The 5,000-Life Question

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“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” -Mahatma Gandhi

The police state in America is coming to an end. And while its end may still be far off, we’ve passed the point of no return.

With horror stories about police misconduct abounding, law enforcement’s reputation is taking a mighty beating (pun absolutely intended). From the murder of Eric Garner and the targeting of the man who filmed the incident, to Walter Scott’s murder and attempted police coverup, to even petty incidents such as Philadelphia cops vindictively targeting college kids after losing a basketball game, the case against law enforcement is steadily growing. Add that to the more that 5,000 civilians killed by cops since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and it’s easy to see why more and more people are viewing the police’s very existence as a net negative.

So much so that the police are caught in the awkward position of defending their very existence. The editor-in-chief of PoliceOne, the premier pro-law enforcement site and online community, recently penned an article on what a world without police would look like. As to be expected, the piece’s tone is condescending and its arguments are basic, but the real point of interest is the fact that this article has been written at all. It illustrates the growing reality that police are now having to justify not only their actions, but the entire premise on which their jobs rest: that we need cops.

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Re-read the quote from Gandhi at the top of the piece. More than just a one-off nugget of wisdom and wit, it outlines the linear progression of an idea whose time has come as reflected by its opposition: First the issue goes unaddressed, then it is addressed mockingly, then seriously, followed finally by the issue’s victory in the war of ideas. We’re past ignoring the problem, and are witnessing the transition between ridicule and opposition from the law enforcement establishment. The final phase, where the idea of a world without police wins over the hearts and minds of the people, is coming up next.

The evidence is out. The arguments have been made. The question has been asked: has the last decade or so of police services been worth the over 5,000 lives they have claimed? Now all that remains is to wait for the consensus to land upon the inevitable answer: no.