'Abolish the police!'? What happened when a major American city tried that a century ago

Nothing better reveals the depth of the madness afoot in the land than the demands to defund or completely abolish the police.  It's bad enough for airhead celebrities, something worse for the formerly prestigious New York Times, and downright alarming for office-holders state and federal to indulge the fantasy that the thin blue line is all the separates us from anarchy, mob rule, and ultimately a dictatorship spawned by the need to restore order.


Photo credits: YouTube screen grabs (cropped).

The experience of Baltimore following the Freddie Gray riots, when the police there stopped aggressively engaging in minority neighborhoods, ought to be enough to close the case.  Even progressive thought leaders at the New York Times and Pro Publica called the results a "tragedy."

[I]n the years that followed, Baltimore, by most standards, became a worse place. In 2017, it recorded 342 murders — its highest per-capita rate ever, more than double Chicago's, far higher than any other city of 500,000 or more residents and, astonishingly, a larger absolute number of killings than in New York, a city 14 times as populous. Other elected officials, from the governor to the mayor to the state's attorney, struggled to respond to the rise in disorder, leaving residents with the unsettling feeling that there was no one in charge. With every passing year, it was getting harder to see what gains, exactly, were delivered by the uprising.

Mind you, the police were not abolished or even defunded.  They were simply chastened and behaved as the demonstrators demanded — with a light hand and withdrawing at times from neighborhoods where they were denounced as racists.

Fortunately, there is a real-life experiment in complete withdrawal of police protection that occurred a century ago that is available to learn from.  The Boston Police Strike that began September 9, 1919 led to immediate looting and chaos as soon as the sun went down.  In August, Boston police had voted to form a union affiliated with the American Federation of Labor but ran up against opposition from Boston police commissioner Edwin Curtis, backed by Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge.  After attempts at compromise failed, the cops walked off the job at 5:45 PM.

In the language of the day, "hooliganism" broke out, with widespread looting.  The following day, the mayor of Boston asked Governor Coolidge to supply the force of the state militia, and he agreed.  But in the time it took to raise a force that eventually numbered 5,000, about three times the size of the Boston Police, looting increased on September 10, and continued for 9 days until the militia was able to quell it.

Coolidge took a hard line and built a national reputation.  His words, "There is no right to strike against the public safety, anywhere, anytime," propelled him to the vice presidential nomination of the Republicans in 1920 and eventually to the White House.

I suggest that progressive had better be careful what they wish for.

 
Massachusetts state militia awaiting assignment to police duties (source).

These facts are well documented.  See A City in Terror: Calvin Coolidge and the 1919 Boston Police Strike and A City in Terror: The 1919 Boston Police Strike.

Nothing better reveals the depth of the madness afoot in the land than the demands to defund or completely abolish the police.  It's bad enough for airhead celebrities, something worse for the formerly prestigious New York Times, and downright alarming for office-holders state and federal to indulge the fantasy that the thin blue line is all the separates us from anarchy, mob rule, and ultimately a dictatorship spawned by the need to restore order.


Photo credits: YouTube screen grabs (cropped).

The experience of Baltimore following the Freddie Gray riots, when the police there stopped aggressively engaging in minority neighborhoods, ought to be enough to close the case.  Even progressive thought leaders at the New York Times and Pro Publica called the results a "tragedy."

[I]n the years that followed, Baltimore, by most standards, became a worse place. In 2017, it recorded 342 murders — its highest per-capita rate ever, more than double Chicago's, far higher than any other city of 500,000 or more residents and, astonishingly, a larger absolute number of killings than in New York, a city 14 times as populous. Other elected officials, from the governor to the mayor to the state's attorney, struggled to respond to the rise in disorder, leaving residents with the unsettling feeling that there was no one in charge. With every passing year, it was getting harder to see what gains, exactly, were delivered by the uprising.

Mind you, the police were not abolished or even defunded.  They were simply chastened and behaved as the demonstrators demanded — with a light hand and withdrawing at times from neighborhoods where they were denounced as racists.

Fortunately, there is a real-life experiment in complete withdrawal of police protection that occurred a century ago that is available to learn from.  The Boston Police Strike that began September 9, 1919 led to immediate looting and chaos as soon as the sun went down.  In August, Boston police had voted to form a union affiliated with the American Federation of Labor but ran up against opposition from Boston police commissioner Edwin Curtis, backed by Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge.  After attempts at compromise failed, the cops walked off the job at 5:45 PM.

In the language of the day, "hooliganism" broke out, with widespread looting.  The following day, the mayor of Boston asked Governor Coolidge to supply the force of the state militia, and he agreed.  But in the time it took to raise a force that eventually numbered 5,000, about three times the size of the Boston Police, looting increased on September 10, and continued for 9 days until the militia was able to quell it.

Coolidge took a hard line and built a national reputation.  His words, "There is no right to strike against the public safety, anywhere, anytime," propelled him to the vice presidential nomination of the Republicans in 1920 and eventually to the White House.

I suggest that progressive had better be careful what they wish for.

 
Massachusetts state militia awaiting assignment to police duties (source).

These facts are well documented.  See A City in Terror: Calvin Coolidge and the 1919 Boston Police Strike and A City in Terror: The 1919 Boston Police Strike.