Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 524, June 21, 2009


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Toward a Police Reform Movement
by L. Neil Smith and Rylla Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

[PUBLISHER'S NOTE: different versions of the following article have appeared in The Libertarian Enterprise on two previous occasions, beginning twelve years ago, in 1997. This version has been prepared for Neil and Rylla's forthcoming book which has recently been retitled Where We Stand: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis.]


When you see three police cars pulled over at the side of a city street to deal with a single bicycle rider, you know there are too many cops. When all the heroes on TV carry badges and a government franchise, you know we're in real trouble as a culture.

Every day we hear of some act of brutality—people beaten and kicked when they're unconscious, or "Tased" until they die—carried out by federal, state, or local "law enforcement" (a terrible misnomer, since most of the laws enforced today are unconstitutional, and therefore unlawful in themselves) against individuals or groups whose only crime was the exercise of their unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human rights. "Policemen" at every level of government have become, more than any mere military organization, the "standing army" hated and feared by America's Founder Fathers.

There are reasons for this, foremost among them a shocking failure on the part of those Founders to provide for proper enforcement of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights. The warning signs were already plain, years before this century's "Reichstag Fire"—the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001—which gave the government the excuse it needed to turn the entire country into a prison.

Today's freedom movement (Libertarians, Constitutionalists, and a growing number of "progressives") is attempting to identify the causes of America's ills. As long as they are being addressed, there's no harm in ameliorating symptoms, as well. You may get a CAT-scan to see why you suffer migraines, but you also take an aspirin.

Accordingly, we suggest these steps—many of which libertarians have thought about for decades—to begin dealing with the signs by which we understand that we're all living in a police state. Any one of these measures (or all of them together), may be pursued by concerned individuals and organizations who find them interesting and worthwhile—without regard to their political ideology—as conventional legislation, constitutional or charter amendments, initiated referenda, or as a part of settlements in lawsuits.

In the short term, what's important is to generate as much public discussion of these matters as possible, so the authorities among us will understand that, if they don't change their ways, their ways will be changed for them.


First, there being no provision in the United States Constitution for a national police force of any kind—and in compliance with the 9th and 10th Amendments, as well as Article 1, Section 8—all federal "law enforcement" and investigative agencies must be abolished and their present and former employees subjected to legal scrutiny of their current and past activities for possible criminal behavior and crimes against the Constitution. As "interim" measures, these agencies and their employees will be forbidden to use or carry weapons of any kind (except off duty as ordinary citizens), and will be permitted to operate at all only under close supervision by local police.

All military weapons, military vehicles, and military aircraft presently in use by these agencies—or by local police—will be surrendered for distribution to the people who paid for them.

Independent civilian review boards, perhaps one in each of America's 3088 counties—will be established to insure that federal conduct remains fully consistent with the Bill of Rights. No pleas of secrecy or "national security" will be permitted to impede access to government documents (including routine police reports) or their investigations in general. Willful misunderstanding, for political or any other purposes, of any article of the Bill of Rights on the part of any elected or appointed official will be considered prima facie evidence of an intention to commit a crime against the Constitution.


All police officers at state, county, and local levels will be required to wear uniforms on duty and be forbidden to act in a professional capacity when off duty, or wearing civilian clothing. All uniforms must bear individual name patches and badge numbers easily legible from a distance of fifty yards, and it will be unlawful to cover or obscure them in any way. It will also be unlawful for police officers to conceal their facial features with any sort of helmet or mask, or to wear camouflaged or military-style clothing.

All vehicles employed by local police must be clearly marked and readily identifiable, with highly-visible registration numbers. With the exception of emergency medical and rescue services, agencies at every level of government will be forbidden the use of helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, or unmanned drones which, in recent years, have become instruments of state terrorism and statist oppression.

It is long past time to demilitarize the police. To reestablish a proper relationship between them and the people they're supposed to serve, officers may not possess, carry, or use any weapon prohibited to civilians within their jurisdiction, nor carry a weapon of any kind off duty, concealed or otherwise, until all laws forbidding civilians to do so in exactly the same manner have been repealed.

In general, so they will be dependent once again on the good will of armed civilians, police officers must be limited to the traditional six-shot revolver and four-shot pump shotgun. They must be forbidden to use or carry rifles, Tasers, stunguns, or automatic weapons of any kind. Likewise, bullet resistant clothing and equipment—which seem to have engendered an increasingly contemptuous disregard for the lives, property, and rights of civilians—will be forbidden.

