Ah, RoboCop, one of my favorite movies. Though, it should be noted that we're talking about the original here and not the remake that lost much of its political edge and really hamburgered much of the man vs. machine storyline in favor of exploring more of the "feelings" of Alex Murphy (insert major eye roll at the new age destruction of a classic), but I digress.
In this dystopian movie, which takes place in a futuristic Detroit, police have been privatized to a company called Omni Consumer Products (or OCP for short), and the government is largely vacant based upon their inability to maintain law and order. This led to corporate concerns taking the place of community concerns as the main focus of city policing.
But what does that have to do with today, you ask? We don't have corporate police so why am I even writing this, you ask? Well, it's a great question, and it's one that I intend to attempt to answer for you.
Everything starts somewhere, and you don't get to a dystopian future like that without some kind of backstory and thought process that leads you to it. They reference riots in the movie and a few "flash lines" about what happened, but never fully get into it. From the quick snippets, it appears that the government lost complete control of the city and so it was turned over to a corporation as a "reclamation" project.
They bought the land and everything on it from the government and wanted to develop a new future city. This of course, meant the throwing out of all of the current residents who couldn't afford to live there, and the tearing down of all of their buildings and homes in order to build new ones for the people they would have moving in.
It's a great movie and it has a lot of great plot lines, but suffice it to say, that this put three factions into conflict. The corporation, the criminal element, and the people are all fighting over what the future of the city will be. It's political drama at its finest! As long as you don't get bogged down in an over emotional sappy mess of how we all feel about it... (here's looking at you reboot writers)
Yet, veiled within this story line is a terrifying grain of truth. It's a question that haunts many people, especially in today's civil society climate. That question?
"If the police won't protect us, then who will?"
I know that in today's world the old spaghetti westerns are long gone. No one cares about the old west, the frontier, and all of the lawlessness, but people should really start reading up on it, because right now, that is where we are heading as a society.
If the police aren't there to enforce the law, then who will? It becomes up to everyone to protect themselves, until the government says that you've gone too far, and then arrests you instead of the person you were defending yourself from.
That's the biggest danger that we have going on right now. We're attempting to deal with the "policing problem," which is good, but we're not doing it in concert with also eliminating the criminal culture problem, which is bad.
In other words, we're creating a culture that NEEDS more policing, but we're eliminating both officers and their ability to do their jobs out of fear of being prosecuted for any mistakes.
You can reduce policing while reducing criminal culture or you can increase policing in response to increasing criminal culture.
What you can't do, is what it appears we're trying to do, and that is to reduce policing while allowing for an increase in criminal culture. This can only lead to the wild west where individual people take the law into their own hands. Don't want to see neighborhood militias? Then you have to have police to protect the peace, property, and lives of those in that neighborhood.
I'm not saying that qualified immunity is the answer, or that police shouldn't be held accountable for their actions. What I am saying is that we need to hold those people who are engaging in criminal behavior, even if the victim is "insured," accountable in equal measure. Unless you do that as well, you're just changing the person doing the protecting from the police (who are trained and have rules and restraints) to neighborhood civilians (who are untrained and will be unrestrained in their protecting of their homes and properties).
If we continue to cut the police, without also making their jobs easier by working with them to eliminate crime and criminal acceptance, then we are risking putting ourselves in the same situation as the fictional Detroit from the movie. A police force where they never have enough officers to enforce the law, a city where gangs and criminals have at least as much influence and power as the police themselves, and where private citizens must take the protection of themselves and their city into their own hands because they can't count on anyone being there to defend them.
So, in the end, the reality is this, we do need to hold officers accountable for the outcomes of their actions. That's why I have no problem with the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. However, unless we want more of this behavior, and from unaccountable civilians as opposed to officers, we also have to EQUALLY work to eliminate the criminal element in our society.
We have to stop excusing theft, vandalism, burglary, drug use and dealing, auto theft, and assault and battery as "culture," or as some kind of "Robin Hood" system, and work with those officers who ARE doing it right to root out these evils from our culture.
You can't have one without the other, because no one is going to accept these things as a fact of life, they will defend themselves if there are no police to defend them, and that should scare you, because it scares the heck out of me.
We've come so far from the days of the wild west, but unfortunately we do not seem to have learned that much. Just like it did then, criminal behavior begets bad outcomes and violence in response. It always does.
It always will.