As a member of Black Lives Matter, one of the greatest problems faced are nonviolent, nonsexual, incidents being handled by the police. While I ultimately support replacing the institution of the police with a form of social work, that is far off. Let it be granted that nonviolent and nonsexual incidents should often be reported to the police but the problem is there is an asymmetry of cost. The person reported for the incident faces major problems even if they’re not convicted of anything while the reporting party doesn’t have to make any investment and the only thing stopping them is moral qualms and that supposes they have those things.
Giving normal civilians the power of the coercive force of the state completely for free is giving people a level of power over others they should not possess. If they don’t like someone or they have a slight suspicion about someone, they have no material reason to second-guess themselves and when you have that level of power you really need to second-guess yourself. Reporting fees, of course, would be graduated by income and paid after, not before or during a report. The easiest way to do it would be to have the police forward the information to the IRS or a state analog to the IRS and have the fee added to income taxes and to increase with tax bracket. The money would be split between prevention and intervention programs and police pension funds. This could also have analogs in HR departments and schools.
The police will be called less and there will be more police available for violent and sexual situations. You know, the type of situations mediators, social workers, and psychologists would not be better at handling. Defunding the police is not going to fix the problems the people calling for that to happen want because if their salaries or car replacement budgets are cut that won’t solve the problem because they’re not going to cut the budget for their guns and, in the end of the day, they still have the power to arrest people, legally lie, and many other things. The problem is that they are the first responders in situations where they should not be responding but their websites, email addresses, and phone numbers are free for any drunk, high, paranoid, or vindictive person to use free of charge. All of the stupidest and least responsible people in society have free access to people with guns.
The police are not, mostly, the problem. They are a problem for a few reasons but they are not the main one. The main problem is that the police are the universal solution to all of our problems. The largely undereducated, right-wing leaning, profession with a tendency to narcissistic personality disorder and inlfated egos are an okay solution to brainless problems that require brute force and violence. I don’t trust them to do things that are sophisticated or require deftness or grace. They are the storm troopers of last resort and a tool for situations of simplicity. To make sure they are used more when they are useful as oppoed to counterproductive, they should not be free to use in non-dangerous situations.
2 thoughts on “Reporting Fees: An Idea for Police Reform”
Do you think your analysis of police forces applies to every jurisdiction? I was thinking for example of the police force in Aotearoa, who are not routinely armed, and are trained in de-escalating situations. I have been rescued by police on several occasions when caught short by an unanticipated migraine where I become disorientated, incoherent and apparently uncooperative, and my symptoms mimic being heavily under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Well, reporting fees for non-dangerous situations would deter the frivilous use of the police, generally. Even in New Zealand, a country in the running to be the next Norway, the police are undoubtedly less violent and better trained in de-escalation; they still have the coercive power of the state and no matter how good they are, the power to arrest someone is major. The scariest thing about the police when they don’t have a gun is the ability to deny their subjects all agency. A major reason I am terrified of the police even if I don’t think they’ll shoot me is, at will, they can give me an arrest record and significantly impede my life and during the arrest and detention, I will be completely powerless and at the total mercy of the state and that is both petrifying and a disgrace to my human dignity. I would much rather interact with someone who cannot render me completely powerless on a whim like a social worker.