Handcuffs or other restraints will not be used gratuitously on anyone arrested for nonviolent crimes—especially for the purpose of a humiliating public display. Arresting officials will be held fully and individually responsible under civil and criminal law for any loss of reputation suffered by arrestees later proven innocent.

In "siege" situations (which may not be initiated merely because an individual expresses a wish to be left alone, locks himself in his house, or is known to possess weapons) authorities will be prohibited from interrupting telephone or other utilities, or restricting free access by the media to the subjects of their operations, No incendiary devices, purposely built or otherwise, may be employed by the police.

To avoid conflict of interest and prevent over-zealous enforcement of statues and ordinances, all fines and traffic revenues will be divided equally between the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International, provided, of course, that they adopt a view of the Bill of Rights which is consistent from article to article.

All illegal activity by the police should be treated as felonies and punished accordingly.


Individual members of both the military and police must be required to prove themselves at regular intervals by publicly taking an oath to uphold, defend, and enforce—without reservation—each and every separate article of the Bill of Rights, as written and intended by the Founders.

Any member of the military or police who refuses to obey an order which, in good faith, he or she considers unconstitutional or unlawful will receive executive clemency and, should the order prove to have been unconstitutional or unlawful, an appropriate reward, promotion, and reinstatement to full pay and benefits.


The American people will have their privacy again, whether the government and government-chartered corporations want them to or not. In general, owing to a long-established pattern of abuse by police agencies and individual officers, all eavesdropping, wiretapping, Internet surveillance, infrared photography, and other invasions of privacy—or any procedure, including taxation, that requires disclosure of private financial information—will be forbidden.

It was a grave mistake to extend such privileges to government and its surrogates in the first place. For the foreseeable future, the Fourth Amendment must be read as if the word "unreasonable" did not appear in it. Given the unmistakable injunction of the Second Amendment, possession or use of any device for the detection of personal weapons—by government at any level or corporations will be illegal and severely punishable.

It is inappropriate for sovereign individuals to be labelled, sorted, and tracked as if they were livestock. There is no provision for these activities to be found in the Constitution. Fingerprint records and other identification systems presently maintained by government or its surrogate corporations must be destroyed. Voiceprinting, retinal photography, and the "preventive" collection of DNA samples must be forbidden. Electronic tracking systems must be banned, and government forbidden to use Global Positioning Systems, especially in telephones, to track or find individuals.


To individual members of the police and military, we say the time for denial is over. If these proposed measures anger you, remember that Bill Clinton did it to you. Janet Reno did it to you. Louis Freeh did it to you. Larry Potts did it to you. Lon Horiuchi did it to you. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their minions did it to you. And now, Barack Obama, Janet Napolitano, and Eric Holder are doing it to you.

You have let them do it.

Thanks to them, you're despised by the very people you're supposed to be protecting. You're feared, and if you enjoy that, there's something deeply wrong with you—and you have forgotten that frightened people are dangerous. Until you prove the contrary to the those you've sworn to serve, you're no different from the politicians listed above. You're exactly the same as those who:

Firebombed a whole neighborhood out of existence when a group of residents was accused of nothing more serious than disturbing the peace;

Assassinated a harmless old man to steal his valuable real estate;

Shot a little boy and his dog to death, then blew his mother's head off with a telescopically-sighted high-powered rifle as she held her baby in her arms;

Illegally confined, terrorized, poison-gassed, and machinegunned dozens of innocent men, women—and 22 little children—in the church that was their home;

Tortured, intimidated, and attempted to dispose of political prisoners—not foreigners overseas, but your fellow Americans—by denying them necessary and lawfully prescribed medication and proper medical assistance;

Threatened and confiscated evidence from independent investigators when they questioned the government's cover-up of an airliner crash that killed hundreds;

Viciously stomped kittens to death underfoot in an attempt to frighten the innocent victims of a narcotics raid carried out at the wrong address;

Kidnapped, illegally imprisoned, and tortured individuals not proven in a court of law to represent any kind of threat to anyone;

Committed hundreds of thousands of other brutal, illegal, and unconstitutional travesties that have inexorably transformed a once free and noble civilization into a horror-filled dictatorship.


