Police Brutality: Stop Trying to Cure the Symptoms!

August 18, 2014 | By | 13 Comments

Police Brutality: Stop Trying to Cure the Symptoms!

The despicable events in Ferguson, Missouri centering on the cold-blooded murder of teenager Mike Brown, has drawn more attention to the subject of police brutality, to the point that even establishment shills like Arianna Huffington are saying things have gotten out of control. The fact that police in the United States have grown increasingly militarized over the last 40 years, and almost no politician or pundit ever took notice at all, is sickening. Nevertheless, isn’t it good that they are finally dealing with reality, even if it is late in the game?

Yes and no.

“YES,” because when it comes to social ill, any public attention is better than no attention at all.

And “NO,” because many people aren’t actually dealing with the problem: they’re dealing with the symptoms.

Take this interview of former LAPD deputy police chief, Stephen Downing by RT as an example. According to both the host and Mr. Downing, the problem with police militarization stems to 1990, when the U.S. Dept. of Defense began funneling weapons and equipment to police departments around the country. Downing goes on to elaborate how this, combined with ‘lack of training’ and misunderstanding of the “police mission,” leads to police forces that essentially act like hammers, and therefore see every problem as a nail.

Here is a question we should ask ourselves: what exactly is “militarized police”?

Is it:

  • Body armor?
  • High powered rifles?
  • Gas masks?
  • MRAPs and other armored vehicles?
  • Grenades?

All of those are things that militarized police use and equip themselves with, but it would be ludicrous to say that these things are the police themselves.

Take away all of the gear and what do you have? A saint?

Take away all of the gear and what do you have? A saint?

Let’s look at the picture of the proud “warrior” to the right. If you were to strip this guy of his armored vest, M4 rifle, drop-leg holster, grenades, helmet, etc. what would we be left with? A saint?

No. He’d still be the same, lumbering thug, a man who thinks it’s perfectly fine to kill people (or “just” lock them up for years) for suspicion of smoking a certain plant, or selling a product or service without state permission.

There are a lot of memes going viral through social media that convey a similar idea. A meme might show a picture of Barney Fife, next to a picture of a SWAT team, and ask “When did cops start looking like this?”

So, if you take the armor off, does Bubba in the picture become Barney?

This emphasis on military equipment is to miss the point.

“Militarization” consists in mindset, not in equipment. The police didn’t change their mission because they received the equipment. Rather, the national government ensured police received the weapons, tanks and equipment they needed to fulfill the mission the political class had tasked them with.

“People who lament the militarization of police too often come at the issue from the false mindset that police are supposed to be something other than what they in fact are…”

The War on Drugs, for example, did not start after police acquired SWAT teams. The SWAT teams were created to prosecute the Drug War. State policy preceded training and equipment, as should be obvious by remembering the creation of the DEA, the ATF and the FBI that long preceded. In the FBI’s case, how many citizens were talking about “militarized national police” in 1908?

This isn’t a new problem, that’s for sure.

People who lament the militarization of police too often come at the issue from the false mindset that police are supposed to be something other than what they in fact are: enforcers of legislation that is drafted by and for the benefit of a parasitic class that lives off of acquiring “donations” from people under threat of violence (taxes).

In short, the police are part of the enforcement arm of a protection racket, as people like Thomas DiLorenzo have argued irrefutably.

  • Police aren’t “confused” about their mission. They are fulfilling their mission precisely every time they serve a no-knock warrant or bust up a protest.

 

  • Police aren’t lacking in “proper training.” To the contrary, they are given all the training they need in how to employ their weapons with deadly effect, how to talk people out of their 4th and 5th Amendment rights, and how to escalate otherwise benign situations to the point where arrests can be made and property seized.

United States police are modeled in their structure and mission scope in the likeness of the British Metropolitan Police, as envisioned by Sir Robert Peel. If anyone takes the time to examine the history of Peel’s “reforms,” it becomes clear that the first mission of police is to enforce state control of the populace, i.e. to quell dissent, stop sedition, and to ensure collection of taxes.

“What we are witnessing in Ferguson, New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, and in all of the other cities of the United States is not devolution from the original mission of the police. It is the fulfillment of a mission.”

Peel had the task, as Chief Secretary in Ireland, with finding an efficient way to ensure the Crown’s control of rebellious Irish subjects, and he set about building a force that could accomplish the pacification mission that state armies and state-hired mercenaries had been assigned.

In light of this, it should be no surprise when people bemoan the ever more brutal police in the United States, and say things like: “The police are like the Army now! We might as well have the military on our streets!”

That was always the point.

What we are witnessing in Ferguson, New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, and in all of the other cities of the United States is not devolution from the original mission of the police. It is the fulfillment of a mission. Police equipped with military weaponry are simply one part of the vast machinery of state that has been constructed over many decades: the DHS with its harassment and warrant-less investigations of citizens; the NSA with its domestic spying; the ATF with its registrations and seizures; the FBI with its synthetic “terror” groups; etc.

