparing for it? — but financially speaking, the return on investment has been conspicuous by its absence. Police departments have been gearing up as if roughly half of its citizens are potential terrorists, and have convinced themselves of the need to use these tools to fix problems needing far more subtle answers.

Institutional stasis is only part of the reason for the thing that needs changing never actually changes, it’s mostly because rackets and industry monopolies develop and the mechanism to examine and question their rationality — politics — is at best broken and more often than not, right there in the tank (and, by design, politicians face fewer and fewer repercussions for even outright corruption).

The trend toward prison privatization is another example of a financial racket trumping rational criminal policy. A discussion on obstinate police unions goes a little bit beyond the point I’m making, but it’s sufficient to say that there are very good reasons the economic establishment has spent decades crushing all unions except the police unions — they’re the yin and yang of the same entrenchment coin.

Passing laws to spend money is easy. Turning the spigot off when everyone is making out is much harder will meet with loud resistance and dire predictions, just as was the case when stop-and-frisk was cancelled by the courts, which predictions fell flat.

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