The Cold War is over. The immensely destructive "War on Drugs", which has done vastly more damage to our society than drugs themselves ever threatened to, was meant from the beginning to replace it, and to destroy the very Constitution you swore to uphold and defend. When the "War on Drugs" failed to produce the desired results, it was replaced with the equally fraudulent and destructive "War on Terror".

Don't let a gang of socialist trash, elected by the mass media and a noisy minority, use you as a tool to force illegal, immoral, alien ideas on an unwilling populace. They have stolen your honor. Your one duty, your only goal must be to regain it by enforcing the highest law of the land, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights. Indeed, that's the only possible justification for what you do, and the existence of government itself.

Don't let deskbound, overpaid SINOs—"Superiors In Name Only"— tell you what the Bill of Rights means. It wasn't written to be obscure. It wasn't written for them to interpret away. Remember your oath. Don't let judges and lawyers—who only stand to benefit from elimnating the Bill of Rights—tell you what it means, either. Do what most Americans haven't tried to do for half a century.

Think for yourself.

Ask yourself this question: if you were one of America's Founders and you'd just surprised the world (and yourself) by winning a war of secession against the most powerful, heavy-handed government on the planet, and the last thing you wanted, for yourself, your children, or your grandchildren was to fall beneath the heels of its jackboots ever again, what would you want the Bill of Rights to mean?

And if the first act, under martial law, of that powerful, heavy- handed government had been to try to take your guns away at Lexington and Concord (yes, that's what those battles were all about), would you have written a Second Amendment to guarantee government's exclusive "right" to own and carry weapons? Would you have written a Second Amendment that was subject to whatever the whims of government claimed was a "reasonable regulation"? Or would you have written it to forbid government from having anything to do with your guns, ever again?

Anything whatever.

We say again, it's time to end the "War on Drugs". Think back: isn't it true that every dime ever spent on it has only made the problem worse, not better? Many decent individuals have come to believe that, from the outset, it was never meant as anything but a war against the people of the United States of America and their freedom. It's time to end it, and to abolish the DEA, FBI, BATFE, and every other federal agency not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, and which is, for that reason alone, illegal.

Likewise, it's time to end the "War on Terror" and abolish those agencies—each and every one illegal—charged with waging it. All laws, regulations, decrees, and promulgations passed in connection with it must be repealed, nullified, or otherwise disposed of.

All hiring for these illegal agencies must cease immediately, and those individual officers who survive legal scrutiny of their past activities be encouraged to find employment in the private economy, or transferred to the US Marshals Service, given a new assignment—Bill of Rights enforcement—and be turned loose on politicians, bureaucrats, and judges, rather than the American people.

It should have been obvious long ago that the worldview of the typical "law enforcement officer" has become so contaminated and corrupt, so contemptuous of everyone around him, that, for the sake of public safety, every one of them will have to be removed and replaced by newly-trained personnel with a proper respect for the rights of those they serve. A possible exception may be made in the case of "Oathkeepers" who are trying to stem the tide of brutal authoritarianism in the police and military.

In the long run, provided care is taken to avoid the election of unapologetic fascists like Maricopa County Arizona's Joe Arpaio, municipal police forces and their multiple layers of bureaucratic protection must be outlawed and abolished, in favor of local sheriffs directly accessible by and accountable to the people. Stringent limits must be set on the ratio of officers to the civilian population.

Above and beyond everything else, the Founders' hideous omission must be corrected with a "penalty clause" for politicians, bureaucrats, or policemen who violate the precepts of the Bill of Rights. The point must be made that no portion of the Constitution allows it to be set aside in the case of an "emergency". The Posse Comitatus Act of 1876 must be fully reinstated, and the most Draconian punishments imaginable established for its violation.

Creating and enacting such a penalty clause must become the highest priority for libertarians in general and the Libertarian Party in particular.

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of more than 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas is currently running as a free weekly serial at

Neil is presently at work on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on What Libertarians Believe with his daughter, Rylla.

See stunning full-color graphic-novelizations of The Probability Broach and Roswell, Texas which feature the art of Scott Bieser at Dead-tree versions may be had through the publisher, or at where you will also find Phoenix Pick editions of some of Neil's earlier novels.


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