The following is republished from Beyond the Badge.
The following is an entirely hypothetical representation of a community which uses entirely new ways to address issues that are usually handled by police. This model should in no way be construed as complete, but as a sketch from which we can build upon these ideas and discard, improve and adapt them using feedback from the Beyond the Badge community. To make the ideas presented easier to comprehend the text below is written from the future perspective of a fictional town’s fictional mayor.
Hello friends, my name is Gerald Kent and I have been the mayor of Chillville for nine years. I love this community like it is my very own family, each and every one. In my second year of leadership there were two unfortunate incidents with our law enforcement branch that got people discussing the necessity of a traditional police department here in Chillville. What we have accomplished in the years since has been nothing less than phenomenal. But first, let me tell you about our town.
Chillville is more or less your average American community. There are about 23,000 residents and the issues we face are similar to any other place roughly our size and distance from a major city. Our crime rates were slightly below the national average for similar towns. It is important to remember that the services we created to replace policing were made to scale, and communities of different sizes and issues would be encouraged to make adaptations or new innovations to make something like what we have work for them. Because we have a small college we do have higher rates of public intoxication, which does cause some health and safety issues other towns our size do not have to worry about. There has also historically been an above average rate of domestic abuse, but we are now dealing with a lot less of that thanks to our community enrichment programs.
Our first challenge in replacing police was to determine exactly what issues policing seeks to address, and how to dismantle those aspects or replace them through different means. We nailed these down to a few categories.
- Enforce local, state and federal laws.
- Mitigate domestic disputes.
- Understand and address p
ublic health and safety concerns.
- Provide e
mergency response to extreme situations.
- Resolve crimes involving victims through investigation and identification of the injuring party and the relevant facts of the crime.
It was clear that we needed to deal with each of these issues in some way. We started with the enforcement of laws and decided to take a whole new approach to your average community. Any law that addressed a victimless crime was deemed irrelevant, and we decided that we just would not apply them in any way, shape or form. This includes prohibition of goods or services, like drugs or prostitution, as well as things like curfews and code enforcement relating to personal property, to name a few.
We also recognized the disparity of law enforcement as it relates to class privilege and exceptions that have historically been made for the prominent and or well connected, and so now these powerful community members and their businesses are also subject to investigation, arbitration and restoration for white collar crimes that create victims inside and outside of our community. Everyone in Chillville is subject to equal application of the systems we have put into place. Class equality is a primary goal of our mission here. So is the concept of restoration, which I will discuss a bit more later.
Domestic disputes, we decided, were not best handled by a show of force. Instead they require skilled arbitrators that assist in conflict resolution, de-escalation and creating immediate solutions to practical issues; as well as documentation that can be reviewed in ongoing investigation, arbitration and restoration. It was decided to create a department of arbitration that is overseen by a small committee of elected members of qualified candidates, who are assisted in their activities by a support base of on call volunteers. A thorough study — which we have made available to public access and scrutiny — was conducted to identify qualities and skills conducive to arbitration, from which a test was devised to ensure we effectively screen potential candidates for our arbitration activities.
Arbitrators have also replaced our court system, but more on that later. So far the worst consequence of our shift to arbitrators is to make me virtually obsolete, as arbitrators provide such quality real-time service that they are considered the real leaders of our community. And they deserve every bit of the recognition and respect they receive.
We host regular community forums to discuss the activities of our arbitrators, both to ensure quality and to help them maintain flexibility, adaptability and explore new methods and mannerisms. As members of this community our arbitrators take a long term interest in the subjects they interact with, and provide follow up counseling and give continued support to help reduce future issues. As a result we have seen a dramatic decrease in domestic disputes and an increase in household and community harmony. Also, we’ve seen rising levels of public engagement, which acts as preventative maintenance to bolster progress and sustainability.
Public health and safety concerns, we decided, meant monitoring high risk situations and providing arbitration and support in the field. For the most part this specifically applies to nighttime weekend activities in the downtown area, where intoxication and rowdiness can amplify or create issues; as well as other public events that pose potential behavioral risks.
What this looks like on the street are a small group of dedicated, well-trained volunteer arbitrators who patrol the areas around the downtown bars and college campus, and make sure that everybody gets home safely and that disputes are de-escalated with crafted expertise. It is solution based, and not punitive. It’s a more holistic paradigm. There is no public intox, there is a brother or sister who needs to make it home safely or get medical help if necessary.
