The only answer to the police problem is to make them more than human.

I mean, personally I think we’d all be better off without them. Can you think of a single instance in which the supposed cure is not worse than the described disease? But people are conditioned to believe western civilization would just fall down and break like a china plate if there were no police, so let’s take ‘abolish the police’ off the table. For now.

That leaves us with a serious problem.

We find ourselves in the familiar predicament: The institutions and the people that we deputize to secure our liberty are — it is inevitable — the most significant threat to that liberty. This is evident at all levels of government.

From coroners to prosecutors to big-city gang task forces to drug-dealing Baltimore police officers, the criminality in the law-enforcement process is, if not necessarily a dominant tendency, a plainly and inarguably systemic one. Lord Acton was right, and so was Detective Jimmy McNulty: Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and the patrolling officer on his beat is the one true dictatorship in America.

People are now shouting about how all cops should wear personal cameras, and police organizations are shouting right back that that would be an absolutely terrible idea. I almost sympathize with the cops: Ever work at a company where your every keystroke is logged and monitored? You probably found other reasons that was a lousy company to work for, didn’t you? But even I, the hyper-individualist hermit and occasional watchman, concede that you’ve got to watch the watchman most closely of all. The job, if it really must be done, cannot be done without a measure of power. Power corrupts the nicest of people. And frankly, the job isn’t right for the nicest of people. So by all means, as a stop-gap measure let us festoon their cringing carcasses with cameras by the dozen.

This will not, of course, solve the problem. (Warning: Wall of words below the fold)

It may address one of the problem’s most damaging symptoms, which is Officer Friendly’s remarkable resistance to transparency. We are told, mostly by police officers and their spokesmen, that a police officer’s job is so stressful and difficult that we must give him room, latitude, the benefit of every doubt. And – let us speak frankly – that seemed to work out fine for most people as long as Deputy Roscoe was just thumping darkies on the other side of the tracks – because that was where most people wanted them kept, and an occasional thumping seemed a fine strategy toward that end. And anyway, nobody who matters had to watch. If one got thumped maybe a little too hard from time to time, well, let’s face it. There are plenty more that look just like him, so let’s clean up the paperwork and move on. It’s a difficult job, and mistakes will be made.

That’s the way a good many police departments have been run for well over a century. Now here comes Youtube, and portable telephones with video cameras, and it took a while but all of a sudden! Wow! We’re shocked! Shocked! To learn that there’s police brutality going on here.

Remember “police brutality?” Maybe you need to be of a certain age. Screaming that phrase was all the rage in the sixties, and it was pooh-poohed and chuckled at by all the right people. It was every bit as real then as it is now, except now it’s on camera and inescapably in your face everywhere you go, and so in spite of their best efforts the police are in the process of committing the one single unforgivable sin: They’re scaring the white people. They are demonstrating in living color on everybody’s TV every evening that the sheepdog is not a nice doggie after all when he’s off the leash, and he absolutely will not curb himself no matter how firmly you shake your finger at him. Yeah, police organizations should hope that wearable cameras are the worst of the consequences.

Cameras won’t fix anything. Like with ballot boxes, it’s not who does the voting but who does the counting that counts. Dodges will be developed, it’s simply in the nature of the situation. They don’t address the real problem.

The real problem is human nature. It is in our nature that power corrupts us. Is there a real answer to this? Well, you won’t find it here. Really smart people have thought about it really hard for a really long time, and so far we’ve got nothing. Even if some truly revolutionary and foolproof plan were to emerge, we would need to depend on the very people and organizations whose ox would be most deeply gored by its implementation, to implement it. What are the chances of that?

Personally I think we’re better off doing away with the institution, and seeing to our own personal and collective security. But since that’s not going to happen, I leave you with this:

We are asked to simultaneously believe two contradictory things: That law enforcement officers are the elite among us, chosen and trained to a fare-thee-well and so highly unlikely to make mistakes, and also that they need a veil to cover all their dealings. Time after time, when ‘questionable’ things occur, internal investigations discover that all is well, procedures were followed, there’s nothing to see here, move along. On isolated (really frequent) occasions, ‘mistakes were made.’ But mostly, that grenade landed in that baby’s crib because that’s exactly where the baby’s lowlife parents arranged for it to land. Don’t blame us. We were devastated.

The job of law enforcement, as advertised, could only be done well by truly elite groups of men and women. The real problem that’s emerging into public view is that police officers are no such thing. Despite frequent claims.

