Sunday, September 25, 2016

How to fix the police

Believe it or not, police relations with citizenry haven't always been good as illustrated in the 1850's poster above.  The first truly modern uniformed police force was instituted by Louis XIV, hence the distinctly French name "police".  The police were initially the enforcement arm of the sovereign and there was a lot of resistance to enforcement.

Our modern police forces are believed to be based upon the creation of the Metropolitan police of London, created by Sir Robert Peel and heavily influenced by the philosophy of Jeremy Bentham.  They wear blue because at the time the military of the state wore red.  They were to be distinctly separate and recognizably, not an arm of the sovereign.  The philosophy was "Policing by consent".

There are nine Peelian principles:

1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.

2. To recognize always that the power of the police to fulfill their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behavior, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

3. To recognize always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

4. To recognize always that the extent to which the cooperation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately with the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.

5. To seek and preserve public favor, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humor, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

The statement outlined above in bold is the principle that Sir Robert Peel most often and loudly tried to hammer home.

8. To recognize always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.

9. To recognize always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

Now that I've outlined the basics I'll offer you a few ideas of my own for you to build upon.

Federalizing the police is the most stupid idea I've heard, it moves the power and authority of law enforcement even further from where it belongs, with is with the people.  Recreating the original problem of police, that of being the oppressive enforcement arm of the state underline the principle that those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it.  A National Police Force will, in my opinion, only make matters worse. Now for some of my ideas:

1. The position of police chief should be an elected position similar to that of Sheriffs, acting independently of municipal government.  The position of police chief should also be easily and readily subject to recall by the people. 

2. Not all police need to be armed.  We should take an example from our English brethren and separate routine policing from armed policing.  There are five countries that do not arm their police officers when on routine patrol.  Britain, Ireland, Norway, Iceland, and New Zealand.  In Iceland roughly 1/3 of the citizenry is armed, it's police are not, they had their first police shooting in 2013. In 2014/15 there were 5,647 "Authorized Firearms Officers" in England out of roughly 125,000 officers.  London has the most with 2,122 AFOs on a force of 40,788.

3. Police need to get out of cars and go back to walking a beat.  This will of course necessitate more police and consistent with #2 above, they should not be armed.  Today, the most common interaction between the public and the police is in enforcement, that needs to change.  The public's most common interaction with the police can not be only when they get stopped, ticketed, fined, or arrested.

4. Police who are armed should not ever remove their weapons from their holsters unless they are going to fire them.  Unless you already have a legitimate reason to shoot someone you should never draw your weapon.  Drawing a weapon should have to meet the same rigorous legal reporting requirements and justification as shooting it.

5. Murder or attempted murder of a police officer in the line of duty should be an automatic capital offense, no other sentence, no plea deal, if you're guilty, you are dead.

Well, I've thrown out a few ideas, what are some of yours?

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