The Rationale For Abolishing The Police

Break The Chain,
Dispel The Myth

There is evidence that police are less effective at controlling crime than previously believed. However, they play an instrumental role in educating the public about crime prevention, reducing community fear, and potentially providing support to victims. The most effective method of countering crime is establishing, limiting, and removing the criminogenic factors, as well as launching crisis intervention models to help those in need. New York City and other major cities spend billions on police, but do they perform in accordance with expectations, perceptions, and capabilities?

Police do very little to combat or solve crimes.

Police spend a short time (approximately 4%) fighting and solving violent crimes. What we know is that a growing body of research indicates police officers do not effectively combat crime. The Law Professor at NYU, Barry Friedman, writes about his observations on the tasks police are involved in. Professor Friedman points out early studies concerning urban police workload and the dispelling of the popular myth that police spend most of their time protecting the “thin blue line” of law and order.

An investigation of 3 jurisdictions in the Hudson Valley determined that violent crime was .55% of what police officers focused on. Another example of what police focus on is property crime, which represents 7.2% of their efforts. The majority of the time, law enforcement is ineffective. Aside from paperwork and personal time spent on the clock, patrolling has been calculated as taking at least 30% of paid, uniformed officers’ time. Research shows that patrolling does little to prevent crime or make civilians feel safe. Little of the work that police officers do, across the map, in small areas and in larger cities beset by high crime, provides very limited support to crime-fighting.

In Baltimore, for instance in 1999, at peak moments of crime and violence in many urban areas, Friedman described it as “one of the most abandoned parts of the United States”. During times of food deserts, low employment, and high crime, regular patrol officers focus approximately 11% of their time on crime. Observing both, violent crime and non-violent crime, police efforts to deter violence account for 5% of their duties and responsibilities. Similarly, as we look at smaller cities, towns, and neighborhoods, we realize that police attention to crime is much smaller. The majority of the time officers spend on their shifts is spent on mobilized patrol, administrative tasks, and not on actual crime-fighting or crime-solving activities.

Source Material
Barry Friedman

Barry Friedman

Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law

Barry Friedman is one of the country’s leading authorities on constitutional law, policing, criminal procedure, and the federal courts.

Public Safety
What Is Public Safety?


the government’s obligation to ensure people are safe—should be understood far more capaciously than it is at present. Although protection is not in fact special, we nonetheless neglect all the other elements of individual safety.

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February 8, 2021
Barry Friedman

Police Functions
Disaggregating The Policing Function


Policing imposes serious and extensive harms, from shootings and nonlethal uses of force, to stops, searches, arrests, and incarceration. And many of these harms involve pervasive racial disparities.

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March, 2021
Barry Friedman

Police Are Not Primarily Crime Fighters


New reports add to a growing line of research showing that police departments don’t solve serious or violent crimes with any regularity, and in fact, spend very little time on crime control, in contrast to popular narratives.

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Hassan Kanu

New York Times
4% Towards Violent Crime


A handful of cities post data online showing how their police departments spend their time. The share devoted to handling violent crime is very small, about 4 percent.

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Jeff Asher and 

The Marshall Project
As Murders Spiked, Police Solved About Half in 2020


In the nation’s 70 largest counties, nearly one-third of people accused of murder were acquitted or had their charges dismissed. (31% in 2019)

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By Weihua Li and Jamiles Lartey, The Marshall Project

The social costs in adolescence are real.

The long-term negative effects of policing, including witnessing state-sanctioned violence towards any community member, are well documented in a growing body of research focused on policing’s social costs. It takes courage and fortitude to observe such violence, but advocating for the justice of another person can have a significant psychological cost. As a matter of fact, research has demonstrated that events such as police violence affect children’s health and wellbeing, regardless of whether they observe them in person or online. Specifically, it affects the educational attainment and academic achievement of Black and Latino youth over the short and long term.

In response to police violence, children may display increased absenteeism by groups living in the area where police violence led to death. A significant amount of evidence indicates that students’ grades drop and persist at lower levels for several semesters – at least three semesters on average. As a result of the controversial ‘Stop and Frisk’ tactic that police have reactivated recently, student test scores may suffer if the target is an adolescent. The psychological hardship of educational attainment and academic achievement is directly connected to just knowing about aggressive police tactics.

