Lukewarm Take #2: Democratize Police Procedures

Posted on December 19, 2020

Lukewarm take of the day: police procedure must be democratized. What does that mean? Any community that decides to keep (or has imposed upon it) a police force needs to have what type of force / enforcement used decided by the community via direct democracy.

Democratically Controlled Police Departments

When we think about political involvement in our communities we tend to think about making our voices heard via voting or city council meetings. Discussions may revolve around new regulations but, up until the defund the police movement, these conversations have typically identified what penalities may be levied against a guilty party, but not enforcement. In other words, we talk about the ends but not the means. That may be OK(ish) in some specific circumstances (consider the IRS or similar departments), but any means that involves police presence must be taken to the people. Any new methodology that the department wants to use to aid its work must be aired out with the community it would be used on.

Consider this example in Oregon. The Portland city council banned facial recognition technology used by the government and corporations. This is a great example of using the voice of the people to correct police, government, and corporations overstepping their bounds. However, this process was inherently inverted. The organizations that decided to use these technologies made this decision without the express consent of the people it was inflicting with it. The police currently do not have to get consent at all, instead the people’s representatives must monitor them and impose new restrictions at every turn to keep them in check. This is untenable. Communities, and then their reps, have to chase down these processes while new ones are added. We’re still demanding that no-knock warrants and chokeholds be banned, how long have those been around?

This is not limited to enforcement of laws. Look at the banning of so-called “warrior-style” training in Minneapolis. Again, great first step. Again, another inversion of control from the people. Again, lives were lost before anything changed. Surely most jurisdictions where this type of training takes place are unaware that “killology” is even a type of training their police can, and have, received. Communities must have a voice in every layer of their police department. Communities must have a choice if they even have a police department.


This isn’t a hot take at all. Ideally communities will demand to have their police defunded and disbanded entirely with enough force to make it happen. Any community that decides to keep their existing police force should be allowed a voice in their process. Police are there to maintain “law and order” but how often is this process democratic? We vote for legislators to make laws that reflect our community’s interests, but we minimize the transparency into those that will enforce those laws and what methods they are allowed to take in that process. The absolute minimum we should do in police reformation is demand transparency and direct democratic control of procedures used by the police and any third parties or contractors in the mix of policing the people.


ACAB, if your community will not demand defunding the police at least demand direct democratic control of police processes.