Tag: citizens

The Problems With Police & Their Unions

By Joshua D. Glawson | United States

Let it be clearly stated that this is not an anti-police essay. This is, however, a criticism of police and the problems arising from an overreaching government. Furthermore, the mere fact that I need to preface this work with these sentiments and the possible retaliation that may arise from writing this piece is a clear sign that our government is out of bounds.

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), which is a labor union, began in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1915. In 1918, it became the national union for law enforcement officers. FOP produced the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR or LEOBoR) which provides extra protection for officers who are being investigated or may have committed crimes while on duty. This was accepted federally, and various states have added their own versions of this bill to add further protections and processes. Each state and local department may have various organizations and unions they are a part of, and most of them are under the umbrella of The National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), which is a coalition of the associations and unions across the US.

These unions, associations, state and local governments, as well as the federal government, are all protecting the police in order to carry out their laws. One significant issue with this is when there are unjust laws and unconstitutional laws being protected and enforced. Additionally, when officers commit crimes against people, these respective groups are protecting the officers no matter how heinous the crime. As dark and humorous as it is to point out, the fact is that police can often get away with an uncountable number crimes and the departments and unions will say something to the effect of, “We investigated ourselves, and found that we did nothing wrong.”

In many states, officers are forced to be dues-paying members to these unions. No matter the case, the unions have a stronghold over the police departments and have power in determining how the department functions through legal and social pressures. This is evident in the extreme benefits of being in a police union with additional legal resources and pay during time on suspension, etc. Social pressures of departments and unions are even more evident in cases of fellow officers whistleblowing.

The authority held by the police is granted by the people through the US Constitution via the 10th Amendment which gives each state the power to enforce their respective laws. It is on the Constitution that officers promise to protect and abide, yet continuously they infringe on it through civil asset forfeiture versus the 5th Amendment, the war on drugs versus the 9th Amendment and various others, search and seizures without warrant versus the 4th Amendment, infringing on various 1st Amendment rights, and various other 9th Amendment rights found in Natural Law which is what the Constitution was founded upon. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court continues to vote in favor of the police in their criminal acts against people, exasperating the problem of a growing cancer of a despot government.

Contentions with police officers are growing for good reason in the United States, but unlike what their unions say, there is not a war on police officers. As of 2016, according to the FBI, 63 officers were feloniously killed on duty in a nation with around 745,000 officers equaling around 0.0085% of the police population. Yet, the Blue Lives Matter organization has mobilized to get police officers into a protected class and to lobby for laws that will deem “crimes” against officers as hate crimes. Such laws as the Protect and Serve Act of 2018 has already passed the House and is currently going to Senate. The major issue here is that this is creating a stronger government against the people it is there to serve, as it is an overreach of government powers, and this is by definition becoming a despot government or “big government.” For Justice to stand, everyone must be equal under the law. No president, soldier, officer, or king should get any extra privileges under the law.

Obviously, as laws are continually added and changed, these so-called crimes become rather subjective, as in Positive Law Theory. This is the same when police harass and arrest people, then attempt to discredit their behavior by stating, “I’m just doing my job.” Not only does this go against the fundamental Natural Law Theory of the Constitution, but this also leads to serious consequences for the lives of those harmed by behaviors from such thinking as this puts everyone at risk due to arbitrary laws and people upholding such laws. Proponents for violence used by police will attempt to justify such actions as saying people should not resist arrest or that the law needs to be upheld no matter what. This is what is called the Nuremberg defense, or superior orders defense.

This ‘defense’ is named after the very same argument that was used by Nazi Germany when they changed their laws in order to follow them and make their actions “legal.” It is the same sort of bootlicking response used by those that supported the redcoats during the US Revolutionary War. It is the same argument used by Thomas Hobbes to support the removal of Liberty of individuals and grant Liberty only to a sovereign power. It is the same argument used by those that think ‘rights’ come from government and not God or Nature. It is the same argument used by Robert Filmer in which John Locke fundamentally, vehemently, and successfully argued against as seen in Locke’s Two Treatises of Government; it was Locke’s work that helped inspire the US Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. These arguments used by such groups as ‘Blue Lives Matter,’ ‘Protect the Thin Blue Line,’ etc. are fundamentally anti-American. They are against everything in which this country was founded on by their core philosophy.

For those on the political Right- when a government makes a law saying your guns, for example, will be removed, it is these same types of police that will use force to pry your guns away. As you say, they are “just doing their job.” For the political Left- if you want to give up your guns to people willing to commit atrocities and the government is willing to blindly protect them in cases of even gross misconduct, that should put some question of reasonable concern in your mind.

In 2014, Eric Garner was assaulted by police for selling single cigarettes and consequently died due to a stranglehold. These chokes were already considered “illegal” by New York law for officers, yet the case was dismissed and the officer was pardoned. Adding to the frustration of this case, the officer lied about strangling Mr. Garner, and only because of a cell phone recording and an autopsy was it shown that the officer lied. A whistleblowing officer who also leaked the information contrary to the lie was forced to leave his job. Nevertheless, police unions and government came to the aid and defense of the officers responsible for Mr. Garner’s death. Their justification is that it is still “illegal” to sell individual cigarettes without a license and other taxes in NY. So much for tea and whiskey taxes.

