Regular readers should, by now, be familiar with the reforms that we’ve proposed in the wake of George Floyd’s death-by-cop. These reform proposals are by no means unique to this blog, of course, but the more of us that repeat them, the more chance that they’ll be “heard” by the people who have the power to attempt them. And, I do stress attempt – all of these reforms will be hard to implement.

They’ll also be effective in addressing the underlying causes of incidents like this one.

Unfortunately, they’re not easily reducible to slogans, chants, placards, or memes. And, since they’re also not absolutist in presentation, they aren’t as likely to gain traction as those that are.

Witness the current “proposal” being taken up by the loud voices: “Defund The Police!”

It’s easily bleated, it’s easily quoted, and it signals virtue by the bucketful.

But, it communicates little useful information. What does it even mean? Is it an absolute, as in disband entire police departments? Is it ‘shrink the force?’ Is it ‘reallocate spending?’ Is it something else? Is it all of the above, depending on who says it or who you ask?

When you hear the phrase, what do you think and how do you react?

“React” is the intent, by the way, and that intent is tribal and sorting. If you’re “with them,” you’re expected to embrace it, without really questioning the details, or even daring to qualify your support with your own definition. If you’re not “with them,” you’re expected to denounce it as ludicrous, without asking about the details, in order to mark yourself with a scarlet letter or yellow badge for later re-education.

The details are everything, though. No useful information is communicated via the slogan, other than an assertion of tribal loyalty. Ditto for its rejection. Fortunately, there is a third path, the “wait and see.” Reasons’s Elisabeth Nolan Brown delves into the possibilities while reminding us that “it’s [just] a slogan.” A sloppy one, unfortunately. But, since it’s short and absolutist in presentation, sloppy isn’t much of a problem to its espousers, no matter that it raises the hackles of the law-and-order types.

Wait, strike that. It’s a feature, not a problem. Raising hackles is what it’s intended to do, because the way of woke is the way of the bully, and this in-your-face slogan is a demand for obeisance and submission. It’s like calling someone a racist, under the modern redefinition. Sure, it gets people angry, but it makes many of them go into defense, and ultimately shut up in a begrudging form of defensiveness born of fear.

Meanwhile, those of us who want to advance specific reforms are drowned out in the din.

Nevertheless, here’s a review of ideas that I think will actually help correct the problems that create George Floyd and Eric Garner incidents:

  • End Qualified Immunity, or at least drastically curtail the hurdles it imposes. So much bad behavior goes unpunished because of this doctrine that its purported benefits are wiped out.

  • End the practice of policing-for-profit, both via nuisance and quality-of-life summonses that are used to turn poor and minority communities into revenue streams for local government, and via the practice of civil asset forfeiture, where cops can seize your cash or property on mere suspicion of it being involved in a crime, with the burden of proof for getting it back dropped on the citizen from whom it was taken.

  • Do a blue-sky rewrite of the policies and procedures for terminating bad cops. Abolish police unions entirely, should they resist the changes necessary to facilitate getting rid of the Derek Chauvins once they’re identified. And, either make it clear to senior brass that the culture of blue-wall-of-silence in protecting the bad eggs must be replaced by a culture of pride of service, with a goal of clearing out the rotten eggs while rewarding the upright, or replace the resistant with those who get it.

  • Scrub the books of the aforementioned nuisance and quality-of-life laws that enable policing-for-profit. Eliminate the temptation at its legislative root.

The first idea is doable. Congressman Justin Amash is introducing a bill, cosponsored by Ayanna Pressley. It should receive bipartisan support, given that it both addresses the Left’s concerns born of George Floyd and checks the Right’s concerns about State power run amok. Unfortunately, while a number of other Democrats have hopped on board, none from the GOP have yet. And, with Trump tweeting “Law and Order” folderol, even this much-needed reform may get stuck and die in the partisanship-above-progress bramble.

The second faces a seriously uphill battle, in no small part because the party with the loudest voices for reform is also the party with the greatest lust-hunger for revenue. The biggest culprit cities in policing-for-profit are deep blue. That’s Democrat-blue, not police-blue, by the way.

Ditto for the third. While police unions are not, say, teachers’ unions in terms of their vise-grip power over the Democratic Party, bucking any public union is anathema to the Left. Moreso, those other public unions would squawk loudly in support of the police unions, knowing that a precedent set for one would affect them and their long-running defense of the worst in their ranks.

The last is about money, meaning that legislators will undoubtedly find ways to claim they made things better without actually doing so, because that money is so, so tasty to them.

As I already mentioned, real reforms are hard. Nevertheless, this is what I’d try to do were I a politician, because these are things that (at least somewhat) under my control. Simultaneously, I’d vocally reject violence as a means of protest, and I’d give law enforcement both the mandate and the tools to focus on the violent while supporting the peaceful protestors.

Other than Qualified Immunity, these are all reforms at the state and local level. Yes, the Feds could coax them along, by attaching strings to the money that they dispense (in other words, their standard practice), but make no mistake. This is a state-level and local-level reform package, because policing is a state and local level function.

It’s not really a left-right thing either, no matter that the protests and pundits are eager to impose a left-right template over it all. Some of the biggest culprits in the behaviors that would be addressed by this list are Democratic strongholds, despite the traditional assumption that the Right is the law-and-order, jack-boot, heavy-policing party. Unfortunately, Trump is taking a blindly law-and-order tack on this, blurting out stuff that ignores the fact that his party could easily embrace at least some of these reforms from a smaller-government and more-liberty perspective, from both a Trumpian and a ‘true-conservative’ point of view.

What can you do to move this along? First, don’t fall for the sloppy slogan, either in favor or in opposition. In appropriate circumstances, challenge the sloganeers with “what does that mean?” and see what, if anything, is offered. Second, and especially if they leave a void of detail, advance the four reforms I listed (and if you have or have heard other good ideas, please share them in the comments). They can and should be embraced by everyone who isn’t blindly loyal to defending bad cops, which should be everyone, without exception.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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