FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

America’s Police are Out of Control

Ironically, the shooting death of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown by white Ferguson, MO, police officer Darren Wilson is a distraction from the racist police brutality that ravages America.

Whether or not Wilson shot Brown unjustifiably, and whether or not Brown provoked the shooting by grabbing for Wilson’s gun, the police — and the government officials who employ and arm them — are a big problem in this country. (The Eric Garner chokehold killing has none of the ambiguity of the Brown case.)

Unfortunately, it takes a shooting such as the one in Ferguson to spotlight the problem. And that presents its own problem. The claim that the police are routinely dangerous to innocent people — mostly blacks and Hispanics — appears to stand or fall with the headline case of the week. But that can’t be the correct way to judge the bigger issue. As Jason Lee Byas writes,

The way people are talking about this case seems to imply that if Wilson’s use of force was not in necessary self-defense, the police are out of control — and if it was, everything’s fine.…

Even if Darren Wilson turns out to be a near-perfect moral exemplar, the police are out of control.

Reuben Fischer-Baum writes that the shooting in Ferguson has “drawn attention to a remarkable lack of knowledge about a seemingly basic fact: how often people are killed by the police.”

The national government purports to keep count of “justifiable” police homicides, but that’s apparently all. “‘Unjustifiable homicide by police’ is not a classification,” Fischer-Baum notes.

Among the problems with the collection of data,” he writes, is that the “FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, which compiles the SHR [Supplementary Homicide Report], relies on voluntary involvement of state and local police agencies — a fact that may raise some questions about the integrity of the data.”

Thus, he concludes, “the SHR’s ‘justifiable police homicide’ number [400] is not a useful approximation of how many people are killed by the police.”

The Wall Street Journal agrees:

A Wall Street Journal analysis of the latest data from 105 of the country’s largest police agencies found more than 550 police killings during those years were missing from the national tally or, in a few dozen cases, not attributed to the agency involved. The result: It is nearly impossible to determine how many people are killed by the police each year.

The Journal quotes Columbia University law professor Jeffrey Fagan: “When cops are killed, there is a very careful account and there’s a national database. Why not the other side of the ledger?”

Data do show that blacks are more likely than whites to fall into police clutches for drug and gun offenses, even though whites are more likely to commit these victimless so-called crimes. Does anyone doubt that young black males walking down the street are more likely to have a police encounter than young white males are? If you doubt this, you’re not paying attention.

The ultimate cause of this problem is that the police are the domestic armed troops of America’s rulers — falsely called “representatives” — and the rest of us are the ruled. They know it, and we are increasingly coming to know it. Most of the “laws” they enforce against us violate our natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The chasm between rulers and ruled exists everywhere in the country, but it exists on a spectrum from the barely noticeable to the extreme. Obviously, it’s most extreme in poorer black communities, where race and class prejudice sit atop the general disdain for the ruled. (St. Louis County, MO, has gone to outrageous lengths, as Radley Balko shows.)

Some critics of police brutality and racism assume that ending prohibitions on drugs and guns — both worthy ends, of course — would eliminate or reduce police abuse. I’m not convinced. Too many young blacks have been harassed or worse by cops claiming that the “suspects” appeared to be casing a store or engaging in some other suspicious activity having nothing to do with drugs or guns.

Repealing victimless-“crime” statutes is imperative, but we also must rethink the top-down model of policing. After all, London didn’t get a police force until 1829. We could declare the experiment a flop and move on.

Sheldon Richman is vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF’s monthly journal, Future of Freedom.

More articles by:

Sheldon Richman, author of America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.  He is also the Executive Editor of The Libertarian Institute.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 25, 2019
Marc Levy
All My Vexes Are in Texas
Jim Kavanagh
Avoiding Assange
Michael D. Yates
The Road Beckons
Julian Vigo
Notre Dame Shows the Unifying Force of Culture, Grenfell Reveals the Corruption of Government
Ted Rall
Democratic Refusal to Impeach Could Be Disastrous
Tracey Harris
Lessons Learned From the Tiny House Movement
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Human Flourishing (Eudaimonia): an Antidote to Extinction?
Dana Johnson
Buyer Beware: Hovercraft Ruling Deals a Major Blow to Land Conservation in Alaska
Norman Solomon
Joe Biden: Puffery vs. Reality
Jen Marlowe
The Palestine Marathon
Binoy Kampmark
Lethal Bungling: Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings
Michael Slager
“Where’s Your Plan?” Legalized Bribery and Climate Change
Jesse Jackson
Trump Plunges the US Deeper Into Forgotten Wars
George Wuerthner
BLM Grazing Decision Will Damage the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness
April 24, 2019
Susan Babbitt
Disdain and Dignity: An Old (Anti-Imperialist) Story
Adam Jonas Horowitz
Letter to the Emperor
Lawrence Davidson
A Decisive Struggle For Our Future
John Steppling
The Mandate for Israel: Keep the Arabs Down
Victor Grossman
Many Feet
Cira Pascual Marquina
The Commune is the Supreme Expression of Participatory Democracy: a Conversation with Anacaona Marin of El Panal Commune
Binoy Kampmark
Failed States and Militias: General Khalifa Haftar Moves on Tripoli
Dean Baker
Payments to Hospitals Aren’t Going to Hospital Buildings
Alvaro Huerta
Top Ten List in Defense of MEChA
Colin Todhunter
As the 2019 Indian General Election Takes Place, Are the Nation’s Farmers Being Dealt a Knock-Out Blow?
Charlie Gers
Trump’s Transgender Troops Ban is un-American and Inhumane
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Just Another Spring in Progress?
Thomas Knapp
On Obstruction, the Mueller Report is Clintonesque
Elliot Sperber
Every Truck’s a Garbage Truck
April 23, 2019
Peter Bolton
The Monroe Doctrine is Back, and as the Latest US Attack on Cuba Shows, Its Purpose is to Serve the Neoliberal Order
David Schultz
The Mueller Report: Trump Too Inept to Obstruct Justice
Geoff Beckman
Crazy Uncle Joe and the Can’t We All Just Get Along Democrats
Medea Benjamin
Activists Protect DC Venezuelan Embassy from US-supported Coup
Patrick Cockburn
What Revolutionaries in the Middle East Have Learned Since the Arab Spring
Jim Goodman
Don’t Fall for the Hype of Free Trade Agreements
Lance Olsen
Climate and Forests: Land Managers Must Adapt, and Conservationists, Too
William Minter
The Coming Ebola Epidemic
Tony McKenna
Stephen King’s IT: a 2019 Retrospective
David Swanson
Pentagon Claims 1,100 High Schools Bar Recruiters; Peace Activists Offer $1,000 Award If Any Such School Can Be Found
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail