I always wanted to be a police officer. I planned on it during high school, and even worked out a career path that started with a tour in the Army as an MP and ended with me working in Law Enforcement until retirement. Funny how things never work out the way you plan ’em.
The way it worked out, I ended up joining the Navy ten years after high school. In the interim, I took some college courses for a career in Law Enforcement. Once I turned 21, I started applying to various police agencies. After not making the cut for several years, I was finally getting close. A small town PD was hiring one officer, and I was one of three final candidates. All three of us were given a standard psychological evaluation and were interviewed by the psychologist. I was turned down because I had scored two points too high on the aggression scale. Historically, hiring candidates with high aggression scores led to lots of unnecessary lawsuits. So I was out of the Law Enforcement business.
With the hindsight born of two decades of experience, I think they made the right choice. I’ve learned a lot about myself since then, and the young man I was would probably have been a magnet for citizen complaints. That said, the young man I was twenty years ago would probably be guaranteed a slot in most police departments today.
Thanks to the War of Terror™, police departments all over the country are getting the money for loads of military-grade equipment and intensive training in military-style tactics. There are several problems with this, the largest being that police do not do the same job as the military. Police are supposed to enforce the law. Period. Full stop. The military is supposed to support the Government’s decision by force. One of the laws the police are supposed to enforce is the Posse Commitatus Act, which forbids the use of military personnel for law enforcement work in the United States. Since the military cannot legally be used inside the country for police work, the police are being converted into paramilitary organizations.
This can- and has- led to multiple abuses. Police departments around the country routinely use their new training and equipment to conduct violent invasions of private property in the name of the War on Drugs®. I’m all for using military tactics and weapons in extreme cases, when the situation is a matter of life-or-death. Even under those circumstances, I would prefer that a judge issue a warrant specifically authorizing extreme measures (with common-sense exceptions for life-or-death exigent circumstances). I would also prefer that every use of these paramilitary units be subject to citizen review. If we’re going to allow paramilitary police units to operate in our cities, they should be held to strict standards of behavior. This would help reduce the number of cluster-fucks.
Case in point: Last night, the Buffalo Police conducted a no-knock warrant on an apartment. They smashed through the door, applied the buttstock of a shotgun to the head of an epileptic resident of that apartment, and only then realized that they’d raided the wrong apartment. Whoopsie!
Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. According to a Cato Institute website, this happens far too often. So far in 2008, there have been five such botched raids, the only one of which made the news involved a supremely stupid incident where a county police agency conducted a no-knock raid on a house in someone else’s jurisdiction. They burst into the house, shot the homeowner’s two dogs, and interrogated the homeowner and his elderly mother for a couple of hours next to the corpses of their family pets. At some point in the proceedings, they finally figured out that their “suspect” was the mayor of the town. In addition to raiding the mayor’s house, the Prince George County PD had also neglected to inform the Berwyn Heights PD that they were conducting operations in their jurisdiction. The worst bit of all, the PG Police refuse to admit they’d done anything wrong. Forget about an apology.
This is far from the worst possible scenario. Since 1985, 42 completely innocent people have been killed by the police during these raids, and 24 police officers have been injured or killed. I live in a moderately bad neighborhood (because housing prices prevent me from buying a house), and I own firearms. If the local police (who do not have a reputation for impressive intellects or even professionalism) were to raid my apartment by mistake, I would very likely end up shooting them (and probably getting killed as a result). There are a couple of people currently serving long prison terms under exactly those circumstances.
Back to last night’s incident. A Buffalo PD spokesman had this to say:
“We wouldn’t be comfortable discussing the internal investigation. We can say comfortably that over 1,100 search warrants were executed last year and 580 to date this year and that, with such a high volume and such a fast-paced environment, it is understandable that mistakes could happen.”
I don’t know about you, but I do not consider this an appropriate response to such a colossal fuck-up. This sort of mistake is not understandable- it is inexcusable.
Here’s an appropriate quote from one of the founders of our country:
Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both. -Benjamin Franklin
We, the People, are perilously close to the precipice Ben Franklin was warning us about. As a society, we need to use the Four Boxes to keep the Government our servant and not our master. Use the Soap Box (as I am doing now) to warn your fellow citizens of the danger and mobilize them to change the way the Government operates. Use the Ballot Box to enact legislation and elect representatives to sharply restrict these dangerous practices. Use the Jury Box to sue police agencies who permit their zeal for arrests to violate the rights of the citizens. Use the Jury Box to acquit fellow citizens who are driven to use the Ammo Box to defend themselves from Government invasions of their homes and property.
For those who think that nothing like that could happen in this country in the modern era, I invite you to read up on the Battle of Athens. It can happen here. It has happened here. We, the People, are being victimized and killed by the very Government we pay to serve us. They are Public Servants. We, the People, are the Public. Make your voices heard! Vote the bastards out! Sue police departments who violate the compact between Public and Public Servant. When necessary, defend your life against the well-meaning incompetents who are threatening your life and killing your fellow citizens.
Current status: Irked
Current music: Mystic’s Dream by Loreena McKennitt