After a week of mindful protesting, along with some mindless rioting, Minneapolis announced Sunday that it will disband the city’s Police Department.
Nothing was said about when this would happen, or what officials intend to replace it with, only that they are “taking intermediate steps toward ending” the department. Enough is enough.
As an ex-cop, I’m interested in how this will play out. Might be a good thing. One thing we know for certain: We can always trust the government to get it right. Right?
Warning: rhetorical question. Take it seriously at your own risk.
The words “disband” and “ending” sound ominous, something like “all you cops are fired. Turn in your badges, guns, and get out. Don’t bother coming back.”
The disbanded trudge home and begin looking for other jobs. Police stations all over the city suddenly go dark and empty. Peace would reign over Minneapolis.
For about a second.
I’ll venture — at my own risk — that Minneapolis has at least partly thought this through, that an abrupt shutdown of police services would be counterproductive. Think the recent unrest was terrible? Consider how bad it could have been if the police weren’t there.
Suppose you had to start a major metropolitan police department from scratch. What would you propose in its place?
Citizen patrols? The honor system? Maybe cops could get their jobs back, but only under restrictions that reduce them to the law enforcement equivalent of crossing guards.
Cop • “Sir, we noticed the butchered remains of several children in your backyard. Is it OK if we just check?”
Citizen • “Hell no. You can’t come into my backyard. In fact, I got a mind to sue you for peeking over my fence. Beat it.”
Cop • “Our apologies, sir. But if you feel like talking about it later, we’re only a phone call away. Have a nice day.”
Seriously, I don’t think it will get that bad. Law enforcement will always be needed. And the operative word there is “force.”
Whatever the Minneapolis City Council decides — regardless how noble, fair and just it might seem — it isn’t going to become reality without someone willing to risk his or her neck to make it happen.
Say what you want about due process, but judges, attorneys and legislators are just farts in the wind without the proper force to make their decisions happen.
And the operative word here is “proper.”
There’s no doubt in any sensible mind that police work needs strong oversight and even stronger controls. But so does America. This country is renowned worldwide for its violent nature.
And that isn’t just on the police. It’s on all of us. Want better law enforcement? We all need to be better citizens.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.