The desire to hold police accountable is the same attitude of vengeance which underscores policing; we should instead look towards restorative justice ideas when considering both sides.
Policing critics and activists often work from the same attitudes towards police as that professions employees take towards us while on the clock and within its culture. Both sides embody a worldview of vengeance in which somebody needs to pay for a perceived transgression, with police and critics representing two different angles of the same perceived phenomena.
For example, a self-described police accountability activist may wave a sign that says “Fuck the Police” while a police employee, adorned with a thin blue line tattoo, may view anyone not participating in their profession as a threat to be managed and/or neutralized. Different views but same attitudes, culturally weaponized against the other through increasingly hostile rhetoric that makes the obstacle of mutual understanding seem nearly insurmountable. Both parties seek to place blame and create bad guys rather than restore the dignity and well being of those injured by the damage of criminals and policing alike.
Restorative justice is a method of resolving the consequences of aggression through peaceful mediation that is focused on the damaged party, instead of on the offender and legal system itself. It is solution based, rather than punishment centered, and seeks the rehabilitation of the transgressor when necessary in order to prevent future transgressions, but never mere punishment. A broader view of topics connected to restorative justice include community based initiatives to restore opportunities to people, which can preemptively address future acts of aggression. Safety nets are better than dragnets, but must also be based on local and sustainable foundations that cannot be corrupted by opportunists in centralized bureaucracies with no address in their madness.
If we can expand our view to include police employees as victims of the policing institution, then we might also decide to address them with an attitude of understanding and restoration. As we discuss the end of their livelihoods and a lifetime of activity they have devoted themselves to, we must remember that they also paid a price for their part in this mess and are rightly disturbed that we are seriously discussing the end of that which they have for years — potentially decades — attached their loyalty to and become dependent upon, often at their own expense.
Rather than simmering in an attitude of vengeance as equal opposites, let us be unified by the spirit of restoration. Let us work together to create ways to make whole the victims of criminals and policing alike, while giving law enforcement employees a hopeful role to play in the transformation and future of community-based services.