The past week has seen a multitude of responses to the George Floyd murder, both calm/passive and apocalyptic. While there is currently an effort to distinguish the two camps based on temperament and reaction, the common theme throughout the protests is an obvious lack of solution.
While calling for “justice” may be a viable tool for rhetoric and moral high ground, it is not an objective action. There has yet to be a discernible consensus on what justice the protesters seek. Some suggestions include:
- Arresting the other 3 officers involved in Floyd’s death
- Increasing the severity of charges against Chauvin
- Complete overhaul of police conduct
But even these often repeated demands are not definite in nature. What should the other 3 officers be charges with? What should Chauvin’s charge be changed to? What should his punishment be? What should police officers do to ensure this problem never happens again or is minimized? Should there be an aim for eradication of the supposed problem or gradual reduction? The questions could go on ad infinitum based on the vague sentiments arising from the protests.
What is certain is that without a critical assessment of the law enforcement apparatus, any implemented plan will have negligible success.
Whenever there is a tax funded service, there is an inherent lack of incentives regarding performance. So long as the government can coerce money from the public through taxes (and imprison those who dare not “contribute”), the government will have the funding needed to carry out their plans, regardless of how much their actions benefit the public or how miserably their attempts fail.
This is especially relevant when there is a high concentration of appointed administrative bureaucrats who have no fears of being voted out of their jobs and are sheltered by lengthy and expensive termination processes.
Furthermore, community members outside the police department have no say in who dons the blue uniform.
Without seeking a way to undue these obstacles inherent in the law enforcement apparatus, any call for “justice” will serve, at best, as a temporary appeasement while the government incentives present in law enforcement generate another atrocity to rile against in the future.
A feasible alternative worth exploring, if reform is truly the aim, is police privatization.
By communities directly offering contracts to policing agencies, they would have influence over who would bear the responsibility of protecting the jurisdiction while having a freehand to replace firms who run afoul of the communities values.
Also, with the payment of officers being based on appraisal of performance from the community rather than granted through the state, there would be an incentive (beyond a moral compass) to serve the community rather than simply enforce edicts without regard to the constituency.
For anyone looking to delve deeper into this option Bruce L. Benson’s exposition To Serve and Protect is perhaps the best starting point. Benson provides a concise history of law enforcement developments both private and state enacted while analyzing the impact of financial incentives on performance.
Knowledge and understanding, not rhetoric and emotional expression, are the keys needed for effective reform. If the current “movement” continues on its current trend, the only certainties that will arise is the ironic case of more black lives lost during the protest to save black lives than the cause of the protests itself and the brewing of future incidents that will spur another string of protests.