Michael Brown Shooting

Instapundit: How to Fix Policing so There Are no More (or Fewer) Fergusons


Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit and professor of law, has been watching police militarization for years. In his latest USA Today column, he outlines three reforms that he says would make cops more accountable:

First, we should abolish police unions. All public-employee unions are suspect, given that they're basically organizations to take more money from taxpayers while minimizing accountability, but this is even more troubling where the employees in question carry guns.

Second, we should equip all patrol officers with body cameras that record everything that they do. This actually benefits both officers and the citizenry: When San Bernardino adopted them, it found significant drops both in complaints against the police and in police use of force. In fact, though calls for body cameras initially came from police-reform proponents, now many police support them too.

Third, we need to revisit the idea of "qualified immunity." Right now, police officers enjoy immunity from lawsuits so long as they act in "good faith," and courts stretch the notion of good faith pretty far. This change from the common law—where police weren't immune to lawsuits—was not the product of legislation and debate, but of judicial activism: There's nothing about it in the Constitution; judges just thought it was a good idea.

Reynolds is no bleeding heart but the reforms he sketches are good ideas, I think. And there's this:

I sometimes think the turning point [toward increased use of SWAT teams and other paramilitary trappings] was marked by the old cop show Hill Street Blues.Each episode opened with a daily briefing before the officers went out on patrol. In the early seasons, Sergeant Phil Esterhaus concluded every briefing with "Let's be careful out there." In the later episodes, his replacement, Sergeant Stan Jablonski, replaced that with "Let's do it to them before they do it to us." The latter attitude is appropriate for a war zone, but not for a civilized society.

Whole thing here.


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  1. “Let’s do it to them before they do it to us.” The latter attitude is appropriate for a war zone, but not for a civilized society.

    And sometimes not even in a war zone.

    It is never appropriate for the people allegedly hired To Protect and Serve.

  2. “This change from the common law — where police weren’t immune to lawsuits — was not the product of legislation and debate, but of judicial activism: There’s nothing about it in the Constitution; judges just thought it was a good idea.”

    Experts can correct me, but I understand that the common law even allowed the right to resist an unjustified arrest. Is this correct?

    1. I specifically remember watching an interview with the Orange county district attorney? involved early on in the Kelly Thomas case and this fellow made it very clear that there are rare situations when a citizen is under extreme duress during an arrest that resistance is entirely legal and recommended.

      In spite of his admirable frankness I have yet to figure out how that action is remotely possible within the current law enforcement reality where citizens are mercilessly slain over far less than outright physical duress.

  3. Yes, treat all police like adults instead of diaper-wearing infants under the fawning care of helicopter unions and chiefs.

  4. States should amend their constitutions to make clear that the police are subject to the same laws as every other citizen.

    1. Police aren’t subject to the same laws as other citizens; police have authority to use coercion, violence, and deadly force in situations that other citizens don’t. I think you’d have a hard time convincing voters to change that.

  5. Fourth, randomly test law enforcement officers on their knowledge of the law.

    1. And for steroids.

  6. We could also get rid of the current situation wherein “self defense” seems never to be a valid legal defense when one is attacked by a cop.
    Cory Maye should never have spent a day in jail. Neither should Ryan Frederick.

  7. But what we all want to know is; what do Millenials think about militarization? Please Reason, as members of the public we have the right demand to know what Millenials think!

    1. Who is this awful person who forces you to come here? Can we take up a collection to buy your freedom?

      1. Did someone hurt your sacred cow?

        1. Did someone make you stop fucking your dad?

          1. Like he would know who that is…

            1. Point gratefully taken.

          2. Looks like I did hurt your little feelings. Poor little guy.

            1. Is this a Bo sock-puppet? Because Bo says shit like this too.

              1. It’s some weenie anarchist with a really thin skin.

            2. So no one has stopped you from fucking your dad?

              Hopefully dad is into it.

  8. Fourth, get police off the streets. Firemen don’t patrol the streets for fires; police don’t need to patrol the streets for “crimes.”

    1. The Rush Limbaugh squads would defecate all over themselves in fear, bro.

    2. They aren’t patrolling the streets for crimes. They are patrolling the streets for criminals.

      Most crimes don’t happen spontaneously. They are deliberate acts. Fires happen spontaneously all the time.

      Police can dissuade criminals from committing crimes simply by their presence. Fires don’t care if firemen are present.

      1. They patrol to subsidize their departments’ budgets via citations, with crime prevention purely secondary.

        The world survived and did quite well without police for many millennia. With an armed citizenry, we’d be just fine returning to the sheriff and nightwatchman model of dealing with criminals.

  9. I like these 3 suggestions, but item one is problematic for me. While I loathe public sector unions in general (don’t get me started on the teacher’s unions, here in California), item one seems to fly against freedom of assembly. Not sure what the right answer is on this one.

    1. You’d handle it contractually in the same way you would political speech by an employee of the public. If you sign on to be a public servant, you agree not to organize.

    2. I think employees should be free to unionize, but employers shouldn’t be under any requirement to hire (or continue to employee) unionized employees.

      In this case, the government is the employer, with voters (at least in theory) ultimately in charge. So I think the government would be within its right as an employer to refuse to hire unionized cops, and voters could demand that this be the case.

      Making public sector unions illegal seems subtly different to me, and I agree would seem to go against freedom of association.

    3. In the end, the only real power that a union has is the power to strike. I don’t see how there’s a true liberty friendly way to revoke that power.

      1. Easy. If they strike, fire them. And never rehire them.

        1. That’s not really practical. I don’t know the full history of how the air traffic controllers were restaffed, but a quick glance at the wiki page implies there was a scramble.

          The concern is ultimately attempting to ensure an uninterrupted and or minimum level of service by the Government. I’m not sure how achievable that is without a constraint on liberty. I’m also not sure how necessary it is, but it’s certainly the view of the majority that public services shouldn’t be held hostage by strike.

          That’s the whole reason most union laws exist. As a concession to preventing public sector strikes.

          1. If the cops go on strike in my “sector” of New Hampshire, my neighbors and I will organize a militia. Seriously, I am pretty sure we can maintain peace in our neighborhood.

            1. Yeah, you can really apply the situation in Gorham or whatever backwoodsass town you live in to a metropolitan police force.

              1. Actually, you can. What works in small scale usually works in large scale.

          2. The concern is ultimately attempting to ensure an uninterrupted and or minimum level of service by the Government.

            There is no minimum level of service by govt. If you’re lucky, all they’ll do is shoot your dog and seize all your stuff because someone with a black market cigarette walked within 100 feet of your property.

          3. In other words, their “minimum level of service” is actually negative, and a negative number could be infinite…

  10. item one seems to fly against freedom of assembly.

    Police can form and join whatever clubs they want.

    The cities, etc. just won’t be allowed to recognize those clubs as legitimate negotiating partners, contacting parties, or for any other purpose.

    See? Freedom of association preserved.

    1. Or this.

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