|This is an interesting topic. The subject of law enforcement is one of the few areas in my life where I have found myself becoming disintegrated (i.e., experiencing a widening gulf between my intellectual and emotional responses) rather than becoming more integrated. I will explain this further in a moment.|
First, let me say that intellectually, I am in general agreement with Mike and Robert that it is as unfair to make sweeping generalizations about the entire profession of law enforcement as it is to do so for any other group. Just as with most professions, there are certainly some good officers, some bad ones, with the great majority being mediocre in their commitment, ethics and general abilities. We do end up forming broad conclusions about the overall effectiveness and appropriateness of law enforcement based upon our general awareness of its global activities, but probably more importantly, based upon our personal encounters and experiences with the law.
I was raised to have respect for police officers and during my youth I developed reverential attitude for the concept of justice and correspondingly, for the law. By college I was fully integrated; I held law and law enforcement in high regard intellectually and thinking about them felt good too!
Intellectually, I know that right now our armed forces are fighting to defend this country from attack, and I know that there are organizations like the FBI, NSA and CIA working to thwart clandestine operations and capture dangerous criminals. There are policemen out there working to solve crimes, intervening in domestic disputes and rescuing people in distress. I am also aware that the courts are currently adjudicating cases that allow people to settle matters without having to resort to physical violence. However, I have had some practical encounters with the law that have not lived up to my ideals - not even close.
For example, I have had two situations where I resorted to the court system in an attempt to resolve disputes. Much time, energy and cost were expended and neither I nor the other party ever received anything close to a satisfactory resolution. I have spoken with a number of lawyers over the years and in response to my first question to them, each one has informed me that they have nothing to do with justice and if that's what I am looking for, I won't find it here. It is their view that the court system is about "winning" and nothing more. It's a cliche, but the only winners I have seen are the lawyers themselves. The net result of these encounters has been so bad that I would do just about anything to avoid dealing with the legal system in the future. I once had a friendly conversation with a police officer who recounted with pride the fact that he once suspected a person of being a drug dealer but could not prove it. So, in an attempt to drive the individual out of the area, he would tail him in his car and repeatedly give him speeding tickets for going one mile over the speed limit. Now that's due process.
Mike Erickson wrote:
> For instance, having owned a home for more than two decades and having
> spent a great deal of that time working on it to improve it I have very
> little regard for the local building inspectors. They are indeed "revenue
> collectors" and add little or nothing to the value or quality of the work
> being done in their jurisdictions. It's a protection racket if you ask
I'm an architect, have to deal with these guys too, and I agree with your assessment. But how about this. Where I live we have little violent crime, although there are occasional robberies. The police force does not patrol my neighborhood, but instead spends most of its time setting up rotating speed traps. In addition, they keep lowering the speed limit all over the place. I'm talking about reductions from 30 or 35 MPH to a 20 or 25. One of these traps is right in front of my house so I see the results. It turns out that that we citizens are just a bunch of punk criminals who drive with reckless abandon since you can hear the siren go off over and over again as they generate a steady stream of tickets as people race down the hill at well over the posted 20 MPH. The net result is that our police are principally "revenue collectors" as well. They are no more committed to road safety than the inspectors are interested in building safety.
Now I take these direct experiences and couple them with observations of the not infrequent reports in the press of police brutality and corruption, the steady stream of abuses of individual rights in the courts, etc., and it all results in a serious emotional toll. Somewhere within me remains that intellectual appreciation for the theoretical concept of justice and the rule of law, but my emotional responses to local law enforcement and the legal profession has become quite negative. I no longer experience any sense of "trust" that I would get a fair hearing or treatment from the police or the courts. Intellectually, I know that I have no serious reason to be paranoid, but I'm sorry to say that I now have a visceral negative reaction whenever I see a policeman. It's been a long journey getting here, but here I am. This state of disintegration is unfamiliar territory for me and quite disconcerting. To achieve this result in someone such as myself, points to a very serious problem.
The law enforcement profession is fundamentally different from other professions and I believe it should be held to a stricter code of conduct. Unfortunately, from my experience and observation, that does not appear to be the case. If I interpret Tibor correctly, I think his concerns may fall in this area, where he observes police being mandated and willing to operate in areas far outside their justified boundaries with no effective protest from within or without their ranks and with ever dwindling checks on where there boundaries lie. I too, think this is something of great concern.
Having though about this issue for some time, let me briefly outline an idea that I think might offer a partial solution.
The police and the courts are fundamentally different from the other branches of law enforcement (army, navy, CIA, FBI, supreme court, etc.) in that they are the organizations with which we citizens must directly interact. We rely on the police for direct protection and the courts for direct adjudication of conflicts. These two areas are extremely important in our lives, and yet we, as individuals, have little control over either. I believe that this lack of direct control is responsible for a large amount of dissatisfaction and resentment on the part of the citizens, while the monopoly status of the police and courts leads to great abuses.
What I suggest is that all police and court activities be privatized as follows.
Competing police agencies would be established and each individual would contract with the organization of their choosing for the level of service they desired. If you were dissatisfied with the service, you could switch agencies. The competition would insure a wide array of choices in the services at the lowest price, and the fact that you were now the direct customer of the agency would focus their concern and responsibility directly where it should be - upon you. In the same way, all local courts would be privatized, basically becoming arbitration agencies. All legal and civil disputes and crimes would be resolved by paying for contract and conflict resolution on a case-by-case basis or possibly by purchasing a contract (like an insurance policy) that guaranteed service when a case arose. All fines would remain at this level, being distributed to victim rather than accruing to the government. Again, competition would yield an array of options and the desire for more clientele would lead the agencies to strive for prompt and just resolution of cases. A second tier of governmental oversight agencies would then be established. These agencies would monitor and regulate both the private police and arbitration companies to insure that they were operating objectively within the laws established by the legislature and higher courts. In this way, many of the competitive benefits of the traditional anarchist approach are realized while still maintaining a governmental structure that sets and enforces an objective set of laws.
The real benefit of all this is that individuals would no longer interact directly with the government and the government would have no direct contact with the citizens. Individuals would be empowered with direct and immediate control over the protection of their rights and the government would no longer benefit financially from involvement in police or court activities. Therefore, there would be little incentive to legislate useless laws or set excessive fines. Since there would be no governmental position in the courts, there would be no incentive for abusive grandstanding for political gain as happens today with public prosecutors.
Of course this is a very brief outline and there are many details that would need to be worked out, but I think this type of system offers some promise. Also, this doesn't directly address Tibor's genuine concern about the police enforcing inappropriate laws, but that's a constitutional and legislative matter and needs to be dealt with separately.
So what do you think?