It is not uncommon for Blacks and Hispanics not to be affected by police killings when the victims are not African or Hispanic. The same way White and Asian youths do not experience state violence adversely when the victims are Black or Hispanic. Their academic achievement does not suffer as a result. Furthermore, police killings have two times the negative impact of any other type of homicide.

We should be concerned with “black-on-black crime”, citizen on citizen violence, or neighbor on neighbor crime, and the harm it causes these communities, but it turns out that the impact of seeing or knowing about state sanctioned violence against Black and Hispanic citizens – including members who are from one’s own social group – leads to twice the harm as done when it is a citizen against citizen experience.

Furthermore, the effects of police violence extend well beyond adolescence to include the physical, mental health, and well being of adults in communities where police violence occurs. This includes the depression that mothers feel when they know their sons/daughters are being stopped and frisked by police. Research shows higher rates of depression among parents who know their child can be pursued by police. The depression one may experience due to police violence can impact people in their daily lives, employment, etc. Being powerless to stop this kind of harassment and violence as it is perceived, there is more than likely to be distress and rage.

Source Material

“The Policing Paradox: Police Stops Predict Youth’s School Disengagement via Elevated Psychological Distress,” Juan Del Toro, PhD, and Ming-Te Wang, PhD, University of Pittsburgh, and Dylan B. Jackson, PhD, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Developmental Psychology, published online April 4, 2022.

In this systematic review of 29 studies that included 19,954 participants, police exposure was associated with multiple health outcomes for Black youth, including adverse mental health, risk behaviors, and impaired safety.

Law Enforcement over-police petty crimes,
while under-policing, or neglecting safety.


Police in high crime communities, or disproportionately low-income communities of color, actually do more harm than justice. When people call the police for help, they want to have some kind of confidence that the police will come, won’t make matters worse, take complaints seriously, and solve crimes (including murder) – but in low-income communities of color, there is ample evidence now that none of these expectations are being met. Instead, they experience over-policing, and under-policing.

They “over-police”, or engage in “proactive policing”, by frequently stopping pedestrians and drivers, unnecessarily and often unconstitutionally searching people. Police have revealed they use unnecessary force too often, which sometimes leads to bodily harm, death, or at the very least PTSD-like symptoms, and untold numbers of unnecessary arrests – all presumably to “prevent crime”. Although these acts have a low impact on lowering crime, what they do have huge effects on, are residents’ views of law enforcement. It is not unusual for these same communities (low-income people of color) to consider the police just another form of violent gang. And just like other gang activity, harm results… including death.

Police violence is the leading cause of death among young black men. There is a 1 in 1000 chance of being killed by the police. Although violent policing has shown to bring down some forms of crime, these practices actually have short and long-term negative effects on social economics and health outcomes. Many argue that these outcomes outweigh the small benefits that violent policing can accrue when considering the small impact it has on crime. Part of the negative effects policing has today is that it indirectly increases crime.

Recording video of NYPD and getting arrested

Currently, the NYPD is required to report statistics regarding arrests and tickets for individuals who record video or photos of police interactions under the city’s new “Right to Record” law. Based on an I-Team analysis of enforcement data for the third quarter of 2022, 338 citizens were arrested for recording video of NYPD officers. This represents a 14 percent increase over the beginning of 2021.

Arrests are usually made on criminal charges such as assault, resisting arrest, obstruction, and larceny. Criminal and civil summonses are primarily issued for offenses such as drinking alcohol on public streets, noise violations, or motor vehicle infractions. A vast majority of those arrested or ticketed while recording video were people of color.

According to data provided by the NYPD, from 2021 to 2022, arrests and summonses have gone up by about 50 percent. During the same period, arrests and summonses involving people recording police have gone up by 185 percent.


Importantly too, in such communities, while focusing or whatever efforts they make on low-level offenses, police often do very self-limiting work to address the main issues that arise. The police are both over-policing and under-policing. Addressing small offenses with high rates in a variety of ways that are really aggressive. However, when it comes to larger crimes, they tend not to show up and make residents feel safe… this is underpolicing.

