Thursday, July 3, 2008

Paradox: I like a lot of cops, but I dislike police states...

In the post yesterday on Libertarian Jan McKay (State Senate Candidate in NC District 15) I quoted her interaction with a local law enforcement officer over discretionary enforcement of motorcycle helmet rules against tinted visors that keep the rider from being identified. It's short enough to repeat as the set-up here:

I spoke with a Cary police detective last week, and told her there are tens of thousands of people who wear full-face helmets which conceal identities. They could all be rounded up, in violation of GS 14-12.7 and .8, the concealed identity statutes, and be sent to trial, facing prison for a year.

She said, "True, but we wouldn't do that."

I said, "Enforcement is arbitrary and at your discretion".

She said, "Yes, so it's okay."

I said, "What do you mean it's okay?! I am not okay about any part of that! That is why the law must change."

Along the same lines I found this contemplation (severely abridged, so go read the original) at Disloyal Opposition:

Yesterday, in the parking lot of the local Safeway, there was a car idling with a stocky guy sporting a flat-top haircut, a porn-star mustache and shades behind the steering wheel. A decal on the bumper read: "Sworn To Protect Your Ass, Not Kiss It." The words circled a stylized tin star emblazoned with "Deputy Sheriff."
OK, I get it. You're a cop and you resent being polite to people.

I know, I know. That's not what the decal explicitly says. But really, that's what it means.

Does anybody really believe that in the many interactions between police and the public, many perfectly polite, but others quite confrontational, that the overriding issue regarding behavior is the public's demand that armed, uniformed officers behave obsequiously? Or is it just possible that, when bad behavior is the order of the day, it's more often on the part of police officers throwing their weight around and demanding subservience from the public?...

Let's consider this... Deputy Flat-Top drives around for a month with his decal, and I drive around for a month with a bumpersticker that reads: "Hey Officer! Keep The Peace -- Don't Be An Asshole!" Let's see which one of us has the most negative interactions at the end of the experiment.

But before we give that experiment a try, I think I'll upgrade my life insurance.

About two days ago I saw (can't remember where, so no link) that some politician as bragging about the fact that he'd supported the increase of the Delaware State Police to 680 troopers. Let's see, Delaware has a population of about 854,000, which means that we have one State Trooper for every 1,256 citizens.

California has a population of 36.548 million. So if California had the same ratio of Highway Patrol officers to citizens as Delaware, it would have 29,027 officers. California actually has about 6,800 sworn officers in the Highway Patrol.

In other words, with 2.3% of the population of California, Delaware has 10% as many State Police.

Sounds like (a) something of a police state mentality going on here in the First State; and (b) as politically unpopular as it may seem, when the next round of budget cuts comes around, maybe we should be dropping in on law enforcement before we go eliminating school services....


tom said...

Nothing makes it more obvious that we have way too many police than seeing them parked at every road construction site - not to enforce the speed limit, just to provide flashing lights.

whatever happened to the blinking orange road hazard lights? they can't possibly be more expensive to deploy than police cars.

Brian Shields said...

A popular counter argument would state that many of these smaller towns can't afford a full police force, and are covered by state police jurisdiction. Also, many of the medium sized Sussex County towns (and I cite them, because that's all I know from experience) have the state police to supplement coverage overnight because they can't afford 24 hours of town police coverage.

It might be different in California, I don't know.

As for providing state police for road construction, I know the Seaford police have sat there when they were repairing roads through the town, and through Rt 13. I wouldn't be surprised if that's a way to manipulate the state budget by getting funding to the police, paid for with the DOT's budget.