Talking about “reforming,” or “providing better training,” or “scaling back” police is like saying that the local mafia’s soldiery needs to be “better trained,” or “reformed.”

No, the answer should be to not let the mafia run your neighborhood to begin with. Mafia soldiers don’t need training in how to be more polite, or to use their brass knuckles (the “less than lethal” option, using police parlance) more than their guns. They just need to leave decent people alone.

Isn’t it long past time to try some alternatives to Peelian-style policing? Forget the body armor, MRAPs, assault rifles and all the other symptoms; let us cure ourselves of the disease afflicting society to begin with.

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Category: Legislation & Law, Military, Police, the Free Society

About the Author ()

Jack has been a Liberty activist since 2007. His life experiences have convinced him that establishing a Free Society, based on Private Law, is a necessity for humanity's survival and progression.

Comments (13)

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  1. Roscoe says:

    Fire city and state police NOW !!!! OR, You will fight them later……… The city and state police are NOT Constitutionally sanctioned entities. They do NOT uphold their OATHS. They have NO REASON to exist. The FOUNDERS did not include police in the Constitution for the very reasons that the people are suffering under them today. FIRE them TODAY!!!!!!!! If they refuse to go, then do what ever it takes to be rid of them………… Cut sheriffs back 2/3rds. THEN and ONLY then will you get effective peace keeping. NEVER until………

    • Jack says:

      That’s a good point about the Constitution. Many people do not realize that modern policing is scarcely 100 years old in concept.

      Fire protection and fire fighting services also used to be provided on a market basis, when people purchased fire insurance.

      Eventually, the state got into the act. In the same way municipal govts. brought utilities and facility services under “public” finance and control (“public works,” “public utilities” i.e. protectionism), fire-fighting went from privatized and volunteer to state financed and controlled. And of course, policing followed as local sheriffs were incorporated into state police forces, or abolished altogether.

      I think when people discover that your local police dept. is actually a private, corporate entity, given a charter of legal monopoly by the municipal/local govt., then they also begin to see that this explains poor/abusive policing.

      Police know they have a monopoly on the ‘service’ they provide, and that there are no alternative firms that people can turn to.

      • Darren says:

        Jack & Roscoe,

        When it comes to the CONstitution an often overlooked fact is that there’s only 1 place where it mentions how the feds can enforce federal law, Article I, Section 8, clause 15 “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union…”. That’s it. It doesn’t say create the FBI, IRS, BLM, DEA, ad nauseum.

  2. Darren says:

    Great article Jack, but it needs to go further. The idea behind having militia based law enforcement & defense is to keep the govt disarmed & the people armed. When the govt has its own armed organizations (call them police or standing army doesn’t matter) they have the power to oppress. The only way for liberty to be safe is to have an institutional structure that doesn’t give anyone the power to take away our freedom. Please consider the arguments I made in “The Standing Armies of Yesterday and the Police State Today” http://theinternationallibertarian.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-standing-armies-of-yesterday-and.html

    • Jack says:

      Darren,

      I am not familiar with proposed systems of “militia based law enforcement & defense” (well, to be specific I have examined militia based defense systems, e.g. Swiss Cantonal system and early American systems, but am not familiar with militia based L.E.) so I will definitely check out your presentation.

      I agree with you completely when you wrote:
      “When the govt has its own armed organizations (call them police or standing army doesn’t matter) they have the power to oppress. The only way for liberty to be safe is to have an institutional structure that doesn’t give anyone the power to take away our freedom.”

      That is why I advocate for the Free, i.e. state-less, form of society. Anarchism, to use another (though unfortunately now, largely misunderstood) term.

      Here is another post of mine you might be interested in regarding your ideas of alternatives to state-based defense and law enforcement: Palestine and Israel: there is no state solution, except for the “No State” solution.

  3. Juan del Sur says:

    I’m glad to see that the people are waking up to the fact the police are not there to protect them or to solve crimes, but to serve and protect the moneyed elites who created the police in the first place.

    In America, as probably elsewhere, it is past time when the people should arm themselves (once again) and disarm the cops. I realize that is tougher to do than to suggest, simply because the wealthy elites control so much of our lives, and yes, that implies we live on a giant plantation and that the master/slave tradition is still alive and well in America. We are the slaves. How do you like them apples?

  4. Doug Nusbaum says:

    I have yet to see, on any of these sites that lament situations similar to this, that the root causes of all of these problems statist problems are not liberals who have almost always distrusted the enforcement part of the state, but the (pick your favorite combination) moral, religious, fundamentalist conservative etc. etc. ignorant fools who have always wanted the state to enforce their variation of morality.