Victor Rios observed that police officers tend to focus on certain kinds of deviants and ignore or neglect other situations when their assistance is needed. Policing seems to be ubiquitous in the lives of many young marginalized people. However, the law was rarely there to protect them when they encountered victimization. In these communities, one gets the very real sense that the police are not there to protect you. In addition, they are not very effective at solving crimes in these communities. The vast majority of unsolved murders in the US are of Black victims, paradoxically, often, from the very communities that are being over policed.

Declining homicide rates for African-American victims count for almost half of the nation. While there was a decline in Law Enforcement’s ability to clear murders through the arrest of criminal offenders. A newly compiled study, compiled by the Non Profit Accountability Project, in Chicago for instance, when the victim was white, 47% of the cases were solved, which in itself is a low percentage (this is in the course of 19 months, for Hispanics, the rate was 33%, for Black or African-Americans, the crime solving rate was less than 22%. Consequently, aggressive policing breeds distrust. Theres a combination of overpolicing in some ways in these communities, and underpolicing and a lack of real positive outcomes in terms of solving crimes, including murders. As a result, there is a tense relationship that raises questions about the ethics of policing in these kinds of communities.


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We Train Police

to be Warriors and Then Send Them Out to be Social Workers

What excites police is action, and that means ultimately applying violence. The people attracted to police work want that type of action — they are giddy about it.

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New Neighbors

and the Over-Policing of Communities of Color

In communities of color facing increasing economic pressure and changing norms, police responses to these quality-of-life complaints can have a negative impact.

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The Consequences of Mass Incarceration

of Black and Latino Boys

Rio talks about how young Latino and African American boys develop their sense of self in the midst of crime and intense policing; and the politics that reinforce school-to-prison pipelines.

Published on October 9, 2019

Chicago's Dismal Murder Solve Rate

Even Worse When Victims Are Black

Police have been solving about four of every ten murders in the city, but police data show the rate is even worse when the victim is African American.

If we seek public safety,
better options are available

Public safety does not necessarily mean police involvement for abolitionists and minds alike. There are alternative ways to achieve public safety. There are several alternatives to police that are effective, efficient, less harmful, and cheaper than police to ensure public safety. The organization CAHOOTS, a crisis intervention service, is widely known to achieve public safety at far lower costs by effectively addressing crises, including conflict resolution.

It is known that between 28% and 50% of fatal police encounters involve mentally ill individuals. CAHOOTS’ method shows that this does not always have to be the case. Cahoots originated almost 50 years ago in Eugene, Oregon. The number of Cahoots calls in Eugene last year was 24,000, but only 250 of those calls prompted police backup. Thus, you require police backup for approximately 1% of all calls that could easily escalate into something far more violent if not handled correctly.

There are several aspects associated with this, not only with individuals experiencing mental health episodes, but also domestic violence, welfare checks, substance abuse, and suicide threats. Therefore, Cahoots does not address a narrow range of issues. It engages in trauma-informed deescalation and harm reduction techniques that result in a very positive outcome for participants. This includes savings that can be redirected back into the community to support the families and communities of individuals.


Let’s think about what this means in regards to settlements. In 2018, for instance, Chicago spent $113M to settle police misconduct cases. New York City tax payers spend a whopping $530M to pay off 10,500 claims against the NYPD from 2018 to 2022.

In the first seven months of 2022, the city of New York spent $67.6 million on settlements of police misconduct cases. Those settlement payments are over $5.5 million more than the total amount paid out by the city in 2020. If settlement payments continue apace for the remainder of 2022, they may surpass the total amount paid out last year. Those totals do not include settlements reached with the Office of the New York City Comptroller prior to the commencement of litigation. NYPD tort claim settlement and judgment payouts were $206.7 million in FY 2021, and $209.3 million in FY 2020.

Cahoots estimates for cost savings to the police are based solely on the per police response. However, if we were to take into consideration not just the diversions, but also the cost savings to cities and tax payers that result from these settlements. Cahoots is just ONE model that has been recently deployed.

