https://qz.com/602682/the-case-for-disarming-americas-police-force/

In 1974 American criminologist Paul Takagi, an expert in police use of force and community policing, proposed an idea that still seems radical more than 40 years later. “Perhaps,” he said, “the only immediate solution at this time is to disarm the police.”

Ending police access to armored vehicles is one thing. Taking guns out of the hands of the police is another issue altogether. In fact, Obama’s restrictions on military equipment aside, most of the official responses to police brutality and violence today have involved providing police with new kinds of equipment, from Tasers to body cameras. The conversation always seems to be about how to give police more gear, not less.

The idea of taking guns away from police is likely to receive a highly skeptical response, even from people concerned about the problem of excessive force. In a nation with so many millions of guns on it streets—both legally and illegally–asking police officers to give up their own weapons presents a logistical and practical quandary.

“There is simply too much violence being committed by criminals with firearms to even consider an unarmed police force in the United States,” Louis Hayes, a working police officer who also trains fellow officers as part of the Chicago-based Virtus Group, tells Quartz. “I doubt there is a community, a city, a local government, or a police union in the entire nation that would seriously consider disarming its protectors.”

Yet there is some evidence that disarming the police might be less dangerous that it sounds. According to statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, of the 27 law enforcement officers murdered in 2013 in the line of duty, only 6 were able to fire their weapons at assailants. Another two were killed after their firearms were stolen and used against them. (Note: several dozen other officers died while on duty during this time, the majority from car accidents.) In many cases, it seems arming officers isn’t a black and white issue of officer safety. Especially since the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report reports that 461 people were shot and killed by police in 2013.

It’s worth noting that London armed more police officers in the aftermath of November’s Paris attacks—but 92% of the city’s 31,000 officers still won’t carry guns. The goal, according to a statement by police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, is to “make sure that our firearms response continues to come from a group of highly specialist and highly skilled officers.”

“Arming police officers with guns runs the risk of striking fear in the hearts of the public and undermining the great public support the Icelandic police has enjoyed thus far.”

Oddson noted that public trust in police is about 80% in polls, although it did drop slightly recently following news that some police departments had secretly acquired firearms from Norway. (The guns have since been returned.)

Of course, Iceland is a small, homogeneous country that’s very different from the US. But its success in reducing violence through disarmament still seems worth considering. Gregory Smithsimon, professor of sociology at Brooklyn College, argued in a recent article at _metro politics _that arming police tends to feed violent interactions in marginalized communities.

Guns aren’t just a danger in and of themselves. They enable a policing philosophy built on violence and forced compliance, rather than one founded on respect, trust and consent. That philosophy affects every police interaction, even those that don’t involve actual shooting.

“US police wearing their gun all the time has an important ideological effect,” Smithsimon tells Quartz. “It makes police feel like they are never civilians, never normal people, that they’re always cops, and that they’re never safe without a gun. I don’t think that’s the most productive frame of mind for civilians who are charged with keeping our cities safe and calm.”

Hayes, the police officer from Chicago, suggests that another possible step could be for some jurisdictions to introduce “unarmed non-sworn positions, commonly called Community Service Officers.” Hayes tells Quartz that these types of officers could handle “many of the lower risk, non-emergent calls that burden so many police force.” Such a solution would require substantial changes in staffing and training—but with such a radically broken system, radical solutions may be necessary to reduce the risk of unnecessary police shootings.

“America is moving more and more rapidly toward a garrison state, and soon we will not find solace by repeating to ourselves: ‘Ours is a democratic society,‘” Paul Tagaki wrote in 1974. These words have proved prophetic: In many respects, the US has transformed itself into a garrison state. Undoing that transformation will be difficult. But we can start by taking steps to re-train, and in some cases even disarm, our vast police force.