Police, again

In a surprise to no one, police are again being unleashed in performative brutality against young adults demonstrating in protest against their elders’ lack of integrity to the espoused virtues of their country. Rather than dig deep into the many, many ways this particular hypocrisy is composed (because I don’t have anything but vitriol and criticism for every side, and that isn’t constructive), I present some thoughts that I wrote in the spring of 2020 when the hypocrisy was clearly anchored on the way we police.

This is presented in two parts — how do we understand the structure of how we provide for public safety, and what rules do we apply universally to all those who are charged with enforcing our laws.

Part 1: Six public safety roles

Whether you like the existence of governments or not, they are here and we are part of them. To be effective at governance while also being equitable, just, and equal, governments must provide protection from threats as part of their social contract. What major metros need isn’t a catch-all police department, but six independent public safety organizations that are narrowly focused, trained, and accountable the mission.

Threats to public trust

Society is a game of trust, and corruption, institutional bias, systemic malice dismantle that game until there is nothing left but naked aggression and fear. These need policing and visible consequences.

Threats to others

This is traditional police stopping people from physically hurting other people and investigating capital crimes and rackets that coordinate physical crimes in service to a bigger schemes. Harming people with direct force is always going to be a crime, and someone needs to be there to intervene when bullies and brutes seek to subjugate and overpower. There are two parts to this:

  • Organized crime – money, guns, drugs, human, and information trafficking that have one of three scopes:
    • intrastate criminal operations
    • interstate criminal operations
    • international criminal operations
  • Disorganized crime – Florida man & similar stupid human tricks

Threats to self

This is where social workers and mental healthcare workers lead. Self harm takes many forms and none of them are resolved by someone with a gun.

Threats to community

This is where we address crimes against the fabric of society – election manipulation, corporate malfeasance, corruption of civil and public officials or institutions, etc. Equality, due process, and access to polls are guaranteed by the Constitution, and access to food, shelter, and hygiene are basic human rights that need protection.

Threats to order

The social contract itself relies on stability and predictability, and when it is time to protest, there are lines that we need to be sure both sides don’t cross or the protest becomes the story, not the thing being protested. That must be done with skill and tact, not with thuggery.

Threats to property

Theft, fraud, property destruction, and other crimes that are primarily targeting things, money, and reputation aren’t trivial, but they also aren’t more important than anything else.

Part 2: Rational rules for agents of the State

Accountability is hard. It is made harder when the patchwork of rules, rule-making, and responsibility is such that it becomes trivial for a deviant to move from one jurisdiction to another while still behaving unethically, unprofessionally, or antisocially. A profession exists only when it can measure any member against a common standard and judge that member’s fitness within the context of the profession. Law enforcement is no different.

Below are six rules that, if uniformly applied, could elevate the practice of law enforcement to a profession.

One Kill

A civilian law enforcer is allowed to be involved in one incident that results in killing a person before their career in law enforcement is permanently and irrevocably over.

A military law enforcer shall not become a civilian law enforcer.

A civilian Special Weapons And Tactics trooper shall not have powers of arrest or other police duties, nor may they return to other police duties having once been a Special Weapons And Tactics trooper.

No Unions

Members of the executive branch of government are, as a class, not entitled to collective bargaining.

No Outsourcing

Law enforcement and incarceration are extensions of the government’s monopoly on violence and killing and as such they shall not be delegated or contracted to non-governmental organizations, nor shall the conduct of training of persons engaged in those activities be contracted to non-governmental organizations, nor shall the government establish a corporation or authority for the purpose of these activities.

Licensed and Bonded

Law enforcers must be licensed by the U. S. Department of Justice after passing a Single Scope Background Investigation and a psychological evaluation. This license must be maintained through semi-annual fitness testing and psychological evaluations, annual performance standard evaluations, and ongoing conduct standards as a condition of employment, and it must be renewed through an updated background investigation and capability testing every three years.

The Department of Justice insures that a licensed law enforcer is trustworthy and unlikely to engage in misconduct. This insurance extends a promissory “deductible” for punitive damages incurred by the individual law enforcer due to civil or criminal convictions to the employing government. Damages awarded beyond this deductible must be borne by the employing government, either directly or through purchasing insurance.

Uniform rules for deadly force

The standard for the use of deadly force shall be as set out in the current standard for Arming and the Use of Force from the Department of Defense (currently DoDD 5210.56, specifically, section 3.4.e). States and Tribes may set more restricted standards if they choose but may not expand permissible use of force beyond this standard.

Equal under the law

Law enforcers shall be held to the same standard under the law as non-law enforcers. A crime committed in the course of police duties is still a crime and no criminal immunity exists by virtue of a role or office as a law enforcer. Accusations of criminal conduct shall not be investigated by the same law enforcement agency that employs the accused.