If the Mayor and Police Commissioner prioritized early intervention, swift disciplinary processes for abusive officers, and consistent penalties as required in the NYPD’s disciplinary matrix, much police abuse–and the resulting lawsuit payouts–could be prevented. Instead, the NYPD allows officers such as Daniel Rivera, who has racked up 23 lawsuits and over half a million dollars in settlements, to continue to patrol our neighborhoods with a badge and a gun, almost guaranteeing similar abuses will continue.

Just September 2022, one controversial news around settlements surfaced in New York City. Eric Dym, a lieutenant for the NYPD, retires with a whole list of complaints and pending cases. The Civilian Complaint Review Board had sought to have Lt. Eric Dym terminated at a disciplinary trial held earlier this year. The 18-year veteran of the force had more pending misconduct allegations against him than anyone on the force, disciplinary records suggest.


Cahoots in Eugene costs around $2 million to operate (although they are increasing as they grow). It has been highly efficient, effective, and economically advantageous. Furthermore, they have resulted in significant cost savings for the police department and emergency room. During the past year, Cahoots has saved the police department up to $9 million. Additionally, they have saved $14M in ER costs because they are diverting people who otherwise would be using these services.

As a result of organizations such as Cahoots, larger savings could be realized. In addition to saving police and emergency room costs, and the fact that Cahoots is relatively inexpensive, the diversion from jail that results from its activities is also significant.

60% of Cahoots clients are homeless, 30% live with severe and persistent mental illness. These are frequent visitors to emergency rooms, shelters and jails. It is reasonable to assume that Cahoots has been involved in the arrests, jail admissions, and detentions, as well as the collateral consequences, both direct and indirect, for the individual, their family, and the community, resulting in huge cost reductions or savings for all.


Published on Sept. 25, 2019

Improving New York City's

Responses to Individuals in Mental Health Crisis

By investing in crucial mental health services on the front end, we can work to reduce the constantly growing number of calls to 911 regarding mental health crisis.

Data & Resources Dashboard

Mental Health

Data Dashboard

One in Five of every New Yorker experience Mental Illness in a given year. Hundreds of thousands of these New Yorkers are not connected to care.

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Calling the Cops

on someone with mental illness can go terribly wrong.

Already, Cahoots is working with a number of cities — Olympia, Washington; Denver, Colorado; New York; Indianapolis, Indiana; Portland and Roseburg, Oregon.

Published on March 21, 2019

Response Breakdown

NYPD and Mental-Illness

If the event is primarily a behavioral issue and there’s no imminent danger, then there should be a preference to stack the deck in favor of a clinical team response.

Other Models

Prioritizing young people and investing in education, training, and skills of various kinds can significantly reduce crime associated with adolescence and emergence into adulthood. Focusing on substance abuse, alleviating financial hardship, and offering income supplements, can help stabilize and secure individuals and their families. Investments in community organizations and institutions that provide these kinds of services contribute towards reducing crime and violence; which means we can rely on far less police than we do, and with far better outcomes.

Other models are emerging that address some of the same issues that are being faced in some communities and that can be dealt with effectively through these other models. CURE Violence, which helps to significantly reduce violence within communities that are beset by violence, is another kind of model that has been used successfully to reduce violence in cities not just across this country but globally speaking. We know that investments in environmental strategies like reclaiming vacant lots decrease crime, including violent crime.

"Denaturalize The Police" Police ≠ Public Safety - Monica Bell

She suggests that we should denaturalize the police. By that she means that the police as we know it is a fairly modern invention. It is only in the recent decades that we’ve come to rely on one body to do all that we expect police to do in our society. As it currently exists, we have created the organization, but in light of that fact, police do more harm than good in so many communities across the country. We can remake the police or develop alternative approaches. As well as, avoid the repression and oppression that many communities experience from the police historically and in the present day.

Police may be less effective at controlling crime than traditionally believed, but they do perform other important tasks, such as educating the public in crime prevention, reducing some fear in the community, and potentially providing support to victims. International experience proves that prevention is the most effective method to counter crime. It includes a set of measures that aim at establishing, limiting and removing the criminogenic factors, combined with crisis models that intervene, to help those in need.


Vic Stizzi


“A community that populates solidarity is a community that is protected, not policed.”

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