Friday, July 31, 2009

Chapter 6: Police Power

Many citizens believe that the police and other governmental agencies have too much power. We will term "too much power" as suggesting that citizens have no power when it comes to a dispute between them and these agencies. Some examples on previous chapters show where this may not be true. Police have "limited" power, but they wield power according to the dictates of public policy. The trial of former football star, O.J. Simpson, is an excellent example of the sweeping changes and advancement of domestic and family law as result of this case. Police officers were required to be more diligent in handling domestic disputes. No longer could police officers leave a volatile situation without truly making the environment safe. Another shift in law enforcement came when the Rodney King beating was broadcast nationally. The popularity of seeing the Los Angeles Police beating a civilian unjustifiably raised eyebrows and set on course a more restrained response to arrest tactics and citizen rights. These changes took place based on the societal outcry. The power police exercise can only be checked by the vigilance of concerned citizens. Again, if individuals are not made responsible, their propensity to act in their interest will go overboard.

Police departments have traditionally been paramilitary organizations sanctioned by state law. The motto "serve and protect" has been the premise in which police historically have operated on. This motto still holds true today, but with the changing dynamics of society it requires citizens to voice their concerns more than ever before or be lost in the cacophony of special interest groups. It is truly a situation of the squeaky wheel receiving the oil. If you do not demand better services than you will not receive it. A trend that is gaining momentum is the privatization of public facilities. This is being seen as economically more viable and efficient for the dollars spent by taxpayers. However, let's first revisit what law enforcement has been traditionally. As society opted to have rules and laws, it decided that it needed a body to enforce these rules and laws for the good of society. This elite group of men and women would be endowed with the power to protect and serve the public interest. As time went on this elite corp, with power to arrest as well legally take life, has had its growing pains and still does. The shortcoming of law enforcement is that it relies totally on "humanism". Under the most ideal situation, the propensity to err is ever present by individuals to use their own ability to reason.

As we have said, "reason" is purely subjective and individualized. The police department in a jurisdiction is the only "team" in town. There are no police departments competing against each other to give better services to the general public. Unlike every other aspect of a free capitalistic system, citizens do not have the luxury of going across the street to a better department such as when you opt for Burger King over McDonald's. As society has changed, much of law enforcement has not. Whereas McDonald's has to think of creative ways to persuade customers to visit them over Burger King, law enforcement does not have to. This lack of proactivity or the need to create better ways of doing things is the reason why law enforcement is not as progressive as it could be. The United States share a common trait with communist countries in that its police forces are state sanctioned. What happens when citizens are unhappy with the way the police respond to their needs? They can peacefully express their indignation or apply pressure through elected representatives to be heard. Notice that an option is not the creation of a new police department that better serves public needs with specific criteria created by the people. Truly law enforcement has been a monopoly on the public's trust. This is not necessarily negative. Overall, the system of law enforcement in its current form has been effective. Law enforcement in most instances effectively acts the way it is suppose to act. If a citizen calls for emergency services, she will get these services. The downside of the current system is that it does not effectively address the human needs on both sides. Police officers are not weeded out when they no longer have the desire to give premier services to the public. As long as he does not violate the law, he has a job for life. A person working for a corporation could not remain with that company if he was found to be unproductive and ineffective.

Law enforcement has become a sort of welfare system, like many governmental structures, where the person has a job for life with the main criterion being that he breathes. With such a system, there is no incentive for officers to push themselves past their own self- induced limitations. Society is negatively effected, because it sometimes gets second class service when it pays first class taxes. Again, the police are the only team in town and if you don't like it, you can move to another jurisdiction. The only drawback is that it will be the same set of rules. Capitalism in all its greatness and weakness has still produced the greatest potential for human growth. As such, the private sector has been instrumental in raising the stakes for the betterment of humankind. The onslaught of public entities that were once untouchable is marking the dawning of a new age. Gas, water, and other utilities are no longer the "sacred cow" where quasi-governmental companies once ran them unchallenged. A few years ago, no one would have thought about starting their own gas company in which citizens would have more choices for better services. The penal institute has entered the field where private companies are running prisons for states. The major complaint in this situation is that the prisoners have alleged abuses by administrators. The part that is missing for this enterprise to be phenomenally successful is that the private sector must play by the guidelines mandated by citizens and the state. If left on its own, corporations who are given responsibility as an arm to the judicial may take on the vices that was representative of the previous system. We cannot emphasize this point enough, if human action is not checked, it will go awry because of its selfish nature to act in its own interest. Already the trend is shifting in many cities. Citizens are banning together to create small enclaves of protection with hired security guards acting as the police, but come short of claiming police status. The past trend that has been and will continue for police officers is to be hired by private companies to patrol property and streets for an hourly rate. This will be expanded to include an on-going police presence by private entities to have their own full time police force. Once the proper training is in place mandated by the state, it will not be long that society will see "pockets" of private protection by peace officers. Again, the success or failure of this innovation will depend on the quality of training and background checks. It can work and will serve to create more options for citizens who feel disenfranchised by the present system.

The positive aspect of being state sanctioned is to curtail abuses in power. The private sector is not hindered by state sanctioning as long as it is allowed to compete, create, and flourish on its own merit. Historically, when individuals and entities have created on its own merit, society has consistently benefited, because these individuals and entities are not protected by a safety net where there is a guaranteed salary whether they produce or not. Ultimately, the "system" or bureaucracy has become a malfunctioning system because individuals are not encouraged to create new and innovative ways of doing business. Any time human potential is curtailed or stagnated, the process is hindered and people merely coexist within the system bringing neither value nor progress to that system.

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