There Are Too Many Cops

I have had the pleasure of working with some very talented, brave law enforcement officials who upheld civility with honor and dedication. I think police officers form a vital part of our social fabric.

But this whole counter-terrorism cop-march of the last five years is a march in the wrong direction.

Within a half-mile walk of my apartment, I am in, or can enter, the physical jurisdiction of the following police agencies: the Suffolk County Sheriff, the Boston Police, the Massachusetts State Police, the Federal Protective Service (Federal Reserve), the US Postal Police, the Amtrak Police, the Coast Guard and the MBTA Police. This, of course, leaves out all the other federal agencies with jurisdiction over various areas of federal law – the FBI, the Secret Service, the ATF, the DEA, and the US Marshals Service.

Post 9-11, there is a new attitude about the intersection of the State and individual liberty – it has hardly even been open for debate the last five years. Thankfully, the conversations are starting to occur. The typically pathetic argument from Joe America for the necessity of most of this is much the same as his argument for the charade that is airport security – that it gives him a sense of safety from “the terrorists.” The inconvenient truth is that most of that police power is doing nothing to make him actually safer.

The issue is that a huge majority of police work is tactical in nature and we continue to shuffle forward under the illusion that terrorism is a tactical problem – solvable if we just hire enough cops or buy enough guns. It is not, and I am fearful about the circumstances under which we will finally figure this out. The scary reality is that any organized terrorist organization can take out passenger aircraft, blow up mall food courts, or contaminate food and water supplies anytime they want, and all those guns aren’t going to do a thing to prevent it. Then, will we ask for yet more police and fewer liberties? Or will we realize that terrorism is a strategic and sociological problem that is much more complicated than buying guns and gates and yellng at me to take my shoes off?

For now, though, most Americans slumber along, accepting all these agencies and guns and their inevitable encroachments into individual liberty, mostly because it serves perversely to offset their own inner bogeymen. I’ve said before – because I believe we now live in a sociopolitical dysfunction of our own design – that Aldous Huxley was more of a prophet than Orwell. But when I watch our leaders trying so hard to keep us afraid so that they can advance their own agenda, I do see many signs of Orwell’s dystopia.

We absolutely need police officers (accountable to the people) to help us maintain civil order. But we don’t need massive overlapping police bureacracies that, in a real crisis, would hardly be able to get out of each others’ way, and who provide little in the way of public safety. Tactical police work will stop the low-threat idiot who tries to bring a fillet knife onto a jet or light a trashcan on fire at the train station – someone that, in the scheme of things, no sane person should be very afraid of. But it is not going to stop the sociopathic, brilliant, meticulously organized team of terrorists committed to wreak havoc upon our society. Fighting that kind of terrorism requires work of a much higher order (and I do realize there are some very good men and women trying to do that kind of work – but you are the exception rather than the rule.) More important, it requires that we demand of our leaders a wholesale change in how we, as a nation, behave in the world.

4 thoughts on “There Are Too Many Cops”

  1. You make a valid point about throwing police at a problem, I remember laughing at Clinton’s 100,000 cops programs. Stimulating the economy with tax cuts so people would have more opportunities would have done far more than federal government temporarily paying for more local cops.

    People need to take more responsibility for their lives, I know I feel more comfortable having a concealed 9mm than looking around for a cop when a bum comes after me with a knife. Ironically liberals seem to fear concealed guns more than cops — still can’t figure that one out.

    I especially agree with your point about overlapping agencies — why do we still need a county government that includes a sheriff department anyways? Where we do need added law enforcement is at the ports and in the intelligence agencies. We need people abroad infiltrating the groups that are out to harm us, not an extra cop on the street corner.

    What disturbs me about your post is the last point, and the underlying theme, is that some how 911 and future terrorist events are our fault. Do you seriously believe that somehow “our behavior in the world” caused an attack by Islamic Extremists? The US and its people hold zero responsibility for the events 911, and any other conclusion suggests we that we need to tolerate and embrace their twisted view of the world.

    What I fear more than cops on the street is a pacifist attitude that tells the lunatic terrorists that if you bomb, we will listen. We live in a democracy that allows us to change laws based will of the majority, tempered by the restraints of the constitution. So a group need not crash planes into buildings to bring about change.

    As we’ve witnessed around the world, democracy takes a great deal of work to establish and maintain. But once rooted in the people, people are willing to sacrifice lives to defend it.

    The cowards behind 911 know their dogmatic ideas of a perfect Islamic state are not popular. Unfortunately they are convinced that killing innocent people in the US and Europe will rally more converts.

    The last thing we should do is placate this behavior by blaming ourselves. Their culture only recognizes strong action. The only solution is to crush them until they no longer believe Allah is behind them. This doesn’t involve more local police, but it certainly doesn’t mean blaming ourselves for their actions.

  2. It’s deeper than the many agencies, and it’s been around for much longer than a few years. We may not live in a dictatorship, but we do live in a police state. Last month I spent a few weeks driving around Greece. For days on end I sped through beautiful countryside and never did I encounter a speed trap. I get back here, and in 6 hours of driving through northern Virginia I see exactly 6 speedtraps.
    The war on drugs, which I think you’ve written about, is another example of over-policing by our government. There’s a fundamental mistrust between state and citizens in this country.
    As for tactical and strategic, it seems fairly obvious that until the people actually call for strategic solutions, little will change. Tactical solutions look more impressive, and are easier to implement and easier to excuse if they fail. And even if there is a call for strategic change, I’ll believe it when I see it. The Gubernator made great claims about prison reform in California, yet as we approach the election, he’s on the verge of implementing exclusively tactical solutions.

  3. It’s deeper than the many agencies, and it’s been around for much longer than a few years. We may not live in a dictatorship, but we do live in a police state. Last month I spent a few weeks driving around Greece. For days on end I sped through beautiful countryside and never did I encounter a speed trap. I get back here, and in 6 hours of driving through northern Virginia I see exactly 6 speedtraps.
    The war on drugs, which I think you’ve written about, is another example of over-policing by our government. There’s a fundamental mistrust between state and citizens in this country.
    As for tactical and strategic, it seems fairly obvious that until the people actually call for strategic solutions, little will change. Tactical solutions look more impressive, and are easier to implement and easier to excuse if they fail. And even if there is a call for strategic change, I’ll believe it when I see it. The Gubernator made great claims about prison reform in California, yet as we approach the election, he’s on the verge of implementing exclusively tactical solutions.

  4. Yes thanks to professional politicans like “Slick Willie” that pandered to police unions for his political gain we now have a “Law Incorperated” were as its a numbers game and the cops have to produce to justify their numbers. This all jepordizes our personal freedoms and promotes corruption, and fraud.
    Now due to the lack of leadership in this county and the power of huge lobbyist like the Police Unions, MADD and a few others that profit from the way things are, the honest hard working folks will pay with our blood and our rights.

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