Conservatives Defend the Police: National Review Says the “Love Affair” Should Stop!

Do Conservatives defend the police as an instinctive reaction? A. J. Delgado writes that they should stop: “It’s Time for Conservatives to Stop Defending the Police.”

Imagine if I were to tell you there is a large group of government employees, with generous salaries and ridiculously cushy retirement pensions covered by the taxpayer, who enjoy incredible job security and are rarely held accountable even for activities that would almost certainly earn the rest of us prison time. When there is proven misconduct, these government employees are merely reassigned and are rarely dismissed. The bill for any legal settlements concerning their errors? It, too, is covered by the taxpayers. Their unions are among the strongest in the country.

No, I’m not talking about public-school teachers.

I’m talking about the police.

We conservatives recoil at the former; yet routinely defend the latter — even though, unlike teachers, police officers enjoy an utter monopoly on force and can ruin — or end — one’s life in a millisecond.

One of the elements in this indictment which I hadn’t really known about was the fact that, despite proven incompetence of corruption, police often find other departments willing to take them on and grant them the immense authority that comes from the badge, the taser, and the gun.

I had recently started thinking about that because of the job history of the Wii Remote Shooter, I posted about yesterday:

Police State USA summarizes what was dug up:

Details have emerged about the shooter, Cpl. Nancy Beth Gatny.  WXIA reported about her history in law enforcement and revealed that she had been fired from a previous department.

Gatny had a history of suspensions and reprimands for failure to follow department policies.  She had only been with Euharlee for 10 months.  Her former supervisors said she had issues including paperwork problems, repeated car accidents, and equipment blunders.

Notably, she fired her weapon in 2008 at a suspect removing his backpack. She was fired from her previous job ultimately for failure to report to work.  Gatny allegedly tried to collect disability.

So… Disability fraud? Check.

Failure to work? Check.

Shooting at an unarmed innocent man? Check.

Yes, that’s why we refer to police as the city’s “finest”—modest bunch. Sounds like exactly the kind of person to whom anyone would want to give authority and a gun.

I noticed the top pushback in the comments against Delgado’s piece claims he is wrong because

law enforcement is one of the only current functions of government that we conservatives believe should exist (national defense, courts, local schools and transportation infrastructure being the others).

I never signed up as a conservative for “local schools and transportation infrastructure,” since voluntary society and markets can and, in the past, have done great at providing both. But I’ll put that aside. I agree that the government is supposed to provide national defense (not an empire of aggression they use Orwellian NewSpeak to label “national defense”). I certainly agree about the courts. But read the Second Amendment. The conservative colonial ideal was that the American people can police themselves. This is the way it was done in the colonies. A civil magistrate would rely on the people to provide the force for law enforcement. The tradition continued into the nineteenth century (see below).

We’ve moved away from our roots into a full-time occupying force. I’m not saying there aren’t good police officers, just like I know there are good public school teachers. But by holding them accountable you give the good police support against the corruption that may arise around them and overwhelm them without that support.

Furthermore, those good cops want us, the public, to know they are trustworthy. Nothing makes their jobs more difficult, and even puts them in more danger, than a populace who no longer trusts them because of the reputation of their abusive fellow cops and police departments. The relationship between the American people and the police is not going to end well if these trends are not halted–but it will come to an end.

PostScript: Here is Alexis DeToqueville from his classic Democracy in America comparing American and European law enforcement practices. If you haven’t read this yet, you really need to do so—and contemplate his description of the United States compared to our present TSA, Swat Teams, etc.

In America, the means put at the disposal of authority to uncover crimes and to pursue criminals are few.

Police control does not exist; passports are unknown. Officers of the court in the United States cannot be compared to ours. The agents of the public prosecutor’s office are few; [they do not communicate with each other;] they do not always have the right to initiate legal proceedings; preliminary investigation is rapid and oral. I doubt, however, that, in any country, crime as rarely escapes punishment.

The reason for it is that everyone believes himself interested in providing proof of the crime and in catching the offender.

I saw, during my stay in the United States, the inhabitants of a county, where a great crime had been committed, spontaneously form committees for the purpose of pursuing the guilty party and delivering him to the courts.

In Europe, the criminal is an unfortunate who is fighting to hide from the agents of power; the population in a way helps in the struggle. In America, he is an enemy of the human species, and he has all of humanity against him.

This is the kind of ethic I think Conservatives should conserve.