Defund the Police? Why Not Just De-Militarize Them?

group shot of Canadian Rangers with US and Canadian mlitary personnel
2009 Canadian Rangers photo by U.S. Northern Command is licensed under the public domain
As rough, tough, and scary a miltary unit as ever you might see. Are those jeans? Jogging pants?

Uniformed police are an inescapable symbol of White prejudice and oppression in Black America, a searing image, which will not be erased in a single lifetime. Less obvious is the profoundly insidious, though extremely convenient, relationship between cost-cutting governments and police commitment to a law-and-order vision of public interaction.

An “unpoliceable” attitude towards public housing projects has allowed largely law-abiding, supportive and interactive communities to be defined by its fraction of bad apples. That in turn has encouraged an entire population of Americans to view the tenants of public housing — mainly Black — as a society of degenerates. Extending this contempt to the physical structure itself has led to the deterioration of public housing by willful neglect.

Whether you lean towards the words of  American Founding Father John Adams, or the somewhat cynical modification by Frank Zappa,1 it’s difficult to avoid a key notion: if America is partially or wholly “a nation of laws,” then some means to enforce those laws must exist.

As a result, deepest sympathy for the emotions that drive the “Defund The Police” movement inevitably comes hard up against an ongoing need for “order.” (There is no need for “law” to go along with the order. America already has a full dance card with “law.” The problem is to avoid “law” from trampling on American toes.)

So instead the current vision of a paramilitary police, why not instead a collection of folks in baggy sweatshirts who vote for their own leadership?

Look North for inspiration, Americans. Way North. A very unusual and unmilitary corner of the Canadian military might offer ideas for transforming however much “order” is necessary to guide Americans along legal pathways while remaining unbruised, respected, happy, and safe.

Really, must there be a military component to the act of monitoring social interactions? Is a militarized police force in both appearance and behaviour any more necessary than militarized Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts and Brownie Scouts trading cute salutes in uniforms festooned with military honours (okay, sewing badges)? Prepare yourself to “blue sky” a bit, then read more at the CBC: Canadian Rangers illustrate how some creativity, flexibility can help military recruit specialized skills

P.S. Since this is a Canadian inspiration, that country’s paramilitary-styled policing services might take note as well.

Footnotes

  1. John Adams coined the phrase “We are a nation of laws, not of men.” Musician Frank Zappa’s modification: “The United States is a nation of laws, badly written and randomly enforced.”

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