Extra protection has been growing especially since 1967’s case ‘Pierson v. Ray,’ granting “qualified immunity” in cases brought against them. This is outside of the Constitution as it is providing extralegal protections for government employees and executive branch members. The court’s reasoning is that police need to do their jobs effectively in order to serve and protect the community as being on the frontlines of stopping and arresting criminals who break the law. Understandably, there needs to be a balance between the laws and the means of executing the laws. So, it is imperative to end unjust laws and to correct police officers’ responses to those who are breaking the Just laws. Equally, there needs to be a stronger ability to reprimand officers who are acting outside of the law, unreasonably, and unconstitutionally. When the government is providing itself extra protections, they are acting to protect their own interests and not the people or the Constitution in which they swore to protect and uphold.

Some extra protections for society have been made against police, such as body cameras on cops. However, the issue has been not only malfunctions and poor quality recordings but also in many areas police are allowed to turn them on and off at their discretion. There have been numerous cases where police officers have been seen planting drugs on a scene in order to get a charge against a civilian, but thankfully in a few cases, the camera recorded the officers planting the drugs. Nevertheless, there were no punishments against the officers other than paid suspensions. The government has no problem fighting an unjust war, i.e. the “war on drugs,” planting drugs on people and being recorded doing so, in order to extort money and property from people, completely destroying these citizens’ lives. They do all of this through the already atrocious protections granted to the police by states and the federal government, with added protections by their departments and unions. If a citizen were to do the same against an officer, the citizen would face serious consequences and lengthy prison time with added penalties because it was against an officer. Even if a citizen did such to another citizen, there would be consequences. Yet, when it comes to police against the citizen, little-to-nothing is done. The police culture perpetuates the problem by helping cover up crimes for one another such as waiving traffic tickets or even more serious crimes.

Police labor unions are only there to protect their jobs and not the community or taxpayers. In the place of government labor unions, who are being brought together in ‘union?’ Government employees should have no ‘right’ to a union, as they are there to serve the community in which they are employed, not to be ‘guaranteed’ a job and protected for committing egregious acts against that community. Not only do labor unions for government employees protect bad employees by not firing them when they are bad employees, but they also falsely inflate costs on the public who is funding them. This creates higher taxes and higher expenses for a community, state, or federal level government. This adds to inflation and to a larger government. These unions also use some of their funding to support political parties and candidates, where some in the union might not want their money going. Furthermore, if and when cases are brought against the police departments or states, it is taxpayers who are ultimately paying for the crimes and mistakes of officers, not the offers or the department itself. This is all the more reason to consider other options such as more private police, or insurance purchased by the individual public officers.

As for some possibly good news in the right direction towards dismantling government labor unions, ‘Janus v American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees’ is to be looked at by the Supreme Court. This case is to make it optional to join government unions if approved, whereas currently states require people to join unions if their state has declared it mandatory. Any business relationship should be voluntary, in as much that one should not be forced to join a union in which they do not believe in, and they should not be forced to pay dues.

Overall, police are getting far too powerful and committing crimes against people by not only upholding unjust laws, but also by intentionally committing acts of violence, extortion, scandal, and lies against people. They are doing so with impunity and the backing of all levels of government and labor unions. The militarization of police is a serious issue noted by many scholars and critics. The police, as they are a government entity, do not need extra protections from citizens. There is no war against police, but the police are in fact acting in aggression towards the citizenry. The best steps to take now (in no particular order as this article would be even longer) are ending the war on drugs, erasing convictions related to nonviolent drug-related crimes, purging our legal system of unjust laws, holding police and other government officials accountable for serious crimes against others, ending government unions especially those of police unions, and retraining how to handle situations with civilians as to prevent harming the innocent. We need to be in pursuit of peace, not in pursuit of who to demonize and convict.


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Dreams Of A Post-Partisan World

By Craig Axford | United States
I’ve been a Green Party candidate for the US House of Representatives and a Democratic National Committee organizer. In spite of my partisan past, or maybe because of it, these days I increasingly find myself thinking political parties have outlived their usefulness, and instead hoping we can find a path to a post-partisan politics that focuses more on ideas and less on group identity.
Political parties offer a number of services to candidates that make them appealing. They function a bit like insurance companies, only instead of paying out in the event of a disaster they distribute resources when candidates receive their nomination. Contrary to the public’s perception of party organizations, these benefits don’t just come in the form of money. In fact most candidates receive little to no direct financial assistance from their party. The aid usually comes instead in the form of data, volunteers, trained organizers, and the chance to leverage long established networks.

However, first and foremost a party is a tribe that candidates can count on. This benefit has become even more salient as society has polarized and hostility toward partisans identifying with the opposition has hardened into a norm. A candidate can now expect an even higher level of support than they used to just for receiving their party’s nomination. As Roy Moore’s US Senate bid demonstrated, in a state that heavily favors your party from the start it takes an awful lot of scandal to yank defeat from the jaws of victory.

