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The key to better policing: less powerful cops

A couple of things. First, I don’t believe that the officers in the case were recreating the scene. I honestly don’t think that excuse is all that believable. To me that’s as believable as a three-year old with chocolate on his face swearing he didn’t eat the cake.

Secondly, the statement from the chief should have gone without saying.

“In light of recent events, you are reminded to activate your body worn camera at the initiation of a call for service or other activity that is investigative or enforcement-related (e.g., crime scene, car stop, or pedestrian stop). If you are on-scene where a search for evidence or property inventory is being conducted, your body worn camera shall remain activated until you leave the scene so as to capture all of the circumstances surrounding the recovery of evidence,” Davis wrote.

“In the event your body worn camera is not activated during the recovery of evidence, under no circumstances shall you attempt to recreate the recovery of evidence after re-activating your body worn camera.”

Oh really Mr. Police Chief, you don’t say? There’s no reason to remind an officer that if they don’t properly collect evidence don’t fake it.

Finally, the only way to protect against corruption in law enforcement isn’t cameras, nor is it training practices, nor is it even picking only the best people to be cops. Though all of those things are good ideas, the only real way is to limit the power of police by limiting the number of laws we have and their enforcement.

It’s a simple idea. A cop can’t abuse his power if he doesn’t have it.

We need police, they are useful and a required part of society. Police and laws in one form or the other are a natural outflow of humans gathering in groups. Ogg the cave man says that Grog stole his best smashing bone, Grog says he didn’t. They could fight, but Ogg is much smaller and wouldn’t stand a chance. Ogg is also the best fisherman the clan has so it would be a shame to lose him. So they decide that they better look into it. As society becomes more and more complex there were more and more things to look into. Someone had to be designated to do it full-time. It’s a simple idea and no wonder all societies in the world have some sort of law and someone to enforce it. Perhaps that’s the chief, tribal elder, or shaman, but the concept is the same regardless of the title one uses to describe the function.

We need police to be sure, but we don’t need police to do all the things they currently do.

Even the people who are anti-police call them when they need them and understand, deep down, that they are necessary. Perhaps this is why, when it comes down to it, they are afraid to reduce the power of the police. I think as a society people generally like the idea of having someone to protect them. This is why the death of a police officer, or firefighter in the line of duty receives such attention from communities. Their protector has been killed. That’s a big deal and it makes them feel vulnerable. If the guy who is supposed to protect me needs protection himself we’re in a lot of trouble.

In a way,  advocating for reducing the perceived amount of protection is against human nature itself. From an evolutionary psychology perspective it’s no wonder it’s so difficult to get people to support liberty. They see it as being contrary to the built-in purpose of society.

If people could come to understand that protection and liberty are not mutually exclusive perhaps they could spend some time trying to find that right balance. Of course all police action should fall squarely within the confines of the Constitution. Things like asset forfeiture would go away. I also feel that most of the fines set by municipalities relating to traffic violations constitute a violation of the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Constitution. $400 for driving in a carpool lane or more is more than a person should have to bear for such a harmless infraction of the law. For many people, perhaps most, that amount of money hurts far more than it should and far more than the violation hurt anyone. Police should not be used to enforce things like selling lemonade or loose cigarettes. Most civil actions should be dealt with by a civilian and the courts working in conjunction. The police can stand by to keep the peace but they would not be the primary point of contact.

The point is, tossing everything at the police means the police are making contact after contact all day long. Even the best cop, by the law of averages, is going to have a higher likelihood of a negative contact. Reducing the contacts also increases the amount of time an officer can spend on each contact, especially with the victim of the crime. Officers are often rushed, running from radio call to radio call. Many of those calls are things they really don’t need to be going out on.

Whatever the specifics look like will be up to each community but I hope that people begin to take notice that the thing wrong with policing in America is largely the fault of lawmakers who have put more and more power into the hands of police in the name of a security level the community doesn’t really need.

It doesn’t harm anyone else if you don’t wear your seat belt. If you have a tail light out, that can be hazardous, sure. However, if an officer pulls you over for that he’s not pulling you over for something that actually did happen but rather for something that potentially could happen. If there is an accident or harm done then police could include the broken tail light as a citation, the accident being proof that it was harmful. Those are minor examples to get you thinking of more. Police should not be there to protect us from ourselves or to protect us from every eventuality of harm life might or might not throw our way. It requires a little bit of bravery for a society to reduce the power of police but a little contemplation, I think, would reveal that broken tail lights and seat belts aren’t criminal in nature, aren’t harming people on a regular basis, and if they do then that can be dealt with – when they actually cause an issue. Do this and you get a better police force, better, service, cost savings, and fewer negative contacts.

To make this happen people have to want it though. They have to let their law makers know. Problem is, when you speak about something like a seat belt law, most people don’t see any problem with it and the answer you get is usually something like this, “Well, people should wear their seat belt!” That’s a difficult attitude to overcome on the road back to freedom. The answer should always be, “Why is that any of your business? Don’t be a busybody.”


Body Cam Footage

On Tuesday, the Baltimore Public Defender’s Office released footage it says shows officers planting drugs and staging their discovery for body cameras, the second such video to be released in the last two weeks. Prosecutors have now dropped more than 40 felony cases that relied on testimony from the officers seen in the videos.

Source: Police Commissioner to Baltimore Cops: Please Don’t Use Body Cams to Falsify Evidence

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