Beyond Accountability: Towards A Method of Vengeance-Free Police Criticism

The desire to hold police accountable is the same attitude of vengeance which underscores policing; we should instead look towards restorative justice ideas when considering both sides.

Policing critics and activists often work from the same attitudes towards police as that professions employees take towards us while on the clock and within its culture. Both sides embody a worldview of vengeance in which somebody needs to pay for a perceived transgression, with police and critics representing two different angles of the same perceived phenomena.

For example, a self-described police accountability activist may wave a sign that says “Fuck the Police” while a police employee, adorned with a thin blue line tattoo, may view anyone not participating in their profession as a threat to be managed and/or neutralized. Different views but same attitudes, culturally weaponized against the other through increasingly hostile rhetoric that makes the obstacle of mutual understanding seem nearly insurmountable. Both parties seek to place blame and create bad guys rather than restore the dignity and well being of those injured by the damage of criminals and policing alike.

Restorative justice is a method of resolving the consequences of aggression through peaceful mediation that is focused on the damaged party, instead of on the offender and legal system itself. It is solution based, rather than punishment centered, and seeks the rehabilitation of the transgressor when necessary in order to prevent future transgressions, but never mere punishment. A broader view of topics connected to restorative justice include community based initiatives to restore opportunities to people, which can preemptively address future acts of aggression. Safety nets are better than dragnets, but must also be based on local and sustainable foundations that cannot be corrupted by opportunists in centralized bureaucracies with no address in their madness.

If we can expand our view to include police employees as victims of the policing institution…