Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Police Reforms

 

November 1, 2021 | View PDF



In the beginning, when we first established policemen, their purpose was for one thing – to function as peace officers – to protect the citizens from thugs and thieves, and to deal with them accordingly. In those days, our laws were much simpler, and any reasonably intelligent person could understand them and their purpose – to protect people and their property from the wrongdoings of others. The police had no problems with befriending the public, and with only the rarest exceptions of abuses, they did their duty of protecting the people.

Here is a classic Norman Rockwell illustration of a policeman in a diner chatting with a boy running away from home. Obviously, he is attempting to persuade him that running away is a very stupid idea, but doing so in a very friendly manner.

Back in those days, a policeman's job was to keep the peace and fight crime. He would go after the criminals and arrest them, but he did not molest or threaten other people. Instead, he made friends with many people he saw on a regular basis. Whenever he had idle time, he passed it by either socializing or just leaving things alone.

Contrast that scenario with the actions of many police today. When officers become idle, they often go "fishing" for revenue-producing violations that did not even exist back in the day. Instead of becoming our friends, they have in many ways become our adversaries. Instead of devoting all of their time to protect us from criminals, they have largely become criminals themselves – by pulling people over, wasting their time, even searching their cars (and sometimes trashing them), and often issuing citations for technical but perfectly safe "offenses." Yes, you could call it highway robbery, except our laws are now written to make it perfectly legal for them, and at the same time make it illegal for the victims to resist.

With civil asset forfeiture, they can "legally" fleece innocent people for huge sums of money, often many thousands of dollars. The process of reclaiming seized money is so convoluted and tedious, the victims must hire expensive lawyers for mere hopes of recovering any of it.

On the other hand, police are often lackluster in dealing with many serious crimes, especially property crimes. We would expect burglaries and break-ins, especially of homes, to be at least near the top of the crime priority list. We would expect the police, with the permission and co-operation of the victims, to check the places for fingerprints and other evidence and then file detailed reports, including any video footage, if any. That would be followed by investigating the fingerprint files, and known thieves' mug shots. That is their job. But the responses most burglary victims have received from police have been, "There's nothing we can do" (or a similar comment).

Individual policemen are not the only ones to blame. Many are ordered to do their dirty work by their superiors. Some are even subjected to quotas. Some departments have prioritized raising revenue above protecting the public.

Prior to about 1970, traffic fines were modest – overtime parking – $1, stop sign – $2, red light – $5, speeding – $10, reckless driving – $25. The most extreme penalty was $100 for "drunk driving." That was obviously drunk, sloshed and swerving all over the road drunk, not a 0.08% alcohol content with no obvious impairment. Compare those to the runaway fines we now pay for minor and perfectly safe "violations." Court costs are often added to jack them up even more.

The victims of excessive fines and penalties often suffer serious hardships. A single ticket can be as much as a week's wages, or more. People can have difficulties buying food for their children and paying their rent.

Heavy-handed traffic law enforcement can actually endanger public safety. Too many police can be a serious distraction. Instead of keeping their attention on the road, motorists feel compelled to watch their backs.

People who really want to be safe should learn defensive driving – how to spot and avoid others who might cut in front of them and cause an accident. It is far more effective and safer than intense enforcement.

How can we stop this tyranny? For starters, we should elect our police officers. We elect our sheriffs that way. As a result, we have fewer abuses with sheriffs and their deputies than police departments. In the real world, "Roscoe P. Coltrane" would have never been re-elected after his first term.

Officers and their departments should never be allowed to keep even one nickel of revenue generated by traffic fines. Reforming that in itself would be a disincentive to excesses and abuses.Furthermore, that money could be earmarked for an independent victims' defense fund and a web site where they can post reports of their experiences and redress their grievances.

Another reform could be a procedure for ticket victims to recall abusive officers. Each citation would have boldly printed on it the officer's name, badge number, phone number, and e-mail address. It would also bear the e-mail of an independent site to collect and publicly report the votes and comments from the citations' recipients.

Each recipient would receive an anonymous vote for every $50 and fraction thereafter for each citation, and he could cast them as "acceptable" – the citation was valid, "neutral" – uncertain or indifferent, or "not acceptable" – the citation was frivolous, abusive, or at least not valid. The recipients would also be allowed to add comments describing their experiences. Every week, the total votes given to each officer, with his name, would be posted on the internet for the entire public to see. The postings would reveal the number of citations from each officer and a description of each. However, the recipients' names would be kept confidential.

Officers would remain in good standing as long as the "not acceptable" citations remain minimal. Any that issue too many would be suspended, or even fired.

All law enforcement officers should understand that traffic stops and citations lie at the bottom of legitimate law enforcement priorities. Their real duty is to suppress and fight crime – genuine crime – crimes that have genuine victims. And when any officer becomes idle and lacks anything useful to do, he should take a break and enjoy his coffee and doughnuts, not make a nuisance of himself.

Police should not molest people for consensual actions. Adults have their rights to do stupid things, and unless they actually violate other people, they should be left strictly alone.

What about reforms?

1. STOP the insane "war" against drugs. Like alcohol prohibition, drug prohibition has been a national disaster. It has killed many thousands of people and has destroyed millions of livelihoods. At the same time, it has enabled dangerous drug cartels to prosper.

2. STOP civil asset forfeiture. All people have a right to be secure in their persons and property. Civil asset forfeiture is one of the most horrendous crimes that has ever been conceived. It is both unconstitutional and criminal.

3. STOP abusive and excessive traffic law enforcement. If someone does something that is obviously reckless and dangerous, it is OK to pull him over. But minor infractions that endanger nobody should be left strictly alone.

4. DO prioritize enforcing the real crimes that have real victims. If an action does not have a victim, then leave it alone. ELIMINATE all victimless crime laws.

5. PROTECT people's constitutional rights. Establish strong laws and stiff penalties against all law enforcement personnel who violate this most fundamental law of our nation.

6. TRAIN more officers to be detectives. Most police departments have too many on traffic duty and not enough investigating crime.

7. The people should ELECT police officers instead of allowing others to appoint them. Hold elections every two years. Ideally, elect every one; at a minimum, elect all of the higher officials.

SOURCES

1.Bastiat, Frédéric. The Law, 1850

2.Dempsey, John, Georgia Officer Fired for Not Writing Ticket, April 12, 2018.

https://bearingarms.com/john-d/2018/04/12/officer-doesnt-write-ticket-gets-fired-n32245

3. Peters, Eric, Pay The Fine – Or Pay The Shyster, November 1, 2014.

https://www.ericpetersautos.com/2014/11/01/pay-fine-pay-shyster/

4. Mississippi Supreme Court Busts Lying, Ticket Quota Cop, August, 2015,

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2015/08/no_author/lying-ticket-quota-cop/

5. National Motorists Association, NMA Reboot: Let’s Talk about the “Q” Word, July 17, 2015.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2015/07/no_author/the-cops-worst-kept-secret/

 

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