James Cooper/ZUMA

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of 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.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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