Back in 2014, Eric Garner died when he was put in a suppression hold by New York City police. Garner was selling loose cigarettes without collecting taxes on them, and Bill de Blasio demanded a cut of that action. Had it not been for de Blasio’s greed, Garner would be alive today.
Years ago, it was estimated that our thicket of laws has created a situation where the average American commits a felony every single day. This is just laws and regulations passed by the federal government, not counting state and local laws. So if we are concerned with police brutality, one way of reducing violent confrontations with the police is to reduce interactions with the police.
This means we should not only examine existing laws, but we should be wise when passing new laws. This is why it was alarming when Eric Holcomb proposed a regulation that threatened people with six months in jail for not wearing a mask. While I support the mask mandate and would have been fine with extending it a bit longer, do we really need to be sending men with guns to enforce it?
So yes, the Minnesota law that bans people from hanging anything from their rear-view mirrors should be repealed. However, it is simply not true that Daunte Wright died because of enforcement of that law. First, Wright was pulled over for expired plates, not for an air freshener, so that narrative is factually wrong. Wright had an arrest warrant for armed robbery and assault, and police would have tried to arrest him at some point. He would have almost certainly resisted arrest and tried to flee. Placing the blame on petty regulations ignores the reality of the case and weakens the argument for loosening those petty laws.
Nonetheless, limiting negative interactions with the police would reduce tensions with poor and minority communities. Let the police focus on crimes that do actual harm, because enforcing petty regulations breeds resentment and raises the stakes of police encounters. Rather than “abolish the police,” have police focus their efforts on where they are actually needed. Police should not be concerned with air fresheners.