Don’t just defund the police. Abolish them.

See the updates for August 27, 2020, and August 29, 2020, at end of post.


Yet another Black man, Jacob Blake, has been shot in the back, this time in Kenosha, Wisconsin. And we see yet again, a president of a local police union whining about a “rush to judgment” by those who condemn police shooting an unarmed human being in the back,[1] demonstrating yet again a categorical rejection of even the most minimal accountability.[2]

At some point you have to say there’s something wrong psychologically. Even with racial justice protests so recently in the forefront of national discourse, and even with such protests ongoing, police simply can’t stop themselves from shooting Black people, even in the back, and refuse even the slightest admission that maybe, just maybe, they might be doing something wrong, let alone criminal.

I’m not a psychologist. I don’t know what an appropriate diagnosis would be. But something is clearly up here because it keeps on happening, even when you’d think, if police were even remotely concerned about being held accountable, that they should be especially cautious to be on their best behavior.

But not only do police exercise illegitimate authority with impunity, even threatening an officer of the court with a nonexistent warrant for her arrest,[3] they are especially enthusiastic about shooting Black people.[4] Even in the back. Even when these victims are unarmed.

There is something deeply wrong here. The institution must be abolished because this entire attitude, this entire practice, replicated with such a frequency that it must be considered endemic, simply cannot be tolerated. And if that threatens the power and property relations of the present order,[5] so be it. Because extrajudicial execution or even attempted extrajudicial execution is not civilization.


Update, August 27, 2020: A picture I had gotten from Twitter was of an armed young white supremacist appearing at a protest against the police shooting of Jacob Blake, shooting protesters, and being allowed to leave. A Slate story refers to the shooter as a ‘vigilante’ but otherwise confirms the account[6] and I see no reason to distinguish between white supremacism and those who defend the police assertion of privilege to do whatever the fuck they want, including shooting people, especially including shooting Black people.

[Kenosha Police Chief Daniel] Miskinis’ views of the gathering of vigilante groups that reportedly led to the killing of two local men [in a protest sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake] appears to be very much in line with those of his department. Before the shooting, officers in armored vehicles could be seen giving water to armed men gathered with the alleged shooter and telling them, “We appreciate you guys, we really do.” After the killings, the alleged shooter walked slowly past a series of police vehicles with his arms raised and was allowed to simply walk away. (It’s not yet clear what the officers knew about the shooting at the time, but the shots were audible in nearby footage.)[7]

Instead of blaming the white supremacist/vigilante who shot protesters, Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis appears to blame the protesters themselves, saying they were out after a declared curfew.[8]

Update, August 29, 2020: It appears the public defender whose story I cite in this post is, as I expected, far from the only case, short of actually killing people, where police act with impunity. Police in Virginia have routinely repressed dissent using a peculiarity of the court system there that enables them to bypass regular courts.[9] I doubt this is unique to Virginia. Something perhaps even more egregious may happen in Pittsburgh where the police themselves conduct “summary hearings.”[10] All this is new to me and I don’t know what safeguards may exist on such procedures. In Virginia, we may say, it appears they are inadequate.

Update #2, August 29, 2020: I would only be going a little beyond an Intercept article in suggesting that armed right-wing militia functionally serve as Donald Trump’s “brown shirts” in a de facto alliance with police. They take their orders as he identifies groups, like Black Lives Matter and (the usually unorganized) Antifa, that allegedly pose a threat to Amerikkka.[11] Hence Kyle Rittenhouse’s shooting of three protesters, killing two, in Kenosha.[12] Some will surely say the arrangement permits Trump plausible deniability.

  1. [1]Stephen Maturen, “Wisconsin calls out National Guard after unrest over police shooting of Black man,” Reuters, August 24, 2020, https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-global-race-usa-wisconsin/wisconsin-calls-out-national-guard-after-unrest-over-police-shooting-of-black-man-idUKKBN25K0CP
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Time to take the guns away,” Not Housebroken, January 6, 2015, https://disunitedstates.org/2015/01/04/time-to-take-the-guns-away/; David Benfell, “Defunding the police is, at best, a baby’s first step,” Not Housebroken, June 20, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/06/15/defunding-the-police-is-at-best-a-babys-first-step/
  3. [3]Public Defendering [pseud.], [Twitter thread], August 23, 2020, https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1297405642848837633.html
  4. [4]Mark Berman et al., “Protests spread over police shootings. Police promised reforms. Every year, they still shoot and kill nearly 1,000 people,” Washington Post, June 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/protests-spread-over-police-shootings-police-promised-reforms-every-year-they-still-shoot-nearly-1000-people/2020/06/08/5c204f0c-a67c-11ea-b473-04905b1af82b_story.html; James Downie, “Time to toss the ‘bad apples’ excuse,” Washington Post, May 31, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/05/31/time-toss-bad-apples-excuse/; Wesley Lowery, “Aren’t more white people than black people killed by police? Yes, but no,” Washington Post, July 11, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/07/11/arent-more-white-people-than-black-people-killed-by-police-yes-but-no/; Brentin Mock, “What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings,” CityLab, August 6, 2019, https://www.citylab.com/equity/2019/08/police-officer-shootings-gun-violence-racial-bias-crime-data/595528/; Elie Mystal, “There’s Only One Possible Conclusion: White America Likes Its Killer Cops,” Nation, May 27, 2020, https://www.thenation.com/article/society/white-america-cops/; Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, “How Do We Change America?” New Yorker, June 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/how-do-we-change-america
  5. [5]David Benfell, “On police,” Not Housebroken, August 12, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/08/10/on-police/
  6. [6]Jeremy Stahl, “Kenosha Police Chief Blames Protesters for Their Own Deaths, Defends Vigilante Groups,” Slate, August 26, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/08/kenosha-police-chief-daniel-miskinis-blames-protesters-for-own-deaths.html
  7. [7]Jeremy Stahl, “Kenosha Police Chief Blames Protesters for Their Own Deaths, Defends Vigilante Groups,” Slate, August 26, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/08/kenosha-police-chief-daniel-miskinis-blames-protesters-for-own-deaths.html
  8. [8]Jeremy Stahl, “Kenosha Police Chief Blames Protesters for Their Own Deaths, Defends Vigilante Groups,” Slate, August 26, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/08/kenosha-police-chief-daniel-miskinis-blames-protesters-for-own-deaths.html
  9. [9]Alex Pareene, “The Police Are Pretty Sure They’re Going to Get Away With It,” New Republic, August 28, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/159142/portsmouth-virginia-police-louise-lucas-lisa-lucas-burke
  10. [10]Lindsay Ward, “Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto Speaks Out After Putting An End To Tactics Used In Controversial Arrest At Oakland Protest,” KDKA, August 18, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/08/18/pittsburgh-mayor-bill-peduto-arrest-oakland-tactics/
  11. [11]Ryan Devereaux, “The Thin Blue Line Between Violent, Pro-Trump Militias and Police,” Intercept, August 28, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/08/28/kyle-rittenhouse-violent-pro-trump-militias-police/
  12. [12]Jeremy Stahl, “Kenosha Police Chief Blames Protesters for Their Own Deaths, Defends Vigilante Groups,” Slate, August 26, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/08/kenosha-police-chief-daniel-miskinis-blames-protesters-for-own-deaths.html; Ryan Devereaux, “The Thin Blue Line Between Violent, Pro-Trump Militias and Police,” Intercept, August 28, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/08/28/kyle-rittenhouse-violent-pro-trump-militias-police/

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