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How the Police Became Aristocrats / May 6, 2015

How the Police Became Aristocrats

During the time that Western legal norms were evolving in the direction of equality under law, which means the application of the same laws to all social classes, aristocrats answered to different laws than did commoners. Some offenses were not punished at all and others had lighter penalties. Holding everyone, including the government, to account to the same law was an achievement.

In The New Color Line and in The Tyranny of Good Intentions, Lawrence Stratton and I have written about how this achievement is being lost. For example, quotas and special privileges for “preferred minorities” on the one hand and harsher prison sentences for “preferred minorities” on the other hand.

In the article below, John W. Whitehead explains how the police have elevated themselves above the law and are as unaccountable to the laws that apply to the rest of us as aristocrats once were.

In a Cop Culture, the Bill of Rights Doesn’t Amount to Much

By John W. Whitehead

Police officers are more likely to be struck by lightning than be held financially accountable for their actions.—Law professor Joanna C. Schwartz (paraphrased)
“In a democratic society,” observed Oakland police chief Sean Whent, “people have a say in how they are policed.”

Unfortunately, if you can be kicked, punched, tasered, shot, intimidated, harassed, stripped, searched, brutalized, terrorized, wrongfully arrested, and even killed by a police officer, and that officer is never held accountable for violating your rights and his oath of office to serve and protect, never forced to make amends, never told that what he did was wrong, and never made to change his modus operandi, then you don’t live in a constitutional republic.

You live in a police state.

It doesn’t even matter that “crime is at historic lows and most cities are safer than they have been in generations, for residents and officers alike,” as the New York Times reports.

What matters is whether you’re going to make it through a police confrontation alive and with your health and freedoms intact. For a growing number of Americans, those confrontations do not end well.

As David O. Brown, the Dallas chief of police, noted: “Sometimes it seems like our young officers want to get into an athletic event with people they want to arrest. They have a ‘don’t retreat’ mentality. They feel like they’re warriors and they can’t back down when someone is running from them, no matter how minor the underlying crime is.”


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