Abolishing the law enforcement not surprisingly leads to laws not being enforced.Â
Seattle should be a cautionary tale:
For 23 days in June, about six blocks in the cityâ€™s Capitol Hill neighborhood were claimed by left-wing demonstrators and declared police-free. Protesters hailed it as liberation â€” from police oppression, from white supremacy â€” and a catalyst for a national movement.
In the wake of the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, the Black Lives Matter movement is calling to defund the police, arguing that the criminal justice system is inherently racist.
Leaders in many progressive cities are listening. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a plan to shift $1 billion out of the police budget. The Minneapolis City Council is pitching a major reduction, and the Seattle City Council is pushing for a 50 percent cut to Police Department funding. (The mayor said that plan goes too far.)
Some even call for â€œabolishing the policeâ€ altogether and closing down precincts, which is what happened in Seattle.
That has left small-business owners as lonely voices in progressive areas, arguing that police officers are necessary and that cities cannot function without a robust public safety presence. In Minneapolis, Seattle and Portland, Ore., many of those business owners consider themselves progressive, and in interviews they express support for the Black Lives Matter movement. But they also worry that their businesses, already debilitated by the coronavirus pandemic, will struggle to survive if police departments and city governments cannot protect them.
Business cannot survive without law enforcement. There are too many people who think stealing or vandalism is okay or justified by their philosophy (whether it be anarchy or systemic racism or something else). Every well-run business accounts for â€œshrinkageâ€ which is an accounting term for stolen inventory, shoplifted items, etc. No business can prepare for the level shrinkage that comes from looters or rioters.Â
Armed citizen patrols, including some that sounds like a protection racket, harken to the days of the Wild West and an era of so-called â€œVigilante Justice.â€ (I hardly need add that â€œjusticeâ€ needs no modifier here.) Itâ€™s no surprise that Seattleâ€™s police-free zone descended into murderous violence and chaos.
Police reform is needed in many places across the United States. Something like Eugene, Oregonâ€™s CAHOOTS model looks very promising since it unburdens police from many of the social, non-law enforcement tasks theyâ€™re frequently called in to handle. We need to be very clear, though: Law enforcement, like laws themselves, is absolutely essential to a functioning society.Â