75 Comments

Hear, hear. Abolitionists have it right: Address the root causes of crime by properly funding education, housing, healthcare, and the like.

It's a matter of being proactive vs. reactive.

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Sep 2, 2023Liked by Hamilton Nolan

I think that the level that the idea of police is embedded in our national psyche and culture through things like John Wayne westerns is glaringly apparent in the inability to comprehend the slogan. Police do not stop crime. They investigate crime and do so very poorly leading to things like the pregnant lady who was murdered for allegedly shoplifting a minor amount. It's a fear distortion to assume defending means that police will no longer exist and the entire country will be lawless. And failure to understand the more complete message of a slogan is just willful ignorance. No slogan can fully encapsulate a nuanced policy goal. We have become so depend on sound bites that we fail to comprehend the context and make biased assumptions that confirm our bias. We fail to root out the blatant lies behind the sound bites. Not knowing what the slogan meant clearly exposes that you were not listening to any of the BIPOC who were actively discussing the issue. Defund the police is not abolition, which is a step beyond defending. It was very disappointing that the movement was rejected by liberals so thoroughly.

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Sep 3, 2023Liked by Hamilton Nolan

Thank you for this. Enough with, “When we say ‘defund the police’ what we mean is . . .” NO. What we mean is defund the police. Period. Politicians, companies, and people everywhere ‘took a chance’ to say Black Lives Matter. And all it took was a GLOBAL UPRISING. But what are they doing for Black LIVES? Throwing the phrase around after a Black death is doing nothing to prevent it happening again. When you fund the police you are giving them a larger paycheck to continue murdering Black and Brown people. When you fund the police your actions are are showing me Black Death matters and saying Black Lives Matter is all you are willing to do for Black people.

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Sep 3, 2023Liked by Hamilton Nolan

Most of the organizers I listened to in Seattle were optimistic that the movement would do nothing but gain steam. For that reason (or some other reason I'm missing), the motivation to convert what we had going into actual policy change was not there. I considered the window for change definitively shut when I saw Ukraine flags replacing BLM signs as the middle class liberal's flavor of the month.

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Hi Hamilton, very interesting article, as usual. Very deep and conscious. But we all know that capitalism only works with repression. How will the defund the police? Or de Army? They need to do exacly the opposite. That's why Biden said " fund the police". They have to do it. More money to keep us under control. Take care.

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Sep 3, 2023Liked by Hamilton Nolan

Congrats on the honor, proud to be an early Defector subscriber ✊

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Sep 2, 2023·edited Sep 2, 2023

The problem with this article is that it assumes the democrats aren't fully on-board with everything cops do.

The system is working as intended. All the brutality and cruelty is by design. They're funding the police to do this. Asking them to defund the cops for being evil is like asking somebody to stop drinking water because they're thirsty

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This is without a doubt the smartest essay I've ever read on the subject.

I'm writing in my Monday substack that my Mayor (San Diego) should read it. And then he should go look in the mirror.

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Sep 2, 2023Liked by Hamilton Nolan

Well, now you pretty much have to tell us about throwing a left hook. Please keep in mind that if any of us ever have a reason to do so, we probably won't be wearing gloves.

One of the many ironies that amuse and disgust me is that several GOP mouths want to get rid of the FBI. (And Ramaswamy says that he wants to get rid of ATF, too. And 75% of everything.) Why is no one calling them Commies and Anarchists?

And congratulations on the inclusion in the 2023 Best of, especially with that added bit of justice.

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Sep 2, 2023·edited Sep 2, 2023

In the context of the 15-30 second political sound bite ad, it is barely possible to imagine a framing of a worthwhile goal that would be worse than "Defund the Police". That's why Dems ran away from it.

Only a very small minority believe in eliminating the police altogether. And, if you have to explain that that isn't what it means, you're losing. I understand that your complaint is that this isn't true, but the people who had to stand for election obviously disagree.

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Sep 3, 2023Liked by Hamilton Nolan

This is a very good piece but also what do we do when none of the politicians do this? For example, Atlanta is currently in the process of bulldozing a forest to build a School Of The Americas Jr on top of it, and arresting or outright shooting anyone who resists, with the backing of politicians at all levels. Even Julian Bond's own son is supporting that effort. All of the nonviolent methods of resistance are being shut off, and the cops have a near-monopoly on the violent ones.

What do we do, write another letter that will be ignored or answered with a boilerplate response? Protest and risk having to spend a lot of money and possibly jail time just to get a judge to dismiss the charges while the arrest itself and the mugshots live on the internet forever, assuming the cops don't just gun you down and get a month of paid vacation for it while the DA comes up with a reason to decide you deserved to die? Donate to a local politician who will either be absorbed into the machine when they realize it's easier and more lucrative to be a team player, or be crushed by the state party if they refuse to play ball and replaced with someone who will?

Am I being a Doomer, or a Realist? Neither answer is very encouraging.

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Sep 3, 2023·edited Sep 3, 2023Liked by Hamilton Nolan

If there was only one thing that could be done to reform our criminal "justice" system, it would be to radically fund the court system and require a jury verdict for all felony convictions.

This is what our founders had in mind when they wrote the Constitution. The jury is one of the most democratic elements of our society. It would bring the public in to see what our sytem looks like. It would curb police malfeasance because juries would throw cases out where it occurred. It would end the charge-and-plea meat grinder system the poor suffer under. It would reduce prison populations. Etc.

I agree with your goals wholeheartedly, but this is a fight we've been having for a long time (and I'm old), and I'm not optimistic about the possibility of taking power from the ownership class (especially seeing how the 2020 protests achieved nothing).

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You illustrate the problem with the slogan when you note, "...We all know that what it actually means is “don’t spend money on cops to solve social problems that they can’t solve—spend that money in ways that can actually address these complex problems." I actually had no idea that is what the slogan meant FOR MONTHS.....

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I think there actually is a problem with the slogan you're not addressing. To say police can't solve X problem is to let them off the hook. The question is whether police are doing a good job at what they are supposed to be actually doing, and by the same token, how overfunded police are, especially in Democratic -run cities. The issue in NYC is not a matter of "reallocating funding"- the services the public receives for incredibly high taxes are pathetic, even leaving the overstaffed police out of it. The issue is about Democrats babbling about "equity" and "community policing" and then throwing the police billions more dollars to break the law themselves while those well-funded police refuse to show up at city council hearings and when they do, just lie anyway. Ideally the executive should effectively control the police but when he does not, defunding is the normal mechanism for the legislature to exert its control.

This is totally different from the vague idea that unemployed NYU grads should be sent into the hood en masse to be "social workers" which many people were saying some variation of in 2020

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“Defund the police” is a terrible and stupid slogan. You could advance the same policy goals with “Let the police get back to policing” and “Decriminalize mental illness and poverty.”

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Sep 3, 2023·edited Sep 3, 2023

Double down on a failed strategy, blame the failure on others, and take no credit for the failure.

Had to read 3 pages to be sure of what you meant. I read this post because of someone I generally trust, but in this case they were wrong.

The slogan could work if it was used by a disciplined movement, but BLM and everything around it is intentionally very decentralized.

I encountered plenty of individuals who explained and interpreted the slogan in exactly the way that's not consistent with "we all know".

Just admit the mistake and reboot with a different but consistent framing. Calls to double down will only delay that necessary action and lead to more failure.

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