Donald Trump also recognized the power of tribal loyalty when he stated that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone without jeopardizing the support of his voters. That he paid no political price for this public insult regarding his supporters’ apparently low moral standards only served to prove his point. Trump intuitively understood that those rallying behind him had coalesced into an army of committed warriors that had already put their personal reputations on the line by supporting him. For these voters there was no turning back.

This phenomena is hardly exclusive to Republicans. Research shows that members of both political parties are likely to be wearing blinders, or at least pretend to have blinders on, when it comes to expressing approval for their particular team and denigrating the other side. The difference between the two groups isn’t that one is biased and the other isn’t. The difference lies in what they are likely to be biased about.

In a 2013 paper entitled Partisan Bias in Factual Beliefs about Politicsresearchers found that when Democrats were asked whether inflation and unemployment had risen under Reagan and Republicans were asked whether deficits had risen under Clinton, both sides gave the wrong answer by overwhelming margins. The answer is no in both cases.

However, when partisans were asked questions that provided an opportunity to portray the opposing party in a negative light but were given a financial incentive if they gave the correct answer, “The payments reduced observed partisan gaps by about 55%.” In other words, the vast majority of respondents know the right answer. When the incentive is expanded to also include a reward for a respondent if they admit they don’t know the right answer, the partisan gap was “80% smaller than those that we observed in the absence of incentives.”

The researchers concluded the problem here isn’t that Democrats and Republicans are ignorant of the truth. What they’re doing when they give pollsters the wrong answer is taking the opportunity to cheer for their team either by exaggerating their party’s success or minimizing/denying the accomplishments of the opposition. In other words, partisans are little more than cheerleaders who are willing to wave distracting pompoms and do intellectual flips no matter what the scoreboard says. Anyone who has had to listen to a Trump voter explain away his lies and misogyny as “authenticity” or endure a diehard Hillary supporter insist in spite of all evidence to the contrary that she really ran a good campaign knows what I’m talking about.

As Steven Pinker puts it in his most recent book, Enlightenment Now, “Reason tells us that political deliberation would be most fruitful if it treated governance more like scientific experimentation and less like an extreme-sports competition.” Pinker goes on to ask if we can “imagine a day in which the most famous columnists and talking heads have no predictable political orientation but try to work out defensible conclusions on an issue-by-issue basis?” I can imagine it, but is such a dream realistic?

No country has so far avoided the “extreme sports competition” of party politics without resorting to authoritarian rule to do it. Perhaps in some cases elections are more like gentile games of cricket and less like professional wrestling. In those instances the discourse is definitely more civil, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into more reason. The same biases probably just tend to get expressed more politely.

Perhaps it isn’t important. The psychologist Paul Bloom doesn’t seem to think it is. In Against Empathy: The Case For Rational Compassion, Bloom contends that “Political views share [another] interesting property with views about sports teams — they don’t really matter.” What Bloom is arguing is that “they don’t really matter” at the individual level. “This is certainly true as well for my views about the flat tax, global warming, and evolution,” Bloom explains. “They don’t have to be grounded in truth, because the truth value doesn’t have any effect on my daily life.”

Bloom is right. At least he is up to a point. What one person, or maybe even a few dozen or a few hundred people think about these issues doesn’t really matter. But at some point enough people thinking the same thing, or just acting as though they think it because certain ideas are what fans of their political team are supposed to cheer for, does begin to have an impact. If the outcome of all this cheerleading means putting one person in the White House or a significant number of people into the House and Senate that vote accordingly, even Bloom would have to agree that’s significant. Whether we do or don’t think global warming is a Chinese hoax doesn’t really matter in our daily life. But what the person occupying the Oval Office thinks on the subject can change the course of history.

That said, Paul Bloom’s argument does force us to confront the relevancy of political parties head on. If political views held by the average voter don’t matter any more than sports teams do in a person’s daily life, and voters tend to treat political parties like a favorite sports team, what’s the point of political parties? If we don’t want our politics to be like an “extreme sports competition,” wouldn’t getting rid of the teams be the first step? Our political views wouldn’t matter anymore or less than they do now, but at least we wouldn’t feel compelled to lie to pollsters or vote against our own interests just to win. Encouraging a more rational approach to politics seems more likely to have a positive cumulative impact than mindless acclaim for our side and disparagement of the other.

Our right to freely associate with the individuals and institutions of our choice takes precedence over any benefits that may come society’s way in an idealized post-partisan world. I would be the first to call a constitutional foul on the state if it banned political parties.

However, as individuals we can make a more conscious effort to give all candidates appearing on our local ballot more scrutiny instead of simply going with the one with a D or R after their name, or a G or an L for that matter. The media can also do a far better job of including all the candidates in their coverage so voters know what the people running to represent them are thinking. While the focus on the top two candidates is understandable, the notion that there’s a duopoly on ideas is patently absurd. A minimum of one live prime time debate between all the candidates, or at least all those not polling above 10% or so, should be a condition of any license given out for use of our public airwaves.

Politics shouldn’t be just another game. Ideas really do matter and America desperately needs to begin thinking seriously about them again. For that to happen we’ll each need to stop being fans eager to show off our clever protest signs and funny memes mocking the other side. We’ll need to become citizens.

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on Medium.com

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