The simplest way to reduce the number of Americans who are abused by police officers is not to retrain cops or to reform their subculture, Conor Friedersdorf writes in The Atlantic. It is to significantly reduce the number of adversarial interactions people have with police. Proponents of the Broken Windows theory champion a model of policing where foot patrolmen are a regular presence in high-crime neighborhoods, vigilantly guarding against the sorts of low-level disorder that ostensibly leads to more serious crime if left unchecked.
But Friedersdorf suggests that officers often are out of place when they are asked to deal with minor issues, from traffic violations to disruptive kids in school to stray animals. He says a number of reforms could reduce adversarial contacts with police officers without increasing disorder on the streets. Friedersdorf writes, “To me, minimizing the number of police interactions that relate to minor traffic violations, the mentally ill, children at school, and pets seem like no-brainers. Whatever made us think that we should involve the cops in all those situations as if they’re better, not worse, than average at deescalation and restraint?”