Thursday, October 13, 2005

Column on Police Malpractice

Corruption of the Police

Tibor R. Machan

My youngest daughter and I were driving about when she told me her theory
about contemporary police officers. Her idea was that police departments
in our time attract bullies, people who have always liked to flex their
mussels, show who is boss. She said, ?Look what these people are required
to do?hassle us who are doing no one any harm, just because they smoke
some stuff that?s been banned, or sell sexual favors, or break some rule
that?s almost surely arbitrary.?

She was about 20 when she said this mouthful but I was impressed. I have
never pushed my kids in the direction of my own thinking, mainly because
my thinking is that people need to come to their own conclusions, not be
told what to think. Sure, some elementary guidance is vital but not their
politics, religion, and other convictions. I will give them help with
examples, mostly with how I live, but that?s it.

So this insight on my daughter?s part impressed me. I thought about it
more and concluded that it at least made good sense. Who would join a
police force that required officers to go about busting people for
victimless crimes? Mainly someone who liked pushing people around. Yes, of
course, it is their job to enforce the law?but when police officers must
enforce bad laws, this is likely to attract bad people into the force.

What is the right job for the police? To defend citizens against
aggressors, that?s what. They are to serve us in the capacity of
protectors against violence. When murder, assault, rape, robbery, burglary
and such are perpetrated, that?s when a just police force goes out to do
its job. As our Declaration of Independence says, ?governments are
instituted to secure [our] rights.? And the most directly force-yielding
element of our government is the police and the military. They are to
protect our rights. That idea of the American Founders is the most
civilized, the most enlightened, concerning the proper function of
government and its armed forces.

Some among those who love and champion freedom everywhere say government
is always a bad thing?they are anarchist libertarians. But they, too, want
law enforcement, with some differences from the limited government
faction. Bottom line is, however, that what those who enforce the law must
do is to also stick by the law that needs to be enforced. There is really
just one such law, namely, protect everyone?s individual right to liberty,
to be free of the aggression of other people.

In that capacity, as protectors of our rights to life, liberty and
pursuit of happiness, the police would be doing something noble. They
would be warriors in a good cause, namely, our freedom. With such a job
they may even gain the respect of the citizenry, including young people
who don?t mind it when cops fight genuine crime. They just mind it when
they are being hassled for what they chose to do without hurting anyone
else. But when the cops start hassling them, they lose all respect. They
dub them corrupt cops. They are the equivalent, only far more dangerous,
of a medical malpractice culprit or quack.

If you pay any attention to the news, you know that in all corners of the
country cops are getting rougher and rougher. It is perfectly natural?they
see themselves not as protectors of the citizenry but as rulers, ones who
enforce the way of life preferred by the administrators of our government.
This makes cops enemies of the people. And that is too bad. They are the
Dr. Frankensteins of our world, people who pretend to be helpers but in
fact are monsters.

Oh, there are exceptions but it is difficult to be such a cop since one?s
duties as an officer of the law now include out and out violence,
something that?s only by degrees different from the duties of Nazi or
Soviet police officers. This way a perfectly honorable profession, that of
the police officer, is fundamentally corrupted.

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