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Dealing with abusive, corrupt police

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Over at his website, Ari Armstrong of Colorado provides his six steps towards ending police abuses. Ari is a thoughtful guy, and a prolific writer and interviewer. He is libertarian (of, I believe, a minarchist persuasion).

His steps are worth contemplating:

  1. Elect District Attorneys [State’s Attorneys in some places] ready to prosecute abusive cops.
  2. Record the police.
  3. Support reform of qualified immunity.
  4. Support the quick firing of abusive cops.
  5. Support the repeal of unjust laws.
  6. Educate and protest.

What do you think? Please don’t get me wrong – these are not bad ideas. They just aren’t great ones. I think that ALL of these have been tried, in several places; even the reform of qualified immunity. And they all can help – at least some.

But often, it is too mild, and too nuanced. Elect DAs that are… liars and understand that campaign promises don’t have to be kept? That are ambitious and planning for higher office? And know that being tough on cops and not on “crime” is a killer to those ambitions?

Recording the cops has worked SO well in recent incidents and in traffic stops. Where judges seem to be selectively blind. (Ari is speaking of private citizens recording police – NOT of bodycams for cops, which don’t seem to work all that well, as I’ll discuss below.)

Reform of qualified immunity is not enough. What, you want to tell cops they are okay to stick a broomhandle up some poor guy’s rectum, but wrong if they permanently injure him or kill him? We need to get RID of qualified immunity: cops committing crimes – of violence or any other sort – must be treated like everyone else. (Yes, I understand the downside. But just like we recognize that the essential foundation of American justice, “innocent until proven guilty” sometimes lets the guilty go unpunished, this will “allow” some crimes to go without prosecution and some criminals to escape man’s justice.)

Firing abusive cops is essential. But still doesn’t seem to be working too well as far as controlling them and preventing abuse by cops. If we are to have police, we need to hire those who are NOT prone to abuse and violence in general, and we need to periodically test them to see if they are going that way. AND prosecute them.

Repealing unjust laws is perhaps the greatest need. “Crimes” which have no victim except the person themselves – if then – make everyone disrespect and ignore the laws, and the cops trying to enforce these are by their very nature being abusive and oppressive. Almost as good as repeal is to more and more ignore unjust and stupid laws.

Educate, yes. Protest against police abuse and brutality and corruption? Maybe. Sometimes. But not much. Protests really do not work all that well. They are excuses for rioting and looting, even if done with the best intentions. And they reinforce the tendency of police to use force – and the attitude of both the local powers-that-be AND voters to swing to support the cops. As we saw in the 1960s and 1970s. Backlash, anyone?

And education has to be very precisely applied and done in such a way that it isn’t just propaganda: that it is fact-based and with controlled emotions. The audience being taught is also important: or perhaps, audiences. The police themselves (with caveats – see below), the civic and state authorities, people overall, business and property owners, and young people.

Ari himself mentioned some thoughts posted by Samuel Sinyangwe, which you can read here. It is Samuel who provides data showing that bodycams do NOT significant change the nature of police interactions with people. And shows that “better training” and indoctrination against “implicit bias” also seems to be lacking in effect. (I’ve pointed out that it is not that police (or their “civilian” bosses) are racist – they are just arrogant and uncontrolled. They will go after whatever targets of opportunity they are allowed to.

Samuel suggests some things that could be beneficial. More restrictive (AND enforced) policies for police in using force and dealing with people. Demilitarization of police forces: not disarming, but getting rid of weapons of war that belong in the hands of the people and the military and NOT bloated-up bureaucrats. Police union contracts. (Actually, I argue for getting rid of police unions, period.) “Predictive policing of the police themselves.” As I understand it, testing and evaluating police employees to predict if they are likely to go ape (berserk), to seek treatment or get them off the job. Find and use alternatives to police for preventing crimes – and actively work at prevention, not police response. Establish non-cop alternatives for dealing with mental problems: especially with 911 calls. Establish accountability of police forces. (Actually, Samuel explicitly wants federal – DOJ – investigations of local police forces. I think that method of establishing accountability is really stupid.)

He goes on, from what is clearly a liberal/progressive (regressivist) point of view, to touch on a few more things: “end broken-window policing” and “end for-profit policing” and “community representation.”

Some of his ideas do have a certain appeal and might even work. And a few are critical.

However, both Ari’s and Samuel’s points do NOT address the root cause: coercive, meddling, and micromanaging government with a spurious claim of monopoly of force.


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