Challenges of Policing


Policing necessarily (or at least, in the way we tend to conceive of it) involves restricting people's freedom. In a free society, that creates a conflict of values. In what ways does denying people their freedom (to act in certain ways, or at an extreme, whether they are jailed or not) violate our shared values? What alternatives exist?


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What questions might best proceed answers, explanations, discussion, or argumentation?

What is the Optimum Scale for policing?

Ostrom showed convincingly that smaller more local policing was more effective and less expensive. See Elinor Ostrom on Policing

In what different ways can/do people handle Conflicts of Values?

How does Influence of Money shape the systems that include policing?

Also we need to consider the larger Societal Context.

There is the whole issue of Affective States: fear vs. love. How do affective states of problem solvers become visible and alterable?

We are kind of reaching a perfect storm here. So when we have a dialogue about policing, where should and where will it focus? Why will we choose one dimension and scale vs. other dimensions of the problem and other scales. How can we make the multidimensionality and multi-scale aspects visible? Can we use Graphviz somehow?

While providing an answers to Greta's accusation, "How dare you!", Ward ironically, I assume, says there is no answer (The Privileged and their Servants). I think the mechanisms are pretty graspable. The resolution may or may not have an answer.

In my opinion there is one scale where each of these biases can be held and balanced. Yep, neighborhood scale. Of course no guarantees, just possibilities. If we are hoping for a quick or global solution to the policing problem in our communities and in this country we must be very very frightened--scared out of our minds.

As an experiment, consider asking four other people how the five of you would manage to police each other it there was no one else around.


We in the USA are and have been since its founding a class based society. See The Privileged and their Servants.

As a sure sign of privilege it never occurred to me that I should ever need to Worry About That.

Greta and I have the privilege to complain when those in power make poor choices. Here I explain myself to my boss as I refuse to attend the company meeting. See Those Who Can Must Say No


News of people in the streets of Ferguson, MO after Michael Brown was killed by a police officer opened my eyes to my own privilege and the profound injustice that remains in our country.

I teach aikido at the University of Colorado Recreation Center. I emphasize using aikido as a laboratory for understanding our individual emotional response to conflict and power.

I collected some of those thoughts in my blog partly in response to news coverage of the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in Baltimore in 2015.


"If it bleeds, it leads." Our discourse about policing is often driven by incidents of physical violence. It might be beneficial to broaden the frame to think more clearly or make better decisions. How do words and rhetoric influence policy, and specific incidents? I am struck by the frequency of brazen dishonesty coming from law enforcement officers, agencies, and unions. Insubordination, as well. If we think about police as entities that work for us, that serve us, why do we tolerate dishonesty and failure to follow the directives of our elected leaders? Policing and fair play

This essay attempts to sum up the experience of protesters in Portland since May 29 (as of mid-October). I have read only about half of it so far; but it rings very true to me so far. Highly recommended. web

An interesting narrative about the mayor of Winston-Salem, who in the early days was able to keep demonstrations calm. Politico

Responding to Eric: I also had a negative reaction to "Cop Killer" and "Fuck the Police". When I'm in marches now, I have trouble with the "ACAB" chant. Rich topic for discussion. I responded to some of Eric's writing at the bottom of Trash Cleaning Confrontation and also Trash Cleaning Incident Analysis is well worth a read. May return at some point to Fear as a Motivator.

Responding to Marc: Lots of great material here, I have not yet read far into your links. I like the "how would we police each other" prompt.

Ward: Compelling framing, and good to bring up the distinction/connections between military and police.