When Walter Scott fled from the North Charleston police, he was not merely fleeing Thomas Slager, he was attempting to flee incarceration. He was doing this because we have decided that the criminal-justice system is the best tool for dealing with men who can't, or won't, support their children at a level that we deem satisfactory. Peel back the layers of most of the recent police shootings that have captured attention and you will find a broad societal problem that we have looked at, thrown our hands up, and said to the criminal-justice system, "You deal with this."Nothing against women's rights advocates, but I haven't heard anybody question the logic of passing laws that lock people up for failure to pay child support. (And while I'm at it, can I just mention that mandatory domestic violence laws are racist, do not work, and have have hurt countless men and women.)
This is the first paragraph. It's just as good:
There is a tendency, when examining police shootings, to focus on tactics at the expense of strategy. One interrogates the actions of the officer in the moment trying to discern their mind-state. We ask ourselves, "Were they justified in shooting?" But, in this time of heightened concern around the policing, a more essential question might be, "Were we justified in sending them?" At some point, Americans decided that the best answer to every social ill lay in the power of the criminal-justice system. Vexing social problems--homelessness, drug use, the inability to support one's children, mental illness--are presently solved by sending in men and women who specialize in inspiring fear and ensuring compliance. Fear and compliance have their place, but it can't be every place.And this if from the end:
Police officers fight crime. Police officers are neither case-workers, nor teachers, nor mental-health professionals, nor drug counselors.I'm pretty sure Ta-Nehisi Coates isn't trying to be pro-cop, but that's the kind of line that will get carried off on cops' shoulders at a police convention!
That last paragraph goes on:
The problem of restoring police authority is not really a problem of police authority, but a problem of democratic authority. It is what happens when you decide to solve all your problems with a hammer. To ask, at this late date, why the police seem to have lost their minds is to ask why our hammers are so bad at installing air-conditioners. More it is to ignore the state of the house all around us. A reform that begins with the officer on the beat is not reform at all. It's avoidance. It's a continuance of the American preference for considering the actions of bad individuals, as opposed to the function and intention of systems.There's more. And you should read the whole thing. But that is my good-parts version.