Ending Police Brutality

On May 25, 2020, a man named George Floyd died of asphyxiation in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He died lying prone on the pavement with a police officer’s knee on his neck.

The police had been called by a merchant who believed Mr. Floyd had attempted to pay for merchandise with counterfeit money.

The police came. They arrested Mr. Floyd, and subdued him, handcuffed him and pushed him down to the ground. While Mr. Floyd was down, police officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck, holding him down for nearly nine minutes.

A bystander with a cell phone filmed the whole incident. Her video went viral on the internet. She can be heard telling the policeman to get off Mr. Floyd, who can be heard saying “I can’t breathe.”  Three other police officers watched and did nothing.

Seeing this going on, the merchant called the police department, asking for more police to come to save Mr. Floyd. The merchant said afterwards that he would never again call for police protection.

The death of George Floyd caused an outpouring of massive protests across the length and breadth of America—protests that continued for more than two weeks. Rioting and looting occurred near some protest locations.

The President of the Minneapolis City Council stated after the killing of Mr. Floyd that nine of the Council’s thirteen members had committed to dismantling policing as it is known in the city of Minneapolis—and are committed also to building a new model of public safety that actually keeps the community safe.

There have been calls to “defund” police departments across America. Defunding a city’s police would amount to abolishing the police. To do that without providing otherwise for public safety would result in rampant criminal activity far worse than the riots and looting that occurred during some of the protests of Mr. Floyd’s death.

Until better means of public safety are in place, America needs police, but policing with a primary function of protecting lives and property, not enforcing laws.

Police in America enforce the War on Drugs, a futile endeavor that has made it extremely lucrative to engage in the illicit drug trade. Those in political power in the United States seem to have learned nothing from the failure of prohibition of alcoholic beverages (1920-1933). The risk of punishment for violating the alcoholic beverage prohibition laws made it extremely lucrative to do so. Gangsters of the American Mafia took advantage of alcohol prohibition to take over the distribution of alcoholic beverages, thereby expanding their criminal organization.

Police in America stop motorists and issue citations for driving infractions that have harmed no one and endangered no one. These traffic citations are financially burdensome to poor people, without any offsetting public safety benefit.

Eliminating just those two activities of police would free up many police officers to protect the public from attacks on persons and property.

In the United States, the function of the police is to enforce the law by arresting a suspected law violator and bringing the violator before a court of law for prosecution and punishment. Punishment occurs after an accused violator has been charged with an offense, and convicted after trial by a jury.

What the police did to Mr. Floyd was an extrajudicial killing. Prosecutors in Minneapolis charged all four police officers with homicide.

The killing of George Floyd epitomizes incidents in which police officers have acted brutally during an arrest, or against prisoners in custody.

Incidents of police brutality are relatively small in number compared to all police activity, but they occur with enough frequency to have become a serious concern in the United States. It appears that police brutality may happen more to black people in proportion to their number, than to others.

Most police officers, probably the overwhelming majority, would not act in the way that occurred in the killing of George Floyd.

The problem of police brutality arises when the power of the police has been entrusted inadvertently to someone who should not be a police officer, someone who abuses that power.

The book of which this website is a part, Capitalism:  The Liberal Revolution (CTLR) contends that there should be no police and no one having  legally sanctioned power of forcible treatment of others that police possess and routinely exercise—arrest, detention, handcuffing, and jailing. Police exercise those powers frequently in cases of non-violent violations of the law that have not harmed anyone, or caused the risk of harm to anyone.

The position of CTLR on policing is:

  • The state’s police are law enforcement officers. Only incidental to law enforcement do they protect people and their property.
  • There are far too many laws specifying criminal sanctions for violation of the law, over 5,000 federal crimes alone, and multiples of that number of such laws in the several states of the United States of America.
  • Punishment is the basis of criminal law in the United States. Much, much better would be restitution based protection of persons and property.
  • CTLR advocates against punishment-based justice and in favor of restitution-based justice.

It is theft to use counterfeit money to pay for a purchase. That was George Floyd’s presumed offense. A thief should make restitution. No punishment. No arrest. No handcuffs. No jail. People would be protected from theft losses by insurance and credit—insurance to reimburse someone who has suffered a loss due to theft; and credit to provide notice to the world that a certain individual committed a theft and did not make or offer restitution.

