Like most people of my generation, I was brought up to respect and trust the police.
Of course, conservatism is about enduring social orders, and, when absolutely necessary and when nothing else will work, applying judicious force to protect that order against those that would harm, rob or swindle others, within the boundaries of fair, just laws on which there was broad consensus.
But conservatism is also about limited government – the proverbial good government that governs least.
And it says impossible to miss as it is troubling to notice that nearly every day seems to bring another story of grotesque police overreach; of swat teams barging into the wrong house, shooting dogs and handcuffing people and terrorizing children (or, in one recent case, burning and disfiguring them with Military grade flash bang grenades) only to find that it’s the wrong address (and then tearing the place apart to find something, anything illegal to justify the raid, and still leaving the homeowners to pay for the damages; “rogue” cops trampling all over citizens rights.
On the one hand, criticizing the police goes against conservatives’ DNA, in some ways; it is a difficult and necessary job.
On the other hand, or the past 20 years the police have been getting more and more powerful – and, with the blessing of not a few courts that seem to forgotten what the Constitution was for, made the 4th amendment almost as meaningless as the 10th.
And criticizing the heavy handedness of the police doesn’t come without blowback; you can usually count on a few responses almost immediately:
- “You could never do the job” – other than “reading addresses correctly” and knowing the difference between a dangerous dog and family pet barking to protect his family, you’re probably right. That’s why I pay taxes for the police department. As employees. Not feudal lords and masters.
- “Without police, society would be overrun with criminals!” – For starters, it’s a strawman; nobody’s talking about getting rid of the police. Again, I pay taxes, in part, for a police force. As employees, to keep the order – not like medieval knights to whom I, the mere citizen, must bow and scrape.
- “What’s the matter? If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear from the police. Maybe you have something to hide…” – I’m not saying that people who say this with a straight, unironic face want a dictatorial police state. I’m just saying that dictatorial police states need lots of people who think this kind of idiocy to have a chance to take root. And in a society is overrun with rules and regulations as ours is, I think it’s fairly safe to say that absolutely no one hasn’t broken some sort of law.
- “You can’t blame the police for wanting to come home alive at the end of the shift” – Absolutely. And watching the way the police sprayed fire at innocent civilians during the manhunt for rogue cop Christopher Dornan in California two years ago, or watching police wound nine people – none of them the perpetrator – chasing a shooter around the Empire State building in New York City, you can’t blame me for wanting to do the same.
AJ Delgado, writing in National Review,
points out the danger in unthinking, knee-jerk support for the police.
He starts with the obligatory disclaimer – although that’s not enough to forestall some of the knee-jerk reactions he gets his comments section:
Let’s get the obligatory disclaimer out of the way: Yes, many police officers do heroic works and, yes, many are upstanding individuals who serve the community bravely and capably.
But respecting good police work means being willing to speak out against civil-liberties-breaking thugs who shrug their shoulders after brutalizing citizens.
Read the whole thing.
Delgado points out that, but some statistical measures, police are actually better behaved than they used to be. And in an era where everyone has a cell phone with a video camera, it’s getting harder and harder for police to misbehave.
On the other hand, now that local police forces are running around with SWAT teams decks out in better battle rattle than the local National Guard unit, the stakes are even higher than they used to be.
Read the whole thing.