You know the most important thing about a genuine elite? Reputation. Those people (Think Navy SEALS, if you must. Or a really good NFL team) truly give a damn about their reputations. They earned them through hard work that would simply be impossible for regular people. They deserve them, they are jealous of them, and they will by god be the very first to throw anybody who sullies them out on his no-longer-privileged ass. As someone posing as a really smart person once said,

With power comes responsibility. Every gun owner knows this. With greater power would, in any sane society, come greater responsibility. A society of warriors – sheepdogs, if you will – who have dedicated themselves to the protection of the sheep would never tolerate the company of anyone in their ranks who abused the sheep. A society of warriors dedicated to the protection of the sheep would never hide that person behind a shield of “department policy.” Any one such action, even made by understandable mistake, might well be that person’s last. Every single one of those warriors, through pure healthily selfish interest, would be absolutely devoted to the avoidance of any such mistake.

Which is how we see true elites behave. Which is precisely what all law enforcement organizations in the nation will resist to the last drop of your blood.

The problem can only be fixed by supermen. Which is precisely why the problem will not be fixed. But by all means, cameras for everybody. I’ll be interested to see how they get around it.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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7 Responses to The only answer to the police problem is to make them more than human.

  1. Whaddya mean, won’t solve the problem? With apologies to George Carlin, I’m sure things will improve immediately. 😀

    Nicely said.

  2. gonewiththewind says:

    Yeah you have to have police. The correct solution is to prosecute wrong doing whether it be done by the criminal or the police. There are 330 million people in this country and a handful of unjustified police shootings. A hundred times more people die every year in the U.S. because they don’t wear their seatbelts. You have to keep these things in perspective. In the meantime Don’t run from the police, don’t try to take their guns or tasers and don’t fight them.

  3. Paul Bonneau says:

    I don’t take the elimination of police off the table. Policing is a rather recent “innovation” that spreads irresponsibility among the populace: “Cops will protect me, so I don’t have to.” Except that all they really provide is the illusion of protection, the worst of all possible worlds (except when they are beating pregnant women).

    Personally I think they are going to be one of the institutions that will disappear after the next societal reset. Inevitably they will be used to confiscate guns in the “emergency”, and people won’t put up with that, and they will turn from being hunters into the hunted. Good riddance.

    As to cams, they might help a little, but like dashcams they will “malfunction” at just the right time. The real solution is for ordinary people to wear their own cams that upload the videos to a place controlled only by them, so if some asshole cop is trying to set them up, they have video proof of the cop’s “testilying”.

    As to what to do in the meantime, I look at an attack by cop like I do an attack by a mad dog. It makes sense to avoid behaviors that bring such attacks on; but if it happens anyway, unless you enjoy going through the criminal “Justice” meatgrinder, you are at war and might as well take as many bastards with you as you can, when you die.

  4. Matt says:

    Why do we need police? They don’t protect me from criminals or noisy neighbors, or politicians. They might show up to fill out paperwork after things go TU, but I’d like to try society without them.

  5. Ben C says:

    I don’t want officers to wear cameras because one a-hole took 8 shots (with 5 hits) on a man running away, killing him. Then followed up by throwing down a weapon by the dying man. I want officers to wear cameras because OTHER OFFICERS submitted reports corroborating the lies of the first one which were clearly refuted by video later. The first officer is a problem, the others are a gigantic disaster. I have seen nothing else that more clearly shows why those we have trusted with so much power and protection are so absolutely unworthy of it.

  6. abnormalist says:

    What we really need is more locally active community policing.

    Pick from the members of your community those who are required to enforce the rules of the community. This is one of the reasons I really respected the origin of the Black Panthers. They started as a community organization with a focus on their own local communities. They felt the police were being neglectful and unfair in the policing of their communities, so they took it upon themselves.


    It gets us away from the faceless Us vs Them mentality in police vs public encounters.

    If your patrolling your neighborhood, and you see Jim’s kid dealing, you can call Jim, and tell him. Jim’s kid knows you and is less likely to shoot the guy who plays pool with dad. You are not going to shoot Jim’s kid, unless you absolutely have to.

    This is how we make them more human. How do we do this in urban centers? Only way is to encourage the community to enroll… Make it a case of “This is how we address these issues” without that local involvement, the issue is never going to resolve.

  7. Kentucky says:

    And then Jim’s kid tells his dad that “I wasn’t doin’ nothin wrong, jus’ hangin’ out wit’ my homies an’ that jerk jus’ set me up!” and then Jim’s dad takes it out on you for dissin’ his choirboy son.

    Yeah . . . that’ll work.

To the stake with the heretic!