Police Abuse

From the Drug War and Asset Forfeiture to Police Militarization, Why Does the Left Still Support Federal Control of Local Policing?

At USA Today Glenn Reynolds explains some of the problems with federal control of local police.

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ATF

Glenn 'Instapundit' Reynolds has a great column in USA Today demolishing the idea—floated by the Obama administration and pushed recently by Al Sharpton—that a nationalized police force would somehow be an improvement, from a civil liberties perspective, over the current situation. The Obama administration's proposal is more tempered—that the feds should use more local police grants to compel local and state police agencies to behave in a certain way.

Just the fact that one day the U.S. will have a president that every person who might say they support this idea will detest (like Bush for half the country or Obama for the other half, more or less) ought to be enough to pinch it in the bud. The federal government does have a role to play in police oversight—an oversight role, not a funding role.  Federal grants have helped militarize the police, expand the practice of asset forfeiture, and fuel the drug war. None of those goals were explicitly articulated when the grants were passed—it was about law and order and safety.

And since 2009, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has opened more than 20 pattern and practice investigations into police departments around the country over alleged patterns and practices of civil rights abuse. The Obama administration picked up the pace on these, but the DOJ has been conducting such investigations since the mid-1990s. The feds' ability to investigate local police departments—and, for when you read Reynolds' column, local police departments' ability to investigate misbehavior by local feds—fosters better police departments.

Reynolds offers some other solutions:

Instead, if we're really serious about increasing law enforcement accountability, we should end civil service protections for federal employees, while outlawing public employee unions. We should also abolish governmental immunity for federal, state, and local employees, forcing them to face civil lawsuits for illegal behavior, just as the rest of us must do.

Instead of centralizing law enforcement, we should promote decentralization, and accountability. Accountability is a good thing. Sharpton should try it some time.

Read the whole column here.

Tying federal grants to "best practices" is a slippery slope because that term is vague and hard to define, and federal grants have done a lot to create today's untenable situation in the first place. Aggressively waging the drug war was once a "best practice" the feds encouraged local police departments to adopt. How can the feds try to provide operating guidelines for local law enforcement agencies to respect civil rights when federal law enforcement agencies often operate in a way that disregards those rights?

But perhaps there is a role for federal grants to encourage clear, specific actions by local police departments—by requiring local agencies, for example, to track problem cops or even require cops to carry their own liability insurance if they accept federal money. But these are not the kind of proposals being made. The administration has not articulated its desire to tie specific federal grants to any specific ideas for reform, but rather to tie it to the vague idea of "best practices." Police violence is too bloody of a problem, and the history of federal influence on police issues (from the drug war to militarized police) has been too disastrous to take the "pass it to see what's in it" approach Democrats have taken over the last few years to push laws that feel good but have the devil in their little understood details.

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71 responses to “From the Drug War and Asset Forfeiture to Police Militarization, Why Does the Left Still Support Federal Control of Local Policing?

  1. Because racism. There’s a strange belief that federal law enforcement has a magical anti-racism aura.

    Local law enforcement is a holdover of confederate sympathisers.

    And besides, when did more powerful government and central control NOT fix something?

    1. Did you forget how MLK was protected and supported by J Edgar Hoover and the FBI?

      I swear it is like you never even read a history book.

      1. I believe that was sarcasm, Most Holy.

          1. It’s sarcasm all the way up.

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  2. ought to be enough to pinch it in the bud.

    I prefer “strangle it in the crib” but that’s just me.

    1. The actual term is to ‘NIP it in the bud’, per Deputy Fife.

    2. Just throw a flash-bang into it.

  3. Semi related:

    Beloved former Reason staffer Mike Riggs had an Op-Ed at CNN a few days ago about drug reform:
    http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/30/…..a-amnesty/

    I’m surprised that CNN published it.

  4. We should also abolish governmental immunity for federal, state, and local employees, forcing them to face civil lawsuits for illegal behavior, just as the rest of us must do.

    I imagine the courts would fall into a rubber stamp mentality of dismissing most of these on whatever grounds they can dream up.

    1. Still worth it – take out an unjustified perversion of the legal system, and at least making it harder on the wrongdoers.

    2. Congress could remove the court’s ability to review any challenge to accountability.

    3. Governments provide the immunity you describe for themselves, too.
      Try suing a building department if a “signed off by a building inspector”, building falls down around your ears, or a parole department when a criminal let out early, commits another crime.
      These immunities are believed to be necessary otherwise not enough people would take the risk of doing these jobs. If police officers are made to do so, you will find it even harder than it is now to get enough people to do the job, especially since every repeat offender is aware of how easy it is to make false claims about police abuse.

      1. That sounds like the risks the rest of us “civilians” are faced with. Why are police special?

  5. local agencies, for example, to track problem cops or

    Not sure I get this. Problem cops are tracked. King county sheriffs KNEW they had a problematic cop on their hands and did nothing about him, because procedures were followed. Even after he permanently brain damaged an innocent, unarmed man by slamming his head into a wall, king county continued to admit he was a problem while defending his actions because procedures were followed.

    This cop is on the street today, driving behind you, running your plates and pulling your daughters and sons over.

    1. Don’t you find it surprising that these shitbag cops who mutilate and cripple people’s sons and daughters don’t turn up dead after the state fails to secure justice? If some cop tossed a flashbang into my toddler’s bed and got away with it, I would be dedicating the rest my life to procuring some justice. No price would be too high for justice.

      1. I find it kind of strange too.

      2. I don’t find it strange. I don’t have a union union shielding me from criminal investigations if I kill someone.

        1. I my kids are dead, I may not care.

        2. I don’t find it strange. I don’t have a union union shielding me from criminal investigations if I kill someone.

          That’s exactly my point. As long as humans interact with one another there is a need for justice between them. That need can either be secured through dispute resolution services or vigilante violence. By shutting people out of the monopolized dispute resolution system, they are promoting a Hobbesian version of justice.

          1. Congress could easily declare, in the funding bill for Justice and the Courts that Sovereign Immunity for Federal employees in breach of civil-rights would be a violation of the Titles of Nobility clause.

    2. Not sure I get this. Problem cops are tracked. King county sheriffs KNEW they had a problematic cop on their hands and did nothing about him, because procedures were followed.

      Clearly the answer is more money for police. That solves everything.

      1. I wuz robbed of my close tag!

        Clearly the answer is more money for police. That solves everything.

  6. …that a nationalized police force would somehow be an improvement, from a civil liberties perspective, over the current situation.

    Central planners wanting control of the enforcement arm of their policies? Huh.

    1. A local Gestapo just doesn’t have the same zing.

  7. Did sarcasmic write the Alt-Text for Ed this morning?

    1. Damn. I scrolled all the way up there hoping it would be a picture of a fat woman with alt-text saying ‘John would’ only to be disappointed.

    2. I started a meme! Hooray!

      1. Are there any women who would satisfy both you and John?

        1. At the same time? I doubt it.

          1. If you give her a month or two in between to either bulk up or crash diet, though…

      2. Luke Skywalker: Got him! I got him!
        Han Solo: Great, kid! Don’t get cocky.

        1. At least I never tried to make it with my sister. I couldn’t. I don’t have one. Oh. Wait. He didn’t know he had one either. Oh, man. Ummmm.

  8. Why does the left support everything it supports? A toxic combination of emotion and cognitive dissonance.

    1. And fascism, don’t forget the fascism.

  9. A national police force is a horrifically bad and dangerous idea. Naturally Obama and his buddies want it.

    1. I see DHS vehicles around all the time. We’re getting pretty damn close as it is.

      1. Yeah, it’s high time we undid that mistake, too. Lots of undoing to do.

      2. I’ve never seen a DHS vehicle. Where do you live?

        1. Minneapolis. The DHS goons were actually working security at a baseball game I attended last year. Khakis, blue polos, wraparound shades and cool tactical leg holsters. Looked like a poor man’s Blackwater.

          1. Weird. I wonder why I haven’t seen them. Then again I don’t go to large public events, so that might be part of it.

    2. Years ago, I had a roommate who was a former Federal Police Officer from Brazil, the national police force, which is similar to the Secret Service in some ways.

      He would brag about how they could do anythign they wanted and get away with it.

    3. To be fair to The Mighty O and Friends, when Team Red respackled Iraq, they went with the national police force model.

      Federalized law enforcement appeals to anyone holding federal power.

  10. Why does the Left still support federal control of [insert any subject]?

    Because it’s the Left.

  11. Of course the TOP MEN think the TOP MEN should be in charge. When do they ever think bottom men would do a better job? Ever? Even if Obama had the very purest of intentions, he’d still be pushing for a dictatorship.

    1. Aren’t these the some of the same people who would bottom for Hillary?

      Makes sense.

  12. . . . Why Does the Left Still Support Federal Control of Local Policing?

    Because the Left supports *federal control*.

    Lot’s here like to say the left is unprincipled – that’s not true.

    They are principled, but the principle is ever increasing centralization and codification of allowable interactions.

    1. Exactly. Once everything is completely centralized, it will only take a handful of Top Men to keep all of society humming along.

      That this has never, ever worked, or that the Top Men could turn out to disagree with the original goals of the centralizers, does not enter into consideration.

  13. Um, because the left supports federal control of everything?

    The left hardly believe in federalism. To them, that’s like blasphemy. There’s only one true god, you know.

    1. And He is the Unlimited State. Forever and ever. Amen.

      1. All heil Leviathan!

        1. Aw Hell. Leviathan.

    2. The left despises that whole “laboratory of democracy” thing. Everything must be consistent, federal, and enforced with an iron fist.

      1. It’s the only way that totalitarianism can work. Because most people will not willingly go along, no matter how hard they try to ‘nudge’ everyone. Force is an integral component of the left.

        1. Force is an integral component of the left.

          It’s more than that. It’s all they understand. They worship violence and abhor voluntary cooperation.

          1. Oh yeah, well… libertarians are selfish and they worship a woman whose entire philosophy is based on selfishness! And Rand Paul is a racist!

      2. But, the accepted belief is that the right is the side that wants to enforce total control via the iron fist.

        They can’t both want the same thing. Or, can they?

    3. “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”

      Il Douche just wants his turn.

  14. Look, there’s no problem that central, brutal and crushing control can’t solve.

    1. Only people they disagree with need to be brutalized and crushed. People they agree with just need to be controlled.

      1. It’s like Bizarro Castle Anthrax.

        Except that the spanking isn’t quite so sexy and fraught with peril.

        1. They’ve already got the oral sex part down. Tony doesn’t even show up here unless there’s jizz on his chin. It’s like makeup.

  15. Related: Court says DEA is allowed to secretly fill your truck with weed, get into firefights with Zetas

    Craig Patty asked his employee Lawrence Chapa to help take one of his two trucks to the garage, not realizing that Chapa was a DEA undercover planning to fill the truck with weed, which ended in a firefight with a Los Zetas hit squad that killed the driver, who was a DEA informant.

    The DEA says it doesn’t owe Patty anything for the more than $100,000 in repairs that were required for the truck, and disclaim any responsibility for the death of Patty’s employee. Also, they won’t do anything about the fact that they led the Zetas to believe that Patty was a rival drug-runner.

    Yep, can’t imagine why people would be skeptical of federal law enforcement.

    1. Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

    2. Judge Lee Rosenthal has spent 27 of her 41 post-law school years in the public sector. It appears that she worked for a Houston law firm for 14 years. Would one be astonished to learn that the law firm represented rent seekers and lobbyists and the like? Once you realize that the law firm is named Baker & Botts, you won’t.

      Oh, btw, she was a Bush 41 appointee.

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  17. Why does the left want a national police force? How else can you set up a police state?

  18. All hail the chief!

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