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18 Jun, 2020 18:15

Abolishing the police because they’ve failed rape victims is declaring open season on women

Abolishing the police because they’ve failed rape victims is declaring open season on women

US police have failed to protect rape victims, but singling them out allows the corrupt system, which enables that failure, to continue its abuses by other means – and leaves vulnerable women without any protection at all.

Making the argument for feminists to climb on board the police-abolition bandwagon, the Guardian’s Moira Donegan reasons cops are not only incompetent when it comes to handling rape cases – they’re part of the problem. She holds up the high rate of domestic abuse in police households and cites several notorious examples of cops raping women in their custody, declaring the protector has become the predator and insisting the only solution is to end the institution once and for all.

The question of who will arrest and prosecute rapists if the police are abolished is pushed aside – even though it’s asked in the title of her article – and the reader is left with the impression that police are actually responsible for more violence against women than, well, rapists. Listening to her argument, however, could put women in real danger.

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‘Cops are terrible at solving rape, therefore we should get rid of them’ is the kind of cringeworthy hot take that’s suddenly everywhere as cries to “defund the police” begin to drown out the “Black lives matter” chants that initially defined the George Floyd protests. But like the “defund the police” movement itself, scapegoating cops for the justice system’s abysmal treatment of sexual assault victims is a dangerous oversimplification.

It’s true that police have a terrible record of mishandling rape cases. Tens of thousands of rape kits sit untested in the labs of many large cities, and 13 percent of victims decline to report sexual assaults because they believe police won’t help them, according to the Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN). But the same organization reports that less than a quarter of all sexual assaults are reported to police – how are cops supposed to solve crimes they don’t know about?

Like the issue of police violence in general, the issue of rape and domestic violence by police is best addressed by holding officers accountable to the same laws they’re tasked with enforcing. If cops know they can get away with abusing their power, the profession will continue to attract predators who want legal cover for their predation. Yet prosecutors continually shy away from going after rogue cops because they need them to make cases. We’re told time and again that this is an insurmountable problem, but it should be a simple matter to create an independent prosecutor tasked with handling cases of police misconduct - including the kind of negligence that sees rape kits stack up in warehouses by the thousands. Accountability is the only way to change behavior, yet politicians bristle with excuses for why this is impossible, often traceable to campaign contributions by police unions. Dismantling the entire police apparatus because authorities fear the political clout wielded by police unions is both cowardly and stupid.

The failure to protect the victims of sexual assault is clearly a systemic one. While police shoulder the blame for the fact that just a fifth of reported sexual assault cases lead to arrest, prosecutors take on less than a fifth of those cases, and under half of the resulting charges end in a felony conviction. By the end of the process, according to RAINN, 995 of 1,000 predators get away with it. While this situation is clearly a disaster for women, it’s very telling that the judges and prosecutors who regularly let rapists walk free are being spared the scrutiny currently being leveled at cops.

Calls to abolish the police are often vague about what comes next. Many of the celebrities who initially popularized the police-abolition movement employ private security in the form of bodyguards, while the wealthy corporations currently using Black Lives Matter as a marketing gimmick have recourse, in the event police are actually defunded, to private security firms like G4S – whose own record of hiring and arming predators is truly heinous. While some activist groups substitute various models of “community policing” that shift the onus of security onto neighborhoods, others acknowledge that drafting civilians to surveil their neighbors is merely substituting one oppressive model for another.

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Looking into some of the “solutionsproposed by abolish-the-police organizations, it’s clear why they soft-pedal them. Are rape victims supposed to accept “restorative justice,” in which victim and perpetrator are brought together to talk it out, as a viable alternative to punishment? The notion that all predators will dry up and blow away as soon as police hang up their badges is clearly absurd, yet police abolitionists speak of diverting all funding into community programs as if cops create crime. Certainly, many crimes - robberies, burglaries, forgeries, drug-dealing - are motivated by economic factors, but rape isn’t one of them.

There’s no doubt US police have let rape victims down, just as there’s no doubt the US is over-policed and over-incarcerated. That the “land of the free” should have more prisoners per capita than anywhere else on the planet is a sick joke, and criminal justice reform is long overdue. But not every crime can be prevented by hiring more social workers and investing in communities. It takes time to change society. With the economy going down in flames and millions of unemployed Americans desperate to put food on the table – to say nothing of thousands of prison inmates back on the streets “because coronavirus” – who will protect the vulnerable while crack teams of social workers armed with nothing but Harvard degrees go to work turning the country’s predators into gentle giants?

Disbanding the police skips right over desperately-needed but common-sense reforms to embrace a nuclear option that leaves American women with no protection beyond a Karen with a clipboard.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.