James Cooper/ZUMA

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

As a first (?) step, Alex Tabarrok recommends that we unbundle the police:

Don’t use a hammer if you don’t need to pound a nail. Road safety does not require a hammer. The responsibility for handing out speeding tickets and citations should be handled by an unarmed agency.

….Similarly, the police have no expertise in dealing with the mentally ill or with the homeless—jobs like that should be farmed out to other agencies. Notice that we have lots of other safety issues that are not handled by the police. Restaurant inspectors, for example, do over a million restaurant inspectors annually but they don’t investigate murder or drug charges and they are not armed.

This has some things in common with recommendations from liberal policing critics, and it would be interesting to see it spelled out in more detail. A separate traffic agency would result in fewer encounters with “the police,” but would ordinary citizens actually view it that way? Or would the traffic enforcers just get mentally bundled as “cops” along with anyone else who has the power to hassle you?

Tabarrok’s second recommendation closely dovetails with that of many liberals, but it’s a tricky one. Police officers themselves complain about having to be social workers too much, but a lot of their social work comes as a direct result of violent confrontations: domestic disputes; 911 calls that later turn out to involve the mentally ill; gang violence; and so forth. You don’t always know beforehand which is which.

Here’s a miscellaneous idea: Suppose the police departments in big cities were split into two specialties. Recruitment and early academy training wouldn’t change, so all cadets would have at least a minimum of standard police training. But then they’d split into two tracks: the ordinary police track and a second track that provided training in what we call social work. All patrol car teams would have one of each type. Both would have training in standard police tactics and both would have training in social work, but there would always be one of them who had deep and ongoing training in social problems and how to deal with them.

Just a thought.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate