Behind the Progressive War on Cops
It is critically important to us, as a free society, that we have police forces to protect us, our loved ones, and our property, from those who would harm us or rob us. It follows that it also is of critical importance that our police be empowered to use reasonable force, including where warranted deadly force, to protect us from the scourge of crime.
At the same time, it is vital that we weed out those police officers with a different agenda. Thus, we have every right to condemn episodes that reveal the presence of racial bigotry in our police departments -- and to investigate reported incidents in which deadly force was used by police officers, to determine whether that force was justified under our governing legal standards and the circumstances in which the officers found themselves.
However, when it comes to telling the good cops from the bad, we have even bigger problems to worry about than racial bigotry. To appreciate this, let’s back up for a moment to consider two highly interrelated issues: why we have police, and who should control them.
The police exist to exert force where necessary. But to what end? Both bottom-up democratic republics and top-down dictatorial regimes have police officers. From a distance, they even look alike -- wearing similar uniforms, bearing similar ranks, and carrying similar weapons. But viewed up close, behind the façade, they are profoundly different. In bottom-up societies, the police exist to serve and protect the people and their freedoms by projecting power on the people’s behalf. In top-down societies, the police exist to protect the rulers’ position of authority by projecting power on the rulers’ behalf.
During the twentieth century, hundreds of millions of human beings were victimized by top-down regimes -- communists, socialists, and fascists -- that used their police power to subjugate the people, rendering them powerless and poor, with no prospects for improving their lots in life. So if you want to know how to recognize the really bad cops, ask what they’re using force to achieve, and whose interests they’re out to protect. If they’re motivated by racial animosity and they’re American cops, then they are acting contrary to the policies of their employers. That’s because we, the people, are their employers, and we have decreed that bigotry will not be tolerated. We even passed the Fourteenth Amendment to our Constitution to ensure that no persons will be denied the equal protection of our laws. This is binding on our police.
As to who should control the police, most Americans understand that police departments are local, but few understand how that came to be. When this nation was formed, the 13 founding states agreed to create a federal government of limited and specified powers, with all other powers to be retained by the states or the people. The overarching goal behind this was to maximize individual liberty by minimizing the threat of a top-down, central-command government. And so, while the federal government was authorized to engage military forces to protect us from de-civilizing forces from outside our borders, the states alone wielded the general police power for the health, safety, and welfare of the people inside our borders. The states’ police power encompassed defining what conduct is criminal, setting penalties to be imposed on criminals, establishing law enforcement agencies, and building courthouses and prisons, all aimed at punishing violators in order to deter crime and thereby protect the people.
Over the course of the last 75 years or more, the liberals and progressives within the Democratic Party have pushed to grow the size, reach, and cost of the federal government. This push has extended to the steady encroachment by the federal government into the states’ police power, supported by a barrage of Supreme Court rulings that corrupted our Constitution. We’ve seen this in healthcare, public education, and a rash of federal laws criminalizing conduct. With each instance of this, power has been subtracted from the states, furthering our transformation from a bottom-up to a top-down nation.
To facilitate this transformation, liberals and progressives want to limit our First Amendment freedom of speech so that we can’t speak out against them or use our own money to publicize our criticisms of them. And they want to repeal the Second Amendment so that we can’t possess firearms to protect ourselves. And they want to neuter completely the Ninth and Tenth Amendments so as to render our states little more than geographical subdivisions of the federal government.
Add to these that the liberals and progressives want to discredit our local police forces and put them under federal oversight, with the Department of Justice scrutinizing them for any whiff of impropriety, as a precursor to federalizing the police function.
Farfetched, you say? Consider that several federal agencies now are arming themselves. So when an EPA agent knocks on your door to “inquisition” you over your mistreatment of a puddle in your back yard, please beware: he could be packing. “Bureaucrats with Bullets” may sound like a B-horror movie title, but it’s a harbinger of something really scary: a police state. This is what top-down regimes end up creating, as a means to control the people and force them to do the government’s bidding. We as Americans are among the few peoples of the world who have yet to experience this. Let’s hope we never do. For starters, let’s not mistake the overwhelmingly good cops we have for the bad ones we could be facing someday.
Blaine Winship is the author of Moralnomics: The Moral Path to Prosperity (Moralnomics Press), available in hardcover from moralnomics.com and in e-books from amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. (“Moralnomics” is a trademark owned by Blaine H. Winship.