Abolish the Police?

Readers of this blog know that I have reservations about the Ferguson, Missouri case. In short, I think the grand jury was correct in its assumption that the prosecution did not present compelling evidence to allow for the indictment of Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of unarmed African American Michael Brown. That very well might be the prosecuting attorney’s fault and, if locals feel that way, they probably ought to launch a recall vote. Given what the grand jury saw and heard, though, non-indictment appears to be the right call. (It at least leaves open the possibility of a future indictment.)

I have no such reservations about an incident on Staten Island—there is no justification whatsoever for Officer Daniel Pantaleo to apply the banned choke hold on Eric Garner that resulted in his death. Garner wasn’t engaged in dangerous activity—he was selling individual cigarettes on the street, an activity common among panhandlers and poor folks. It’s illegal, but let’s not confuse this with an assault on public order. Pantaleo is, at minimum, guilty of involuntary manslaughter in any court less biased than cover-your-ass police (CYA) culture.

Here in Massachusetts we have our own scandal involving cops getting away with murder. As it turns out, quite a few Bay State cops busting drunk drivers are cruising the streets while intoxicated and several have been involved in fatal accidents for which they were never charged. Here’s how you do it. Drunkenly kill a motorist or two, wait for an investigating officer to arrive, refuse a breathalyzer test, and rely upon the CYA ‘professional courtesy’ of your fellow officer. In Massachusetts, refusing to take the test is an automatic 180-day suspension of license, an inconvenience but hardly on par with the 13 to15-year sentence a Hampshire County judge just imposed on a Central American immigrant—who confessed, by the way—for the DUI double fatality he caused. Can you say ‘miscarriage of justice?’

It’s time to take action and one way do so is simply to abolish police—fire every one of them, including the “good” cops. I’m not suggesting some misty-eyed human-nature-is good-we-can-take-care-of-each-other utopian solution. I’m suggesting we nod to reality and admit that policing is an outdated concept that can be more efficiently and fairly done by technology and the US military.

We don’t need traffic cops any more, nor have they ever been particularly successful in making the streets safer. Here’s what does work: tamper-proof speed generals in vehicles that prevent engines from accelerating over a set speed, and traffic cameras that record bad driving. The latter have been in place in Canada and Europe for years. Want to tool down the interstate at 90 mph? Your fine will come in the mail. I can hear the anguished screams of “Big Brother” and “invasion of privacy.” My response: “Grow up! This battle is as over and lost as the Vietnam War.” Have we learned nothing in the post-9/11world? The simple truth is that you are being watched. Or did you think eye-witnesses solved the Boston Marathon bombing? Or that changing your password protects you from phishing? Or that laws prevent access to your “private” information? Or perhaps you think your license plates aren’t already being recorded. Ever go through a tollbooth? Ever drive by a ‘secure’ building? Cameras are everywhere, so don’t confuse privacy rights with your desire to drive like an idiot whenever you wish. If you want safer streets and maximum patrol coverage, lose the cops and bring on the cameras. Need backup? Drones can police the roads better than cops in cars.

Another outdated concept is ‘community policing.’ It’s pretty simple: bad guys don’t want to play basketball with cops and, if they’re bad enough, no one else in the community is going play tattletale; they’re smart enough to know that Officer Friendly can’t protect them from gangs. Moreover, community policing spawns the problematic CYA culture of Massachusetts, Staten Island, and (maybe) Ferguson.

Who can protect us better than rogue cops and their CYA accessories? How about the US military? In an earlier post I suggested an Italian-style carabinieri. It's not a perfect solution, but it does trend better than today’s police culture. There are 1.1 million full-time cops in the USA and another 100,000 part-timers. The US military is much larger: 1.37 on active duty and another 850,000 reservists.

In an earlier post I noted that the military is lousy at winning foreign wars, so let’s let soldiers train on American streets. Save the dough spent on cops and assess states and municipalities fees that go into the Pentagon budget. Among the advantages:

·      The US military is the most integrated body in American society, so no more white cops with seniority in black neighborhoods.
·      Police forces are increasingly militarized. Doesn’t it make sense to let those trained in this technology use it instead of amateurs?
·      Military personnel can be rotated regularly, which discourages corruption and payoffs. I’ll take dispassionate cops over community policing.
·      The US military has more trained investigators than any prosecuting attorney.
·      The military is, as a rule, more disciplined, physically fit, and duty-bound than most police forces.
·      It’s likely to be cheaper. (For a start, taxpayers wouldn’t be double-billed for high tech gear.)
·      It can't be any worse than what we already have.

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