Down With Power Audiobook!

L. Neil Smith's
Number 817, April 12, 2015

Rush, you are a glow-in-the-dark statist asshole.
If we had to rely on you for freedom, we'd all be
in chains, electrocuted into insensibility, covered
with bruises, and dripping with Mace and pepper
spray. You have become a first class copsucker.

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A Cure for the Police Problem
by L.Neil Smith

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

America has a problem. People don't generally avoid speaking of it, but, to my knowledge, no one has offered any kind of solution to it. The failure to address it properly has changed the character of the nation.

That problem is the police. They and their supporters will tell you a very different story, but they are almost self-evidently over funded, far too heavily armed, and there are vastly too many of them. Worst, they are almost never held to account for anything they do.

I first became aware of this situation when I watched four police cars parked on a side street, the officers that they had contained interacting (I won't attempt to characterize it any further than that) with a single, solitary bicyclist whom they had pulled over. For what, speeding? I had been an auxiliary or reserve police officer, myself, in the early 70s, and I thought this was at least somewhat excessive. Short of hand grenades, there is very little that an individual can do on a bicycle that justifies the presence and attention of four police officers.

But little did I know, there was far worse to come. We all began to hear of unarmed individuals being firing-squadded to death, sometimes forty times, of victims being tasered to death—killed by the overuse of a "non-lethal" weapon—of elderly or crippled people yanked out of cars they were passengers in (sometimes their windows were smashed in with nightsticks) and variously brutalized. Of restrained and helpless people being raped with nightsticks. I am not particularly race-conscious, so I don't recall if there was that kind of pattern to the behavior in question, as is being claimed now by figures with the reliability and trustworthiness of Reverend Al Sharpton.

These events were exacerbated by a steady flow or war-surplus machinery to local departments from the federal government, including artillery and tanks. As any man can tell you, if you are given nifty toys, you'll find some excuse to use them. Whimpering that they were "outgunned" on the streets (more or less exactly as the Founding Fathers intended), the police began to arm themselves with fully-automatic weapons like the M-16 and with 15-shot automatic pistols. Then, of course, there was the Kevlar body armor: not altogether bullet-proof, but enough to lower the personal cost of failing to deal with people in a civilized manner. And jungle or desert war-zone camouflage, for no good reason I've ever managed to elicit.

After more than a decade of hearing—probably every day, certainly every week,—about one outrageous example after another of police brutality and authority abuse, and listening to various pundits (not all of them right-wingers) deny it's happening, I have this to say to the foremost among them: Rush, you are a glow-in-the-dark statist asshole. If we had to rely on you for freedom, we'd all be in chains, electrocuted into insensibility, covered with bruises, and dripping with Mace and pepper spray. You have become a first class copsucker.

Thus, was today's American police state born. It didn't exactly happen without warning. In books like Time Enough For Love, for example, conservative/libertarian Robert A. Heinlein wrote about brutal and corrupt local police forces, in turn-of-the 19th-century urban Missouri, stating that black people had always known better what the police were really all about than white people did. Now, we all know.

So what can we do about it, then? Always remembering that it took 373 years, from 1492 to 1865, to abolish slavery, and that the Irish fought for their freedom for 850 years, we must resign ourselves to a long, patient campaign. People's minds must be changed about the police. As the pointy end of the New World Order spear, the police must be made to give up their military war surplus. A simple statute could accomplish that. They must be limited, as they once were, to keeping the peace, with six-shot revolvers and four-shot shotguns. No automatic weapons, no noxious gas or spray, no Tasers. It is absolutely vital that their authority come from their community, not weapons.

To restore individual dignity and sovereignty to the process, handcuffs or restraints of any kind,should only be used when there is probable cause to use them, and, in any case, should require a lot of paperwork.

The police, as we know them, did not exist when this country was founded. If they knew that it would come to this, the Founders would be horrified. The police are the "standing army" they all hated and feared. The principal law-enforcement official of the region was the County Sheriff. Unlike municipal police, safe behind multilayered walls of bureaucracy, if he didn't do his job right, or threw his weight around, he'd be recalled, or put out on his ass on election day.

Every city in America is located in, or consists of, a county. Grant police authority (six-shot revolvers, four-shot shotguns, no Tasers or Kevlar) to the democratically accessible office of the Sheriff. Recruiting or maintaining a municipal police force should be unlawful.

A civilian review board must be appointed for each controversial incident, its members chosen from the general pool of jury members. The result will be a society,locally controlled, that is truly self-governing. And Officer (Deputy) Friendly will be back on his beat again.

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