    It was conservatives (remember Nixon? — followed by Just Say No Nancy) who started the “war on drugs”. It was conservatives who did, and often still do, want to legislate sexual behavior. So, if you are a conservative and are having a problem with the “police state”, and want to see the cause of this problem. Well, just go to the nearest mirror

    • Jack says:

      Doug,
      I agree and disagree with you. On the one hand, I don’t see in the historical record that liberals have “almost always distrusted the enforcement part of the state.” Liberals and conservatives both tend to support an intrusive and socialistic state apparatus when they feel it advances their agendas.

      I don’t even like to use the term “liberal” or “conservative,” because I think these terms keep the discussion bounded. I’m more concerned with defining people as either Statists, or Non-Statists; people who prefer coercion and violence as a means of advancing agendas/goals, or people who support peaceful persuasion, argument and networking as means of advancing their goals.

      However, with that said, I completely understand where you are coming from when you said:
      “the (pick your favorite combination) moral, religious, fundamentalist conservative etc. etc. ignorant fools who have always wanted the state to enforce their variation of morality.

      It was conservatives (remember Nixon? — followed by Just Say No Nancy) who started the ‘war on drugs’. It was conservatives who did, and often still do, want to legislate sexual behavior.”

      This is true.

      The fact is that the U.S. has grown more and more into a totalitarian state largely because of religious zealots who wish to have the U.S. national, state and local govt. operate as a THEOCRACY. Attempting to legislate morality and social norms has been a huge boon to the growth of the state and contributed much to its abusive and intrusive nature.

      You might enjoy another one of my posts, Liberty for Me but not for Thee, where I explore what you are hitting at.

      • Doug Nusbaum says:

        My first drug (when still legal) was LSD — then I worked my way down to alcohol. I say this to date me. And back then the police were NOT the friend of hippies. There are occasions when “liberals” call upon the state to do things, but is is usually to simply get back to what would be common law. What conservatives call onerous regulation, such as forcing companies to stop poisoning the air and water, is what kind of existed before corporations purchased the related government and made it legal for corporations to poop in the local water supply, and poison the air. (Trust us, lead is harmless)

        Originally, if someone poisoned the water or land, those affected had recourse to courts. Then corporations purchased the government who said that it is OK to dump your toxic waste into the water supply. Perhaps you can provide counter examples.

        Another way of saying this is that when “liberals” “support an intrusive and socialistic state apparatus”, it is usually, like with environment situations to prevent actual measurable harm to actual populations. Strip mining forests really does harm actual people. Paying someone for sex does not.

        Maintaining unsafe working conditions gets people killed. So does selling tainted food. In general there are few people other than moral/religious conservatives, and large business interests who promote big government. Again, perhaps you can provide a few examples. I doubt that they account for more than 10 percent of the laws or government money.

        You might want to read my essay orwells boot. (Those two words in any search engine will return my article as #1 after paid links, and usually under the name factotum666). Its success lead me to the process of writing a book. While doing research I have concluded that the problem is neither government nor religion, but rather hierarchy which creates and magnifies stupid and psychopathy. Gov and religion are just two sides of the one concept of hierarchy.

        • Jack says:

          “While doing research I have concluded that the problem is neither government nor religion, but rather hierarchy which creates and magnifies stupid and psychopathy.

          I’m inclined to agree with you.

          The idea that we must subordinate our own thinking and self determination to some “leader” above us has put humans into a lot of trouble many, many times.

          Check this essay out by Max Borders: The End of Politics – Part Two. It asks some good questions I think.

          I’ll try to find your essay. I’m curious about your book as well. What’s the title?

          • Doug Nusbaum says:

            I will check your links. My book is tentatively titled The Big Book of Big St00pid. I use the word st00pid which I define as Mensa Level stupid, like Rumsfeld, or the rocket scientists who ran the shuttle program. Those who refuse to learn, but have high IQ’s.

            I belong to an atheist group, and it is amazing how many think that religion serves no purpose. But evolution does not work that way. If something is almost ubiquitous in a population then it serves a purpose, or did at one time. That is also true for hierarchy.

    • Henry says:

      Just because people have an (R) after their names doesn’t make them conservatives. Richard “Wage and Price Controls” Nixon was no conservative. George W. “Banks Too Big to Fail / No Child Left Behind” Bush was no conservative. Even Ronald “Remove Regulation of Risky Investments by Banks but Retain All FDIC Insurance Guarantees” Reagan wasn’t always a great conservative.

      And while we’re talking about people who want “the state to enforce their variation of morality,” let’s not forget Democrats Al and Tipper “Parents’ Music Resource Center” Gore, or Mike “Don’t Bogart That Slurpee” Bloomberg (who was a Democrat, then a Republican, then an Independent), or Barack “Use My Website to Snitch on Your Neighbors’ Political Opinions” Obama.

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