It’s no surprise that “What to do about the police” has become a the hottest topic in the current Minneapolis mayoral race. What is surprising, and as dismaying as it has always been, is the still pervasive thinking that police brutality or to speak more broadly, “the police culture” will be revolutionized by changes that are in no way revolutionary.
There’s an old joke in Europe about the difference between Heaven and Hell. It goes like this:
HEAVEN is a place where the British are the police, the Germans are the mechanics, the French are the cooks, the Italians are the lovers, and it’s all run by the Swiss.
HELL is a place where the British are the cooks, the Germans are the police, the French are the mechanics, the Swiss are the lovers, and it’s all run by the Italians!
The line about the Germans is worth injecting into the conversation about the Twin Cities/America’s police culture, where conventional wisdom continues to turn on the belief that conventional nostrums, properly tweaked, will eventually, some day, some how, produce the result we all want. Never mind that “all” of us hold wildly opposing ideas of what is wrong and what needs fixing.
Following the call-and-response on various Facebook pages or in newspaper comments section is never a good way to start or end your day. In the aftermath of the killing of Justine Damond … by a panicked rookie cop in one of the metro area’s safest neighborhoods … there is a clear Trump base-like percentage of people adamant that the only reasonable response to a terrified rookie cop gunning down a woman in her pajamas is … you guessed it, a freer license for cops. A less-fettered license to “do their jobs” to stop the overwhelming criminal horror being produced by “non traditional” interlopers, mainly Muslims.
While the majority of us express far (far) more educated, informed and enlightened thinking about “what to do about the police”, the gamut of most-discussed solutions runs from “greater outreach to communities of color” to different “prevention strategies” and so on … and on … pretty much re-repeating every idea ever tried before and hoping this time for a different, better result.
To get all realpolitik about it, it is time for the very fundamental question of whether men, especially young, aggressive males should be policing American neighborhoods to be put on the table for non-facetious discussion. Studies have repeatedly shown that men, young and inexperienced men in particular, enforce the law in a substantially more aggressive, physical and violent manner than their female colleagues.
Put another way, the propensity to physical assertions of authority and dominance is genetic, biological and a fact of human existence.
I’ve been saying for a while now that one of the key red flags for any police applicant should be how badly they want to be a cop. Applying the Hell-is-a-German-police force idea, (non-facetiously), it is a question of the depth of the applicant’s authoritarian psychology that should worry applicant screeners.
The disqualifying issue is connected to how police work has been represented in the press and popular culture for centuries now. Namely as a largely militaristic profession, with unambiguous military-style male authority figures dictating orders and an unambiguous authority lent to every (predominantly male) who can pass a community college-type course and put on a badge. With the badge and gun comes an alpha status unavailable or at least far more ambiguous in most other jobs. This is heroic imaging for many boys.
As in Germany and everywhere else in recorded human society, there are people who can handle this authority-given-by-authority with self-discipline. But in the United States, where cops are under stress from an out-of-control gun culture, there is a much too high a percentage who can not, and the consequences for the regular screw ups of that faction are not tolerable.
Flushing every male out of the entire Minneapolis police force and replacing them with women is a radical idea worth considering. The women may be as young and as experienced as the men they replace, but genetically and culturally women are far, far more likely to use (profanity free) verbal persuasion than a fist to the head or a bullet to the stomach to de-escalate situations. (What’s the cost of sucking up the men’s pensions compared to the regular pay-outs for excessive force and the cratering community confidence … before the Damond killing?)
Troglodytes like union chief Bob Kroll and the Chicken Little Trump-base percentage living in terror of incipient Sharia Law, convinced the only solution to a rampant minority-driven crime wave is to double down on a military police force (the “Full German” response) should be treated like the fools they are. Serious changes have to be made and the only thing the Kroll-Trump crowd is serious about is their paranoia.
Violent crime rates have been falling in the majority of American cities for well over a generation, (and here’s another), (and another), and as far as daily police work goes, revenue-creation via citation writing is nearly as important to cities as breaking up domestic disputes and reporting stolen cars. Point being, we don’t need the extra height, weight and muscle of an adrenalized 28 year-old male wearing his first badge and clutching his service revolver in his lap as he patrols … friggin’ southwest Minneapolis … to achieve enforcement results equal to what we’ve got now.
It’s impossible to imagine how the women (the British in the old joke about Europe) could do any worse.
The boys could then have more time to concentrate on getting their Italian act together.