Further, these arbitrators focus on identifying at-risk individuals and have lowered crimes of aggression by providing no questions asked assistance to those in need.
There are other instances where these teams are used, but for the most part, there is usually nobody patrolling the streets of Chillville. Not only has this saved us lots of money, it has discouraged a sort of defiance which arises as a response to traditional methods of policing. We like to think we are enhancing our community, not policing it. That difference is marked by an attitude of helpfulness and civility, rather than restriction and punishment. By giving community members a role to play in their development, these attitudes were created from a fulfilling and sustainable source. Furthermore, no longer do our citizens wait for officials or experts to resolve all problematic incidents occurring right before them, but have taken on attitudes and skills which have allowed them to respond to these issues effectively as they occur.
Crafting a response to emergency situations that involved immediate threats to our community members required great attention, as this was an area in which we may have to consider the use of force. As much as we wanted to keep armed uniforms off the street, it was important we recognize that the unthinkable could happen right here among us. This was virtually the same problem set that already applied to our fire department and EMTs, so we explored integrating those services. We reasoned that if force was necessary, it might best be applied by those primarily dedicated to providing life-saving services. As a result we have cross-trained non-police first responders to deal with violent situations as de-escalators, arbitrators and users of force only in the most necessary of conditions. This team is also trained in non-lethal combat techniques which include accompanying lessons in philosophies of non-violence; as well as other areas or relevant education as deemed helpful along the way. Basically we have hippie ninjas who can save lives and put out fires. How cool is that?
And yet there would be crimes we could not prevent, no matter how hard we tried, that still required restorative justice to the victim(s). What developed to meet this need was a full-time staff of paid investigators to look into crimes in which there was a victim, but no known perpetrator or resolution. The national clearance rates for crimes of violence is unacceptable, and so we have made it a mission to identify aggressors so that rehabilitation and restoration can be addressed. And when our investigation teams have time and resources to expend, they help keep an eye on the privileged class crimes I spoke of earlier. Our clearance rate for aggressive crimes is far above average and our restorative justice system both minimizes offense while maximizing healing. This could not have been achieved without the agencie’s transparency and workings being subject to an open dialogue with residents and other service providers inside our community.
We replaced our court system with arbitration. We have replaced officers of the court with a community of peers and mutually selected arbitrators to enact restorative justice, which is an attitude of social resolution that focuses on victims instead of perpetrators, while offering the latter redemption and rehabilitation rather than punishment. For the victims we offer solutions that minimize the damage they received through therapeutic, financial and personal resolutions.
Even as we addressed these problems, we realized that prevention was key to their success. To this end we developed community support systems and funding methods that did not rely on taxation of individuals. We also avoided seeking any kind of support from state and federal agencies, because those outfits/entities would mandate changes unto the local alternative systems we developed in order to receive funding. Instead we decided to create a community-owned business that could produce and distribute goods to raise funding.
My family has long been interested in restoring old automobiles. And yet as time goes on, there are fewer part makers for older models. Manufacturers supplying those automotive parts relied on tooling skills that take time and resources that make their products unaffordable. I realized this international market niche had few solutions, and decided that it could benefit my community.
The residents of Chillville who were financially able and saw the long term benefits pitched in on the initial costs to begin our town’s first automated facility by purchasing a half dozen 3D printers and just as many automated machining devices. At the same time we trained and employed people who were able to collect, model and catalog designs for parts long considered obsolete by mainstream manufacturers. In effect we have built a small local industry of highly incentivized skilled workers who organize automated production facilities that raise funds for our community projects.
We are now a tax-free community that requires no outside funding. As a result, entrepreneurs have began to relocate here, offering more opportunities to a local work force at all skill levels. Surplus wealth created by our automated factories not used in community projects is distributed to citizens as dividends that provides a basic living wage, which has nearly eradicated crimes of desperation. The increased wealth has freed up the time, resources and imaginations of our citizens, and a renaissance of creativity has flourished. And we have seen the emergence of self-directed learning centers in place of compulsory schooling, but I guess I will save that story for another time
A focus on local, decentralized solutions that puts personal agency at the forefront has guided us through some pretty amazing changes that have enriched us in ways that go beyond measurements and words. I hope that each and every one of you reading this will consider our model in redeveloping your communities, and we look forward to seeing where other villages, towns and cities are able to adapt our ideas to meet their own unique needs and create other alternatives that outperform even ours. Joined by a spirit of humanity and adaptability, but separated by our own local requirements, we have much to learn from and teach to one another.