CTLR advocates proprietary governance. In terms of protecting persons and property this means there would be no political state and no state police. Instead, security would be provided by contracting with professional security companies. There are over 6,000 private security companies in the United States and many thousands more in other nations. In aggregate, the private security industry in America employs more security personnel than all the police officers of the various jurisdictions in the United States.

Jeff and Julie Thomas of Concierge Home & Business Watch, Grants Pass, Oregon

Jeff and Julie Thomas (pictured above) had retired to Grants Pass, Oregon (population 38,000) after more than fifty combined years of police experience. In 2009, when local police service became inadequate due to budgetary constraints, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas established a security business, Concierge Home & Business Watch, in Grants Pass. The Thomas’ company employed more than fifty security officers as of 2019.

The thousands of security companies in the United States range in size from Securitas, AB, a large, Sweden-based, multi-national company active throughout the world, to small, local companies employing a half dozen or so security officers.

The existence of such a large private security industry attests to widespread dissatisfaction with lack of assured, prompt, and effective protection provided by the state’s police. Why else would businesses or individuals pay for private security?

Readers may object that there would be no protection for people who could not afford to pay for private security. However, private security is a deterrent to all attacks on persons and property. It usually protects people who are not subscribers—as a means of protection of subscribers.

For example, Concierge Home & Business Watch of Grants Pass, Oregon (above) provides neighborhood patrols in residential and business neighborhoods. The existence of regular security patrols is a deterrent to crime. Patrolling security officers may approach an individual engaged in suspicious activity to make inquiry about what is going on. That alone could put an end to the activity without need for additional action.

In the absence of a state’s law enforcement, a thief could not avoid responsibility by fleeing to another community. There would be records of wrongdoing that would be shared among security organizations and insurers.

To effect restitution, private security companies could pursue fleeing wrongdoers wherever they go. That is what happened to the real life train robbers whose story is depicted in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1968). At present, bounty hunters hired by private bail bond companies pursue fugitives who have failed to appear in court, as depicted in the movie Midnight Run (1988).

Repeat perpetrators of violent acts would be isolated from the community. Self-defense is not coercion. Isolating such violent repeat offenders is defense of everyone else in the community.

People unwilling or unable to pay for private security could provide it for themselves by banding together to protect their community from criminals. That is what happened in San Francisco during the gold rush of the 1850s. Because there was no effective municipal policing, citizens organized to track down and expel wrongdoers.

Concurrently there came into existence the San Francisco Patrol Special Police. It is a private security enterprise organized in 1847 and still in existence. It was formed to protect people from widespread criminality that plagued San Francisco at the time. The legal authority of the Patrol Special Police was incorporated into the city’s charter in 1856. It is still in existence, operating to protect the people of San Francisco.

In New York City in the 1970s, crime was a big problem on the subway system. The city’s police had failed to keep the subways safe. In 1979, an individual named Curtis Sliwa created an all-volunteer organization called Guardian Angels, still in existence over 40 years later, that successfully combatted crime on the subways.

In the state of Michoacan, Mexico, drug cartels had ruled the region for over a decade (2000-2013), subjecting the people to extortion, kidnapping, arson, rapes and killings. There had been no protection from any level of the Mexican government—federal, state, or local. People suspected that police and the army were colluding with the drug cartels.

In 2013, all around Michoacan, citizens formed spontaneous community self-defense organizations called Autodefensas (self-defenders). The autodefensas drove the drug cartel out of Michoacan. Concurrently, Autodefensas came into existence in several other Mexican states.

In sparsely populated communities, private security may not be available. Security companies, like other businesses, need enough customers to justify their existence. In sparsely populated areas of the United States there is almost always a local Sheriff’s office that citizens can call upon. However, the response time of Sheriff’s deputies may be quite slow in such areas. The Sheriff’s deputies may have too large a geographical area of responsibility to provide a prompt response to citizens’ calls.

In sparsely populated areas there could be volunteer policing in a community, similar to the volunteer fire departments found in America where there is no municipal fire department.

Here are links to chapters of CTLR on Governance and the Natural Republic in which proprietary protection of persons and property is proposed to be accomplished by free enterprise.

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