This is National Police Week. I have some….issues with law enforcement.
This is only natural, I suppose. I’m an Anarchist. Anarchists and cops rarely get along. Rarely do you hear an Anarchist say, “You know, those cops? They’re all right.” Even more rarely do you hear from a cops, “Man, am I glad those Anarchists were there.”
More and more people are waking up to the fact that there is something deeply, seriously wrong with the police. Some groups that have been doing a rather good job of this are Photography is not a Crime, Cop Block, and Copwatch.
There is a tendency among some people to dismiss reports of police brutality, corruption, and general insanity as overblown, or to think that it’s a recent phenomenon (perhaps due to the drug war.) If you think there is no problem with the police, or that it’s only a recent problem, I can only suggest that you belong to a group that has not had a problem with the police in the past. Other groups know different.
The problem is not the people who become cops. Yes, you may have a (unsubstantiated) feeling that cops are just the bullies from high school with a gun. Yes, sometimes you can be too smart to be a cop. But most cops are just like everyone else. Even the cops who do horrible things- they are just like anyone else. That doesn’t excuse or absolve them. It just means the problem is more difficult than just getting rid of the bad apples.
We want to blame the people, because it’s easier to think about changing people than it is about changing institutions. Because that is the problem with the police- an institutional problem. To solve the problem, you have to change, radically change, reshape beyond all recognition, the institution.
Anarchists and libertarians are often accused of wanting to get rid of something without having a replacement ready. That’s usually because any solution, any replacement, would have to be customized to a thousand factors that you just can’t predict beforehand. Anarchists prioritize methodology over forcing a result. Follow the correct process, and you will get a correct(ish) result. That being said, there are some Anarchist and/or Libertarian solutions (models, speculations, whatever) to what to replace the police with. I’ve divided them up into ‘social’ Anarchist and ‘market’ Anarchist camps. Diversity of tactics, and all that.
- Anarchism and Crime
- The Anarchist Response to Crime
- How Would Anarchists Deal with Problems in Contemporary Society?
- Anarchism and the Public Goods Issue: Law, Courts, and the Police
- Polycentric Law
- Anarchy and Efficient Law
- Market Anarchism and the Circularity Problem
Obviously this is a lot to go through. If you’re interested, here it is. If you don’t have the time right now, just bookmark this post. Eventually, you’re going to hear someone talk about Anarchism. You’re going to ask youself, ‘But how does this person expect to handle crime?’
Here’s your answer.