Monday, June 30, 2008

Turning the Police into Royalty Doesn't Help

I have every sympathy for Charlie Green's painful loss. However, his solution of pushing for a law change to make it a felony to "cause the death of a police officer during a traffic pursuit" was not the right remedy.

Police officers are increasingly accorded special status in society -- which flies directly in the face of equal protection under the law for all individuals, regardless of race, creed, philosophy, class, or who their employer is.

No government employee is worth more than any average citizen - we don't have nobility in this country. At least we didn't at one time.

Police chases are dangerous enterprises, and for that reason, they should only ever be initiated when the individual being chased is known to have committed a serious violent crime, is armed, and has shown intent to be an immediate danger to other individuals.

Checkpoints are of dubious constitutionality. Refusing to cooperate with one is not an offense worthy of a 100 mph chase. It wasn't worth the risk to Khalil Walker, the driver of the SUV that fled the Powhatan checkpoint; it wasn't worth the risk to other motorists and pedestrians; and it definitely wasn't worth the price Robbie Green paid.

Most incidents that eventually lead to dangerous police chases begin with nothing more than intensely scared individuals who already fear getting arrested for whatever reason they are being chased. As the chase continues, the person fleeing, who has undoubtedly watched "Cops" and watches the news, realizes he also has a good chance of being beaten, Tasered, or shot to death -- which fuels his desperation.

For real reform, and to protect life, a better law change would have been to prohibit all police chases except those where a clear and present danger of immediate violence exists. In addition, checkpoints should be outlawed as the violation of individual rights they are.

Ultimately, however, the job of policing must be ended as a government enterprise. The entire industry should be turned back over to the private sector. Besides the fact that people who work in the private sector never are accorded royalty status by the government, simple exposure to liability law would tend to ensure that chases would be minimized.

In contrast, with government seizing ever more power over the lives of individuals as is the case in America today, the incentive for government-supplied police forces is exactly the opposite: chase today, create a disaster waiting to happen, whine to the legislature about how dangerous your job is when the disaster does happen, then wax poetic to the legislature about how much money chases cost the department -- and win a bigger budget next year. This is a very perverse incentive.

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