Because of the recent shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha Wisconsin by police I’ve been debating the efficacy of American policing with a lot of different people. Those debates inspired me to put together a short Twitter thread showing just how violent they are.
Essentially, American police are killing more people than ever while their jobs have gotten safer over time. Compared to their international counterparts, they kill many more civilians.
Their violence manifests in different ways. For example, it’s estimated police kill between 9,000 and 11,000 dogs a year. We need to reduce police violence but that doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice officers or public safety.
I think the studies and data are fairly clear: when police get unions, police violence goes up.
Using a Florida state administrative database of “moral character” violations reported by local agencies over 1996-2015, we implement a difference-in-difference approach in which police departments (which were unaffected by Williams) serve as a control group for sheriffs’ offices. Our estimates imply that collective bargaining rights led to a substantial increase in violent incidents of misconduct among sheriffs’ offices, relative to police departments.
When police wear cameras, police violence goes down. Many studies support these two claims. Additionally, violence against police and general violence has gone down over time.
These facts lead me to one conclusion: police violence in America isn’t driven by safety or noncompliant suspects but by a lack of accountability. The system at every level protects cops. Cops cover for each other. Unions fight for cops. Prosecutors are hesitant to prosecute them and juries are deferential. Qualified immunity limits civil liability. All of this makes it almost impossible to hold an officer responsible when they do something wrong.
So, should we defund the police? No, that’s an absolutely terrible idea. I actually think a lack of funding is a real problem. I think more labor intensive policing would reduce both police brutality and crime. We need more cops, especially in high crime areas. They shouldn’t be sitting in desks or in cars but highly visible and walking the streets. They just shouldn’t have carte blanche to be shooty.