Saturday, August 27, 2011

Freedom, Policing, & Governing

Roadkill just knocked out a post that I think could be easily misinterpreted, and amidst the performance of the can-can by a double-dozen drama llama in reacting to the misinterpretation rather than the real message, something fairly important may be lost.

The police are the people, the citizenry. They are not a military force, and to the extent an individual or department forgets that, they are deserving of every bit of contempt that may be summoned - and more.

"the police are the public, and the public are the police."
- Sir Robert Peel, founder of modern policing (1788-1850)

The core principals Peel advocated focused on accountability, ensuring that the police are not simply arresting job-lots to make quota, and the accountability of the police to the public - not authority.

That, in other words, police are (or should be) officers of the peace rather than enforcers of unlawful or unconstitutional laws and orders, and that they should not be so inflated by their authority as to believe themselves any more special than any other member of the public.
  • Every police officer should be issued a identification number, to assure accountability for his actions.
  • Whether the police are effective is not measured on the number of arrests, but on the lack of crime.
  • Above all else, an effective authority figure knows trust and accountability are paramount.
Recent events in Canton, OH and elsewhere have created reasonable cause for many to worry that large numbers of police officers have effectively come to regard themselves as elite "super-citizens" immune to the rule of law in some cases, empowered to make the law as they go along in others (through perjury, threats, abuse of authority, and/or simply insuring a lack of witnesses), and in yet other pathologies, either ignorant of or oblivious to their obligation to decline to follow unlawful or unconstitutional orders from superior authority (elected or otherwise).

And some few of us worry that, ultimately, policing (and officer safety) depends upon the support and cooperation of the public of which said law enforcement officers and organizations are *members*, and - if pushed far enough - support may be withdrawn at much more than a mere budgetary level.

The final guarantee, that I think that the very same "some few of us" hope never to see in our lifetimes, rests on what Roadkill refers to - that, sooner or later, the most officer-safety oriented officer needs to go home - assuming someone will sell or rent to an officer of a department or organization held in vast contempt. And a landlord can *always* find an acceptable reason to refuse to rent if they are sufficiently motivated.

That officers have loved ones, and that when that most dreadful of lines is crossed, they become in the eyes of the angry legitimate proxy targets (thankfully, it's been a very long time since we've seen much of this in the United States...but it doesn't take a terribly deep gaze abroad to find places where this occurs).

When 500 bars in Michigan are now refusing service to elected officials in protest of a smoking it such a stretch to believe similar hostility might not be shown to other organizations held in vast contempt?

This is not a place I want to see my country go, as I believe it is at best hazardous to the freedoms we hold dear and places both officers and citizens at risk of harm to persons and property. A police department viewed as an occupying force is neither a good thing, likely to endure, or likely to be effective.

I view such a course of events with all the enthusiasm I would have for a civil war or a barbed wire enema. Filled with badness, pain, and suffering with very little hope of any improvement.

I do not believe things have reached the state where things would go that far south. But with the rash of recent incidents that breed contempt for both the law and its enforcers, we come ever closer to that unhappy day.

If we don't want to see that day (or a great many other possible bad days available), we need to get involved. We need to ask inconvenient questions. We can no longer stand aside and assume that all is well.

We must support our friends in law enforcement that ARE paragons of Peelian principles, gentleman and ladies of the badge possessed of ethics and morals. I continue to believe that they and like-minded folks represent the majority of those in law enforcement, but it only takes a small minority screwing up with sufficient vigor to bring on the stupid we'd all like to avoid.

And it appears that it is time for another great swell of reform to purge the petty tyrants and thugs from our law enforcement organizations and elected office - ideally a purge accomplished by judicial and electoral means.

That discussion, ladies and gentleman, was the foundation of the recent great hooraw on GBC - and it is one we vitally need to have with each other online and off. And I believe it is that which RK addresses, and which I try and come at from a different direction.

In short, a plea for common sense - that we REALLY don't want to see our nation go there, and are worried we may have idiots dancing on the cliffs edge about to pull the rest of us over with them.

1 comment:

Roadkill said...

Good post. I must admit, I skipped ahead to the end game in my own. There are so many more layers to this. The 500 bars in Michigan is an excellent point. Retaliation doesn't have to be violent. It simply might mean that no will aid you when you need it, too. The retaliation cycle could kick start all too easily and then it spirals into something much worse.