Controlling the Cops   Leave a comment

Do you lie awake at night in constant fear a fire will break out and nothing will be done to put it out?

Yeah, me either.

Brad has been saying this for a long time and I just decided to explore it recently. Firefighters aren’t patrolling the streets in their large red trucks looking for fires. They hang out in the station waiting for a call to come in. They still manage to arrive at the scene of a fire within minutes of an emergency call.

So why aren’t police departments run in a similar fashion?

If you think about it honestly, a whole lot of dead people would still be alive if police stayed back at the station instead of roaming the streets looking for trouble. No one had called 911 asking for protection from Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Zachary Hammond, or Philando Castile. No judges had issued warrants for their arrests. At the time of their arrests, all three were just walking or driving down the street, minding their own business. They were detained in what are generally considered “routine” but are in reality wholly unnecessary encounters with police.

There’s a lot of exercised discussion being expended right now over whether three of these victims were treated differently because of their race, but I don’t see a way to end that discussion with any sort of practical solutions.

So Brad has a bold … even radical solution … in keeping with  our proclaimed status as “land of the free” Take cops off the streets. Allow them outside the building only when responding to a 911 call or serving a legitimate warrant issued by a judge.

Everyone would be safer, including the police officers themselves. Ultimately, I don’t think the problem of police brutality stems from how they do their jobs. It’s that we ask them to do that particular job. A free society shouldn’t be asking armed agents of the state to patrol the streets, keeping its citizens under 24/7 surveillance. It encourages police to prevent crime by any means necessary. That flies in the face of the foundation of our form of government. The 4th and 5th amendments were written to keep the government from even trying to prevent crime. They assume the government is powerless until a crime has already occurred. The 4th amendment even provides further restraint on how the government investigates after the fact.

Defending oneself while a crime is occurring is left to the citizen. It’s not a police responsibility. The Supreme Court has agreed that protecting oneself is what the Second Amendment is all about.

The job we ask police to do today annihilates the 4th amendment’s principle for existence. Police surveilling all of society all of the time is as unreasonable a search as there can be or ever was. Only decades of becoming accustomed to the idea allows us to see it any other way.

There is no historical basis for it. The police departments we know today are a product of the 20th century. Prior to that, peace officers were generally dispatched in response to a complaint by the victim of a real crime, usually with a warrant. Contrary to legend, this did not lead to chaos, not even in the “Wild West” or the “Last Frontier”.

In fact, the first time I remember thinking the cops in our community were not adequate to the task of protecting the town was when three soon-to-be-rapists tried to enter our home. Mom scared them off with a gun while I called 911. I was informed that the cops were all tied up at a bar fight in downtown. Fortunately, Mom had already taken care of our needs. However, those same three men showed up at another house where they gained entry and raped a girl while her father was forced to watch. Years later, I spoke to one of the bartenders who witnessed that fight. He swore the cops started it by harassing a prostitute who had stepped inside the bar to warm up. And then they were too busy quelling the fight they caused to respond to an actual need of the public’s. Had they responded to my call, their presence in the vicinity might well have prevented the rape of the neighbor girl.

Would life where cops were only allowed to respond to reported crimes be significantly less safe? I doubt it because I grew up in a community where there were few cops and they mostly did exactly that, until a population explosion provided State funds to vastly increase the number of officers, who then had to justify their existence by looking for trouble — i.e., starting a bar fight so they could break it up. The laws that might go unenforced are largely those that shouldn’t exist anyway. Yes, more people might “get away with” driving 66 mph in a 55, but people would be free to call the police if a reckless driver were truly threatening public safety. The same goes for thousands of other victimless “crimes” currently enforced by police.

Freedom matters. It’s THE founding principle of our nation. We need to get back to organizing society around it. Redefining the role of the police would be a great start. Let’s restrict their interactions with the public to serving warrants and answering emergency calls. We’d all be freer and safer and cops could do the job they joined the force to do. They could spend their down time watching videos on the Constitution and how to properly interact with their ultimate employers — the public. As they passed people on the street on their way to real crimes, they’d no longer be looking for people about to commit a crime. They’d soon stop viewing all people as potential criminals and once more begin to view us as neighbors. And, in time, people would stop viewing the police as harassing oppressors and begin once more to view them as people with a job to do that shouldn’t impact our quality of life unless we have committed an actual crime that might cause an actual victim to call the police.

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