Police Reforms Must Be Fair and Workable
“In “The Limits of Police Reform” (op-ed, June 12), Rafael A. Mangual asserts that popular reform proposals seeking to limit police use of force would likely be found disappointing, as statistics around police firearm discharges have declined over the last semicentennial and police killings are rare. Yet this analysis suffers from two fatal flaws: an unduly narrow definition of police violence and an undervaluing of police violence’s costs.
Police violence encompasses far more than shootings. George Floyd was killed by a policeman’s knee held on his neck and Eric Garner was killed by a chokehold—no logical person would exclude their deaths from counts of violence. Likewise, police violence includes instances in which men and women are beaten, pushed to the ground and left bleeding, and pregnant mothers and children shot with rubber bullets. In the wake of George Floyd’s death and subsequent protests, we’ve seen these forms of police violence occur repeatedly. Additionally, inconsistent and limited reporting on use of force at the national and state level means we likely underappreciate, rather than overemphasize, the full scale of police violence in our communities.
But assuming police violence is exceedingly rare, we’d still be foolish to ignore its heavy costs. Being mistreated or seeing someone mistreated by the police erodes notions of law-enforcement legitimacy and discourages individuals from seeking out the police when they need help. Cities bear the burden of expensive lawsuits—let’s not forget that New York City paid a $5.9 million settlement as a result of Eric Garner’s killing. Finally, when excessive force is used, a person’s Fourth Amendment rights are violated. This creates both a moral and constitutional duty to intervene.”
R Street Institute