Giving a Pair of Shoes Covers a Multitude of Sins

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I hope you can forgive me on this one. I found this as a draft from long ago that I didn’t publish until now. I thought about tossing it out, but decided it was better to document an instance (of a large pool of examples) of policemen shooting unarmed people, whether it happened this week or two months ago. (Also, I was asked by a member of a Meetup to which I belong to help promote the radio host in the video, Josh Tolley. Not sure that his style suits my tastes, but do with it what you will.) It seems particularly curious that innocents getting killed by police garners much less attention than a single police officer giving a homeless man a pair of shoes. Is it because the former has become so commonplace that it seems hardly newsworthy? Are commendable acts by police officers so rare that one being photographed merits national attention?

<br /><br />	This photo provided by Jennifer Foster shows New York City Police Officer Larry DePrimo presenting a barefoot homeless man in New York's Time Square with boots Nov. 14, 2012 . Foster was visiting New York with her boyfriend on Nov. 14, when she came across the shoeless man asking for change in Times Square. As she was about to approach him, she said the officer came up to the man with a pair of all-weather boots and thermal socks on the frigid night. She took the picture on her cellphone. It was posted Tuesday night to the NYPD's official Facebook page and became an instant hit. More than 350,000 users "liked" it as of Thursday afternoon, and over 100,000 shared it. (AP Photo/Jennifer Foster)<br /><br />

Obviously, it is possible that some police officers are capable of acts of kindness and not all of them desire to break down your door and shoot you and/or your dog. However, the frequency of such acts of violence by those with badges should lead us to seriously challenge the notion that the problems can all be chalked up to a few bad apples. I would like to offer this alternative: the institutional framework of the existing statist policing regime should lead us to expect such results. Firstly, think of the tremendous power afforded to police officers. Such power will immediately appeal to those who desire to use it, leading to a pool of candidates that is biased in terms of those who have a lust for dominance. I should know: I have obtained a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and know the people who want to be cops.

Secondly, the official checks upon police power continue to be diminished (I say “official” because the rise in widespread carrying of devices that are capable of recording video may make officers think more deeply about what actions they will take when in the public eye). In furtherance of the drug war, as well as the war on terror, the courts have continued to decide in favor of police power over constitutional protections.In my own experience, police have searched my vehicle twice (at least to my knowledge). It used to be the case that such an invasion of property required a warrant supported by probable cause and the approval of a judge (and even in this frequently idealized procedure, it doesn’t take an anarchist to realize that cops and judges play for the same team and the deck is already stacked against you). Then judges decided that the 4th Amendment didn’t apply to motor vehicles in the same way that it did to other property and decreed that police were no longer required to obtain a warrant to search a vehicle. To further whittle away any privacy or security in one’s car, the courts then decided that all it took was a drug-sniffing dog to alert on a car and it could be legally searched. This is what happened both times in my case. I have never even handled elicit substances, yet somehow they found their way onto my door handle. Twice. I think a more plausible explanation is that the police know I cannot prove that either their dog is faulty or, more likely, the dog never alerted to anything at all. Thus they are given free reign to go on fishing expeditions. Find something and they’ve got a bust. Find nothing and there is no penalty to them, yet if I did the same thing as a non-badge carrier I would be considered guilty of false imprisonment, car burglary, and robbery (for giving people bills and then threatening to revoke their license and put them in jail should they not submit).

Thirdly, undesirable behavior is officially incentivized. Drug units in many police departments are given grants by the federal government that are partially based on the number of drug arrests. Thus, the most extreme way to handle a problem is the way of choice when something such as a warning may do. (Not to mention the fact that drug and vice “crimes” don’t have a victim. Why aren’t there more people asking why the State has a right to use violence against non-violent people in the first place?)

Fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, police have a monopoly on violence. The reason why you don’t really hear about cases of security guard brutality (none come to mind) is that they face the likelihood of immediate termination because people don’t want to do business with others who beat them up. Taking your business elsewhere is a powerful check. Yet that option is not officially available in regards to government police. Their paycheck is obtained through the theft called taxation. You are not their customer. You are their potential suspect.

Given only these considerations, the rampant violence and corruption that are commonplace among American police departments should be expected. So the question baffling me is why do people continue to revere policemen as selfless heroes, or at least give the institution the unmerited benefit of the doubt?

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