Adam I. Gerard

Police Reform Ideas

Just a few quick thoughts.

NOTE: I consider myself mostly politically agnostic (independent, moderate). I'm increasingly concerned about the divide between law enforcement and the communities they serve (and which are protected by them).

I am neither pro-police nor anti-police. I think the following rough ideas would be generally beneficial to all.

By "reform", (emphatically) I do not mean disbandment, elimination, or removal. I favor slight tweaks including pay improvements and procedural changes (per the below).

Merit-Based Pay (Plus Salaries)

I've been in the Pacific Northwest for the better part of the last three years or so (and recently returned to the Midwest where I'm from).

In many cities (particularly on the West Coast), conflicts between large cities and municipal police departments have abounded. For example, police were denied basic pay increases in Seattle 2018 leading to a mass exodus from the local police department.

No doubt, that conflict led to declining morale, reduced overall workforce quality, and reduced new hires. And, that was before COVID-19 and the numerous protest disputes that emerged circa-2020.

I grew up in the 90's when government shut-downs were common. I remember my Dad being denied basic cost-of-living/inflation-based pay increases as a Judge for several years in a row despite the fact that new Lawyers where making twice as much right out of Law School. Being a Judge is a difficult calling and often thankless job.

The good news: contract disputes have been resolved (particularly in light of COVID-19 which has taken a disproportionate toll on first-responders).

Generally speaking, higher wages for persons employed in civil service has been shown to demonstrably:

  1. Reduce corruption and bribes - generally, the more money someone has from a paycheck, the less they'll turn to crime for more money.
  2. Increases hiring - better pay means greater competitiveness particularly in tight economies (for example, 2019 pre-COVID-19 when unemployment was at its lowest in 40 years).
  3. Retain talent - it's one thing to hire the best, it's another thing to keep them. Particularly in difficult, high-stress, roles.
  4. Encouraging long-term thinking (over rash action) decreases cost to a department (by reducing threat of death, law-suit, etc.).

The Upshot: pay people well and keep salaries increasing at a reasonable rate.

But also quickly penalize corruption, abuse, and brutality.

Additionally, I think we should base pay, in part, on positive outcomes not just hours logged. If you want the best society, to live in the best society, and to create the best society, you need to have the best people governing, managing, and enforcing society. Per the above, this has three aspects: (1) we must incentivize the best to be the best and to attract them into government, (2) we must hold them to high standards (3) but reward them for their successes.

We tend to obsess over (2) but rarely seem concerned about (1) or (3). I think stacking better benefits and incentivize positive outcomes is a step in the right direction.

"Positive Outcomes" is an admittedly opaque phrase (and, I as philosopher-engineer, have disdain for vague gesture-phrases like that). Let me try to be a little more specific. Is there a way to implement these kinds of beneficial changes while also keeping police departments more accountable? Probably.

Here's one quick sketch:

  1. An independent review board of random community members, police themselves, individuals impacted by police interventions/interactions, and/or other stakeholders would determine the efficacy, utility, metrics, etc. on an annual basis.
  2. This would tie police pay (but only a specific bonus) to democratic transparency and accountability.
  3. Egregious actions could be condemned in the same way (resulting in no or negative bonuses being assigned).
  4. The specifics details about how merit pay would be assigned could and probably ought to be developed by each community.

So, a police officer who saved someone's life, protected a business, and did an otherwise standard job would receive a significant boost in pay helping them to focus on being a better police officer.

So, a police officer who exercised excessive force by accident (where no clear racial motive was demonstrated) would be penalized but may not lose their job.

So, a police officer who deliberately shot and killed an innocent person would not only lose their job, potentially face criminal charges, but would also be penalized in losing their merit pay.

Robotic Intermediaries

Regardless of one's opinion of law enforcement, it's difficult to deny that being a police officer is a challenging calling:


Is there a way to keep police officers safe, reduce police brutality, and to delay instantaneous, violent, confrontations? (Most shootings and/or wrongful deaths apparently occur very quickly. So, it's within that brief time-frame that robotic intermediaries might be the most useful at reducing injuries or deaths.)

I propose the use of robotic intermediaries for any potential life-threatening encounter. Currently, robots are mostly used to find survivors (during a natural disaster), defuse bombs, or conduct surveillance. In seems to me that in many of the encounters above, a robot proxy might have prevented someone from being killed.

Such robots would be:

  1. Heavily armored and camera-equipped but lightly armed (stun guns or less lethal weapons only).
  2. Used to always mediate violent or possibly violent confrontations (until human operators are required to step in). Serving a Federal Warrant, arresting a violent criminal, etc.
  3. Fitted with multiple, streaming, cameras so that their immediate situation would be relayed (streamed live) in real-time to multiple (allowed, authorized) third parties. Police can keep a cool head, stay out of the way until needed, and get verification about accuracy/best course of action.

Short violent interactions are the proximate cause for most police burnout, protests, news stories, violence, police brutality, etc. Removing the symmetry of human interactors might delay some of these violent conflicts until they deescalate.

If violence breaks out, a robot is robust and replaceable. People aren't.

Police labor shortages, savings can go to merit pay or pensions, etc. seem like relevant concerns.

When used with the idea above, agent decision-making, and objective evidence can be used to determine merit-pay commendations.

Other Suggestions

The following mostly great ideas should be slightly tweaked:


With slight modifications some of the more controversial aspects of the above can be addressed and removed.

For example, a universal, general, negative tax or stipend should be provided to incentive legal cooperation and compliance with the law and lost by degree of crime.

I believe the spirit of the ideas above can be slightly modified and combined with a general Universal Basic Income that would see a vast reduction in U.S. violence and poverty.