Juvenile conceptions of “deterrence” promote excessive displays of police force and violence against protestors

Almost every major problem relating to American criminal justice can be traced to simplistic and self-defeating ideas about “deterrence.” This is no less true with respect to the sanctioned use of police brutality as a response to street protest. From Maggie Koerth and Jamiles Lartey of The Marshall Project:

Researchers have spent 50 years studying the way crowds of protestors and crowds of police behave—and what happens when the two interact. One thing they will tell you is that when the police respond by escalating force—wearing riot gear from the start, or using tear gas on protestors—it doesn’t work. In fact, disproportionate police force is one of the things that can make a peaceful protest not so peaceful. But if we know that (and have known that for decades), why are the police still doing it?

“There’s this failed mindset of ‘if we show force, immediately we will deter criminal activity or unruly activity’ and show me where that has worked,” said Scott Thompson, the former chief of police in Camden, New Jersey.

Maggie Koerth & Jamiles Lartey, Why So Many Police Are Handling the Protests Wrong, The Marshall Project (June 1, 2020).

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