Disarm America’s Death Squads

The state’s monopoly on legitimate violence is put at risk when it seeks to corner the market on illegitimate violence, too. Nothing could be more dangerous than the affront to civilization simultaneously being put on display and yet ignored by our police forces and public prosecutors as the body count of unarmed citizens mounts. The Massachusetts High Court was not wrong yesterday when it found that there is nothing suspicious about a black man running from police, unless you consider self-preservation and a will to survive to be criminal acts. And indeed our institutions of policing consider it to be exactly criminal. They have become death squads who do not care that their actions are being captured by their own body cameras. When our public servants can not be trusted with powers of life and death it is time to take the guns away from the broadest category of police forces. While it remains appropriate to arm bank guards, courtroom constables, warrant-serving sherrifs and units with simlarly specific, defensive missions the offensive, lethal nature of our patrolling death squads can no longer be tolerated and the Leviathan must be defanged lest it be deligitimized utterly.

Surely this will result in some bad guys evading justice. There will almost certainly be some tragedies in store, but that is not a different situation from the one we now find ourselves in. Many officers will consider this change to make their job too dangerous to be worth doing and leave the force. And that is rather the point. The kinds of problems police address and the kinds of people who are willing to address them will change. As we cannot change the culture of institutionalized racism our police forces are beholden to fast enough, how better to accelerate the process by making them want to change? And the best change is to leave.