Saw this post on Mastodon:
when people say “what if the capitalists replace the police with a private army” like… what do you think the police are. you think those guys answer to you?
And, at first, I got kinda annoyed: of course law enforcement as it currently exist does more than just function as the super-rich class’s private army. For one, it does occasionally solve crimes that hurt regular people as well! I don’t really like it when radical leftists remove all nuance from an issue!
But then, I stumbled upon a thought: the fact that law enforcement does occasionally help people outside of the mega-wealthy can easily function as a very useful PR tactic, specifically so that privileged and/or middle-class people see law enforcement as more than just an occupying force.
Cops aren’t good at solving crimes. Sometimes, they take more of people’s property via civil asset forfeiture than all burglaries combined. If I get my laptop stolen, would $500 in returned value I get from it cover all the damage law enforcement causes with every incident of police brutality or from enforcing awful laws (or from not enforcing good laws)?
If there were, indeed, a situation in which a city had its police department replaced with a private force that only enforced some megacorporation(s)‘ property rights, it would quickly lose legitimacy in the eyes of the people. I would guess that a private police force would want to occasionally solve a regular-people crime just so that people don’t see it as only there for the rich, even if 90% of what it does still benefits the rich.
Another argument I used to find annoying is comparing law enforcement (or national armies) to terrorist organizations. Saying that your local department is in any way like ISIS sounds extreme, and superficially they are very different.
But also, just because cops don’t film videos out of caves where they demand to have a fundamentalist religious state or don’t upload footage of public beheadings online doesn’t mean they don’t also use their violence to strike terror into people’s minds and impact political decisions.
Politicians who tried to reduce law enforcement’s influence over their cities and regions can quickly meet legal resistance from police unions. If a city’s budget happens to be largely financed by fines and penalties, then cops can threaten to stop doing their job and thus hurt the city’s ability to fund other things. And let’s not forget the fact that for the poor and marginalized, law enforcement interactions are very likely to end badly and are theferore literally terrifying.
Cops may not literally be Al-Qaeda, but sometimes they sure sound a lot like the yakuza (which might claim charity and helping locals as proof of their benevolence, but they’re still a criminal organization).