FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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.

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Wim Laven
The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
Graham Peebles
A Global Battle of Values and Ideals
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
David Schultz
Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail