. . . is that not only 'bad cops', but also the law enforcement 'system' in the USA, have helped to produce the attitudes towards law enforcement that have been amplified and exploited by extremist groups to justify these attacks.
I have the highest regard for honest law enforcement. I've worked for years within the criminal justice system. I have friends in law enforcement whom I trust absolutely. Nevertheless, to deny that there is a widespread problem in the law enforcement field would be to hide from the truth. We've discussed it many times in these pages. Here are just a few articles selected from my blog's archives, sorted chronologically from oldest to newest, discussing various aspects of it:
- "Operation Fast And Furious" - wholesale Government corruption?
- More law enforcement out of control
- Law enforcement and asset forfeiture
- Jackbooted thugs at work!
- The disastrous consequences of rogue law enforcement
- Law enforcement as a profit center?
- Cops, crime, corruption, communities and violence
- Looks like Chicago police misconduct extends to other departments as well
- Is it something in the water in Oakland?
I submit the real problem is twofold. First, law enforcement in general has been co-opted by the 'establishment' to be more than just law enforcement. It's now a revenue-generating arm of government. By that I mean enforcing measures that are designed to raise revenues under threat of law enforcement action if they're not paid. They're not malum in se (i.e. wrong in and of themselves), but malum prohibitum (wrong because someone has arbitrarily decided or decreed that they're wrong). The situation in Ferguson, Missouri, and the wider area of St. Louis County, is a classic example of the latter - and Ferguson's far from the only place where such abuses occurred.
Second, in far too many areas and agencies, law enforcement has been militarized. Mark Steyn has observed:
So, when the police are dressed like combat troops, it's not a fashion faux pas, it's a fundamental misunderstanding of who they are. Forget the armored vehicles with the gun turrets, forget the faceless, helmeted, anonymous Robocops, and just listen to how these "policemen" talk. Look at the video as they're arresting the New York Times and Huffington Post reporters. Watch the St Louis County deputy ordering everyone to leave, and then adding: "This is not up for discussion."
Really? You're a constable. You may be carrying on like the military commander of an occupying army faced with a rabble of revolting natives, but in the end you're a constable. And the fact that you and your colleagues in that McDonald's are comfortable speaking to your fellow citizens like this is part of the problem. The most important of the "nine principles of good policing" (formulated by the first two commissioners of the Metropolitan Police in 1829 and thereafter issued to every officer joining the force) is a very simple one: The police are the public and the public are the police. Not in Ferguson. Long before the teargassing begins and the bullets start flying, the way these guys talk is the first indication of how the remorseless militarization has corroded the soul of American policing.
There's more at the link.
Claire Wolfe, no friend of either the establishment or self-proclaimed 'progressives', had this to say earlier this week as the Republican Party convention began.
Today a convention begins in chaos, amid cries of law and order, that classic killer of freedom. Today, the media mourns three blue lives, as if the murder of armed agents of the state is worse than decades of police murders of the less politically protected.
Decades of unaccountable beatings and killings.
Decades of testilying us into prison.
Decades of stealing our possessions.
Decades of corruption.
Decades of militarization.
Decades of intimidation, thuggery, and abuse.
Decades of videos contradicting “official” stories.
Decades of creatures of government getting away with it, just because they are creatures of government.
Today the news is full of noise about the need to crack down, federalize crimes against cops, impose harsh minimum sentences, build walls against scary people, punish the innocent for the deeds of the guilty, curtail freedom, surveil everybody.
Today the media has all that it wishes to change the world: terrorism, attacks on state agents, and political rah-rah. Grand excuses for killing liberty.
Today the pundits predict that the fall of cops, if not checked with pacifying words and unyielding punishments, signals the fall of civilization. They don’t notice or care that the long rampage of the State vs the People was, and remains, the real engine of destruction.
Again, more at the link. It makes uncomfortable, thought-provoking reading.
I think there really is a problem with law enforcement in the United States. It's not the fault of the good officers and/or agencies; they're doing their best under very difficult circumstances. It's the fault of the demands placed on police agencies and the law enforcement 'system' in general. That 'system' has all too often been warped into a tool of the establishment (whether local, regional or national) rather than doing what it's supposed to do - enforce the laws in a neutral, non-partisan manner. Furthermore, law enforcement powers have been arrogated by and to agencies that neither need nor deserve them. Witness the fact that there are now more armed Federal law enforcement officers than there are US Marines. That fact alone stinks to high heaven. There is no possible need or justification for most of them . . . but there they are, paid for by our tax dollars. What's more, thousands of them belong to agencies already notorious for being partisan and politically biased in their operations, such as the ATF and the IRS. The distrust with which most of us view their agencies is thus automatically transferred to the law enforcement officers of those agencies.
These problems work their way down to the 'cop on the beat'. Corruption in one area soon crosses boundaries to other areas. One bad apple begets a bunch of them. That's why some individual officers seem to think they can (sometimes literally) get away with murder. That's why entire precincts can actively engage in illegal, unconstitutional activity in the name of 'law enforcement'.
That's why it's no good to simply fulminate against 'cop-haters', as in this recent sign in Indiana.
We must address the attacks on police in the USA. We must find and convict those responsible, and do all we can to prevent more attacks. But, at the same time, we must address the problems I've discussed above. We must restore our law enforcement agencies and officers to what they're supposed to be; representatives of the community, operating in support of and to protect that community, not militarized jackbooted thugs.
How do we do that? I honestly don't know. We've gone so far down the road of police militarization and social radicalization that I can't see where to begin, except on every street where a policeman patrols. It's up to our officers and agencies to win back the public support they've lost. It's all very well to say that we have to give them the respect that is their due. For someone like me (and, I'm sure, for most of my readers) that goes without saying. However, for those suffering under abuses such as those described above, it does not go without saying. They have an institutionalized and entirely justified fear and distrust of police. How can we overcome that? Your guess is as good as mine.