Friday, June 19, 2020

"How to Fix America's Police", by The Economist

Camden NJ poverty

 How to Fix America’s Police”, by The Economist (a UK-based publication).

The 10-minute film starts with a dark challenge:  I speak in subjunctive mood. White Americans owe on a past-due debt (interest and principal) to black slave descendants that has accumulated for the past 400 years (before Jamestown). 

If so, that is an assertion separate from the idea that better-off people need to “give back” to help remedy economic inequality, which used to be the much more accepted moral assertion (even if that has a Marxist origin).

Then the film shows a die-in protest, and gradually moves toward the basic problem of why American police kill so many more black people (usually young men) than white. OK, it’s complicated (and here the short becomes like a “Vox explains” video, or a Strikethrough that Carlos Maza should be making now.)

The basic problem is that there are so many police departments, and they are guarded by politically powerful police unions.  Then there is the legal doctrine of “qualified immunity”, which has been thought to be necessary because police work is para-military and inherently dangerous – a model which needs to change (and maybe be mostly eliminated). Libertarian groups like Cato are now proposing ending or limiting qualified immunity, and Congress and Trump seem to be willing to look at it.

The film looks at what the demands for “defunding the police” would really mean, and they settle on the idea of “starting over” the way Camden NJ did in 2012.  (Wikipedia explains how the Camden County Police Department took over.)  But Stephen Delaney maintains that the results and process are quite complicated and emotionally challenging (Washington Post).

As far as paying back the debt, some activists seem to be implying that “privileged” people who happen to be white need to give service specifically to black-oriented efforts to be allowed to stay on stage, which would mean that their speech was no longer their own.

Picture: urban decay in Camden NJ. Embedded from Wikipedia, click for attribution.

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