So what do we do? Black Lives Matter call for defunding urban police departments, an argument that has a certain appeal. No doubt about it, we could eliminate police violence if we got rid of the police.
But most Americans are opposed to that idea. If we get rid of the cops, critics say, the bad guys will steal our stuff.
Personally, I'm not that worried about people stealing my stuff. Why? Because I have absolutely nothing that anyone would want to take.
I have a smart TV, but my grandkids tell me that it is not nearly smart enough, and I doubt anyone would burglarize my house to take it. I have hundreds of books on Catholic history and literature, but would anyone want to steal them? Doubtful. As for my Mr. Coffee coffeemaker, please swipe it before I throw it out.
Here's a better idea for reforming American police departments than merely shutting them down. Why not take away all their military hardware, including their Army-surplus armored personnel carriers?
According to the New York Times, the U.S. military gave hundreds of tons of military equipment to American police departments between 2006 and 2014, including 432 mine-resistant, ambush-proof armored vehicles (MRAPs) and 93,000 machine guns.
Police officials say they need military hardware in an era of escalating violence. "I don't like it. I wish it were the way it was when I was a kid," one police chief said. Nevertheless, "We're not going to go out there as Officer Friendly with no body armor and just a handgun and say 'Good enough.'"
Let's face facts. Over the past 30 years or so, our urban police departments have begun to resemble South American paramilitary units. Surely this transformation from "Officer Friendly" to black-mask wearing SWAT teams has made minority communities more afraid of the police.
And this creeping militarization began long before President Trump took office. The New York Times article I referenced was published when Barack Obama was in office.
Police officers rightly argue that they occasionally need armored vehicles to deal with riots, looting, and homicidal maniacs. And I sympathize with that view. After all, hundreds of police officers were injured during the George Floyd riots. If someone is going to throw a brick at me, I would much rather be inside an MRAP truck than standing on the street with only a plastic shield to protect me from the mob.
So I propose a compromise. The police will stop killing black men in their custody. The minority community will stop setting fire to their neighborhoods. And the police departments will scrap their armored trucks and give their machine guns back to the Army.
You think such a deal might be arranged?