Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Politicians, judges, and the rest of us caught in the middle

This past holiday weekend, one of my cousins was pulled over in a drunk driving checkpoint in Florida. Not being an idiot, he was of course sober; and there was no probable cause for pulling him over, questioning him, or performing a field sobriety test.

The courts, in their infinite wisdom, have decided that this is not a violation of ones fundamental rights.

They are wrong; but they have been so wrong, so often, that this is frankly unremarkable.

A discussion about his being stopped started on his wifes facebook page, as she vented her frustration at the unjust stupidity that is represented by checkpoints.

A friend of theirs who is a cop chimed in, and the discussion got interesting (the names have been modified to protect the guilty, spelling and netspeek have been corrected, and irrelevant comments to the core conversation have been snipped):

Cousins Wife: my poor baby got stuck in a dui check point on the way home from a long day at work! =( stupid cops!

Officer Tom: I hate those pigs...always ruining everyone's fun...

Cousins Wife: Well of course not you Officer Tom

Officer Tom: The cops don't set up roadblocks unless politicians tell them to by the way. Its all good, our roadblock didn't go through.

Minarchist Chris: Yep, it's more like "stupid, constitution abusing, nonrights respecting public servants with delusions of being public masters", not "stupid cops".

Officer Tom: You've had a bad experience with a cop or two so all of them must be assholes...brilliant!

Minarchist Chris: Actually no, I generally love cops. I'm Boston Irish, and I've got literally dozens of cops in my family. I'm also a former law enforcement trainer.

I wasn't talking about cops. better than 90% of all cops are genuinely driven by their desire to serve the public, or at worst are just doing their jobs.

I was speaking of the politicians, in uniform and out, who believe that they are a separate, privileged class, and that peoples rights don't count when it comes to their desires, their need for control, or their convenience.

Those, and the small percentage of cops who have a militant "the public is the enemy" mindset (unfortunately, in my experience that mindset is growing, and current training regimes and institutional culture are reinforcing it) who enable them to become oppressive so easily.

Officer Tom: My bad... I meant "right on!

(my aside: Cops are so unused to having non-cops on their side in this sort of argument that they often get reflexively defensive)

Minarchist Chris: It doesn't matter why you become a cop. If two years on nights (or a month of court duty) doesn't cure you of whatever idealism you had, there's something wrong with you.

What matters, is why you stay a cop...

There are three reasons to stay a cop; one good, one bad, and one indifferent:
  1. The pay and benefits don't suck if you know how to work the system, and your department is good about overtime.

    That's the indifferent. Some days it's all that puts feet on the street though, and that's important.

  2. You get great satisfaction in helping people who need help, and in doing bad things to bad guys.

    That's the good. The one that keeps you REALLY showing up, not just retiring in place.

  3. You get off on exercising power over others, and the "perks" of the blue wall.

    That's the bad. That's how cops become criminals.
Every cop who stays a cop, has some measure of all three motivations in them. You need it to keep going, doing that hard a job, taking those risks. Otherwise, like I said, you quit, burn out, or you just retire in place and serve out your time until you get your pensions.

The problem is when they get out of balance, and when politicians take advantage of that imbalance to further pit the police and the non-sworn public against each other for their own benefit.

Meanwhile the judges stand by, effectively making and changing law as they see fit... how are cops, or everyone else for that matter supposed to keep up?

The answer of course is, they're not. That's the way "the system" works, or rather doesn't work. That way everyone is guilty, and everyone can be controlled (Ayn Rand had a point there).

The more cops are isolated, separated, and alienated from the non-sworn public; the easier it is for politicians to get them to enforce bad laws, which give the politicians (again, in uniform and out) greater power and control over EVERYONE.

Officer Tom: Damn... I hate cops too, I swear.