Crisis of Confidence in Police

Confidence in police has cratered among Americans of all ages, education levels,
incomes, races and particularly the young and minorities. What went so wrong?
Crisis of Confidence in Police
By: George Noga – September 25, 2016

     Everyone is familiar with highly publicized and racially charged police shootings in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, New York, Milwaukee and Ferguson. As a result, policing in America is a hot-button issue in the 2016 election. However, the loss of confidence in police began decades ago and has myriad causes. In this post, we identify the top ten reasons (in rough order of importance) underlying the crisis of confidence in police. The changes have been gradual but the end result is plainly and painfully manifest.

1. Police have transmogrified from avuncular figures to threatening ones; their attitude from helpful to intimidating. They form tight cliques, becoming insular and walling themselves off from the communities they serve. They have an us-versus-them attitude and protect each other at all costs and even when they are plainly in the wrong.

2. Policing is nowhere near the most dangerous job in America; it ranks 15th behind loggers, fishermen, pilots, roofers, refuse collectors, farmers, iron/steel workers, truck drivers, electricians, taxi drivers, construction, landscape, maintenance and miners. The homicide rate for police is 30% less than for an average male. We appreciate that police put themselves in harm’s way for us, but perspective about the danger is needed.

3. Routine use of SWAT teams (50,000 raids per year), military equipment and tasers is out of control. A SWAT team is not needed to serve a subpoena. The police have become too militarized and treat civilians more like enemy combatants.

4. Unionization and threats of strikes and other tactics are against public policy. Police compensation and benefits (often boosted by outlandish overtime spiking) create enormous resentment with private sector workers, of whom only 6% are unionized.

5. Police gorge themselves on civil asset forfeitures. They seize property from hapless victims even when there is no crime or arrest and use the proceeds to buy fancy toys.

6. Testilying (police perjury under oath) is commonplace as can be attested to by any lawyer who routinely practices in criminal court – so routine it has its own name.

7. Telephone solicitations (often aggressive) on behalf of police benevolent groups are ubiquitous but net police only pennies on the dollar. This grates on the public inasmuch as other professions don’t engage in such activity, policing is 15th on the dangerous jobs list and police already are well compensated via public sector unionization.

8. Policing is about money and arrests. Advancement is linked to the amount of money generated and the number of arrests made. Massive police ticketing operations are organized solely for the convenience of police to raise money; the public be damned.

9. The atmospherics have become gaudy. High ranking officers, even of small town police departments, are bedecked as 5-star generals with garish decorations befitting the potentate of a banana republic. Chiefs should wear civilian clothes as in the past.

10. Press conferences after police events have become love-fests for law enforcement. Following the Orlando tragedy, city police, county police, state police, FBI, state attorney, DOJ and ATF spent an eternity heaping praise on one another for cooperation and professionalism before they answered a single question. More modesty is needed.

     Loss of confidence in police has been gradual and has many antecedents. There are however private alternatives to unionized, militarized, asset-seizing and testilying police. There is a strong negative correlation between crime and economic freedom as free markets enable people to put their passions into business. Restrictions on freedom, such as minimum wage laws, that keep minorities from work are particularly harmful.

     A big part of the solution therefore lies in more liberty and less government. More liberty for poor, minority, inner city youth and more free markets. Less government as in fewer police, an end to the failed war on drugs and more private policing. Finally, each community should have an independent citizen police review board with ample powers to oversee the police and to ensure policing reflects their community’s values.

The next post in our election series is titled “Fake Solutions to Fake Problems”.