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Charlotte, NC — President Joe Biden called the guilty verdicts against former police officer Derek Chauvin “a step forward” but “not enough.”
Former President Donald Trump, while still in office in May of last year, called the video showing the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis with Chauvin’s knee on his neck “a terrible thing…. He was in tremendous pain obviously, and couldn’t breathe. It was very obvious to anybody that watched it. It was a very, very sad thing for me to see that.”
You may recall former President Barack Obama’s “the police acted stupidly” comment in 2009 regarding a police interaction his professor buddy had with police in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In fact, whenever the national media blows up an incident of alleged police abuse, of course almost always to fit a racial narrative, national political figures are all too often quick to find a microphone and make their opinions known.
Now, one can agree with or disagree with any of the statements made by these figures. One can believe the police were justified or unjustified in any one of these cases. The question that should be asked is why do these federal figures feel the need to stick their noses in local matters, and why does any American feel the need to formulate opinions on incidents that happen maybe hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their hometowns?
Police are meant to be a function of local government, but I can personally attest that local control effectively does not exist anymore. I have covered various “local” government entities, including school boards and municipalities, for over 14 years. The discussions primarily revolve around how they can get their hands on more federal dollars, and to do that, they must follow the will of their Washington masters.
Certainly, police reform will be a discussion in the weeks and months ahead after the Chauvin case. Conservatives need to control the debate and embrace reform or face the reality that more ground will be ceded to the leftist mobs if they don’t.
However, such reforms need to be grounded in principles as the issues are far too complex to be boiled down to simple-minded slogans like “defund the police,” from the left, or “defend the police,” from the right.
And the conservative principle needs to be getting the federal government out of the way. Allow “local” government to truly be local again. Make them the decision makers of any reform that may be needed in their police department, and make them responsible and accountable for those decisions. What’s needed from police in cities like New York is not what’s needed in Anchorage, Alaska.
After the death of Floyd, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) proposed criminal justice reform, the JUSTICE Act. Certainly, I believe Scott’s intentions were good, but it followed the same big government formula that practically all politicians propose. It would add new training and new regulations on local police while dangling the carrot of more dollars, stolen from the nation’s taxpayers, for their compliance.
When local control is seen, we find instances of private police in parts of San Francisco or in Detroit. Dale Brown, founder of Detroit’s Threat Management Center, fully embraces free market principles and says “accountability and responsibility are intrinsic in the private sector…. I don’t have better people. I have a system, and it’s that system that makes us capable.”
“We don’t police people,” Brown told Reason Magazine. “We protect them. Police are law enforcement officers. So, essentially their task is based on negative metrics, arresting people for drugs or violence that has already occurred, which is not protection.”
Then there’s Camden, New Jersey which abolished its police department in 2013 to form a new one as corruption ran rampant in the previous department. That city saw violent crime fall by 42 percent and complaints against police by 95 percent. And they eliminated the union which cut costs drastically. Unfortunately, the union has returned and costs are again rising.
Maybe you don’t like how any of those agencies operate, but if you don’t live there then it’s not your business. Isn’t that what America’s about?
Now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t reforms from the national level that should be sought. First is ending the militarization of local police. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) proposed the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act last year. Paul noted that the military’s hand me downs to local law enforcement has led to a $22 million drone going to the California Highway Patrol or MRAP vehicles to Payne County, Oklahoma which has a whopping population of 77,350. Please, tell me how that county needs an MRAP?
Next, end qualified immunity which “is a special protection for government workers that the Supreme Court created in 1982 as an act of judicial policymaking,” according to the Institute for Justice. Justice Clarence Thomas has called it“one-size-fits-all, subjective immunity based on good faith,” and “qualified immunity doctrine appears to stray from the statutory text.” And this doctrine needs to be ended for all government, not just police.
Then there’s ending civil asset forfeiture. Gary Barnett wrote about this government thievery last year: “It is nothing short of outright theft of private property under the guise of protection from money laundering and other so-called crime and non-crime. But stopping crime is never the goal, for if it were, those in government would be the first arrested. They are the cheats and liars, they are the murderers, they are the thieves, and this is all done in the name of the state. They do this for one reason only, and that is to fill their coffers with the property of others, and in the process gain even more control and power over the public.”
The biggest reform of all is eliminating stupid laws which increases the number of interactions citizens have with the police.
Harvey Silvergate, author of the book Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, said: “There are two allied concepts. There’s over-criminalization—too many things have been made into crimes, but then there is a kind of a vicious relative and this is statues that are so vague that no normal human being can figure out what it is.”
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