One of the consistent ideas that has existed in human society almost from the beginning is the desire for professional security services provided by experts who know how do do that sort of thing. While in the past it might have simply been a cooperative group of villagers banding together to fight off danger and keep order within, our modern version has been a police force for quite a long time now. Most people see the concept as a double-edged sword, preserving justice in some instances and horribly curtailing it for others. Your personal experience with law enforcement will certainly color your decision as to which is more prevalent.
Perhaps the most misunderstood part of what America was always supposed to be is the idea that democracy unchecked can be just as bad as an all powerful tyrant. Without strict limits set on what any one person or group can control, mob rule becomes a real danger to the smaller groups in society who don’t have the means of protecting their own interests against a much larger threat. One of the common themes to arise out of our republican form of government is that all men are created equal and deserve equal protection under the law. Sadly, we haven’t lived up to this ideal very well, and though we’ve strived to make it better, we seem to be falling back down the mountain again.
When it comes to sensationalism, few things spark anger more than our police forces being involved in some kind of extraordinary incident where an officer infringes on the rights of a group of people who happen to be in the political spotlight. Very few people care if these kinds of things happen to just anyone; if it happens to a protected group, then outrage is the order of the day. No one pays attention to the fact that the ratio of these incidents as compared to the total sum over the course of even a single day is miniscule. All that matters is that it’s happening and something must be done.
Were the response measured and appropriate to the level of the problem, it would certainly be the right thing to do. However, this isn’t what’s happening. As a nation, we have persecuted law enforcement as a concept, ready to throw away the entire idea in favor of some unknown replacement that will somehow tip the scales of justice back where they should be. It is unclear how that is supposed to work, but for many of us it could be a step in the right direction. Not everyone yearns for someone else to protect them from harm.
On the other hand, there are many in our society who are simply incapable of protecting themselves in any form. While someone such as myself would be perfectly fine with replacing a police force with an unregulated policy of self-defense, large portions of our society would be left completely vulnerable, having never had any exposure to violence of any kind. In our safe little worlds, most of us have reached the point where we are hopelessly dependent on others to ensure our survival.
It is because of this that simply doing away with police doesn’t really work. Like most ideas, it sounds great when you don’t put any real thought into it, but once you start peeling back the layers, it becomes quite clear that simply wiping the slate clean and hoping for the best isn’t going to result in a more positive society. What will actually happen is that the criminal elements, who are always more than ready to pounce, will have the run of everything. We’ve already seen it multiple times as cities burn under protest while their police forces are required to sit idly by and let it happen. When you let the chaos run free, it will always come to visit you.
Where does this leave us with the answer to the question for today? This again depends on how you think society should work. If you believe in self reliance and taking care of your own welfare, then you would obviously see the evaporation of law enforcement as a good thing. If you are one of the people who would suffer because there is no one left to help you anymore, you will clearly not find it to be beneficial to you. Most people will fall somewhere in the middle, either preferring to take care of themselves but understanding that most people can’t, or needing the protection of others while ultimately desiring the freedom to do what they want.
Unfortunately, this is one of those things where it’s very difficult to have it both ways. We always like to try to find a middle ground on things, but when a group of people is ultimately controlled by the political atmosphere of the day, our system of law enforcement eventually becomes a tool for whoever happens to have power at the time. It doesn’t matter how many rules we put in place to stop it; if people don’t respect those rules, then they aren’t worth any more than the paper they’re written on.
So do we need police? Yes and no.