Bemeficent Society, Chpt 16

CHAPTER 16

LAW ENFORCEMENT

August 10, 2016

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INTRODUCTION

Martin opened this penultimate presentation of his political committee with a thumbnail list of their discussions thus far.  “Government is too extensive a topic for us to cover completely, but we’ve covered a good deal of ground: the bad memes infecting our existing institutions, how Gad can help us make changes, limiting government to intellectual activities, the Adminent, and the Volitionment.  One area we haven’t gotten around to yet is law enforcement and, obviously, it’s too important a topic to continue to ignore.  Bad guys will keep popping up and we must always be prepared for armed conflict at one level or another.

“So our discussion tonight is meant to fill in this missing piece hopefully leaving you with a comprehensive view of the political committee’s proposal for Newcapia’s model system.

BAD MEMES

 “I’m sure that by now you are well aware of the Bemeficent Society’s approach to addressing whatever projects it undertakes—that it to say, right at the start cleaning the slate of bad memes.  Otherwise, we believe, they’ll muddy our subsequent investigation and prevent us from arriving at viable solutions.  In keeping with this practice, I asked the committee members to come prepared the following meeting with at least one bad meme whose influence is detrimental to the way we’re handling law enforcement now.  I am so pleased with their inventive responses that I’m going to call on them to relate them to you in person.  I should add that on Newcapia, our imaginary planet, what we think of as the armed forces, have been merged into the police.

“Timur, please get us started.”

“My bad meme,” Timur said, “is the assumption that law enforcement must be an arm of government.  To my mind, such an arrangement is simply too dangerous.  It unites the political authority of the one with the fire power of the other to create a lethal combination difficult, or in some cases, impossible to restrain.  Not surprisingly, history is littered with politicized armies run amuck.

“Defenders of the current arrangement would no doubt point to the separation of powers meant to preclude the absolute exercise of governmental power, but in times of crisis, real or imagined, such protection has proven illusory. As things stand, putting the armed forces under the command of chronically insecure   politicians is tantamount to handing a psychotic adolescent a loaded revolver with no trigger guard.  Tantamount, that is, except for the notable difference in fire power involved.

“Gretchen, it’s your turn.”

“My nomination,” said Gretchen, “for a bad meme in law enforcement has to be one of the oldest ever held—i.e., that armies are obligatory.  It’s an infectious meme.  If your neighbor has an army, you’ve got to have one too.  Next thing you know the whole planet’s riddled with them and nobody knows what to do with them except to send them off making trouble somewhere.

“You’d think that with all the misery they cause, somebody would have come up with prophylactic measures against them, instead, we take impressionable young people, put them in uniforms, imbue them with images of bravery, patriotism, duty, and heroism, then equip them with the most horrendous means of destruction ever imagined and then send them off to confront equally deluded adversaries.

“Even if there’s no war going on the time, the build-up of hostilities on both sides is bound to produce instability.  The perception of a threat on one side, creates suspicions on the other side and sooner or later, the repetition of these escalating cycles becomes unsustainable, the bubble bursts and the love-thine-army meme turns deadly.  Makes no sense to me whatsoever,

“The fact is I simply don’t like them.  Armies inherently act in violation of social norms–killings, pillage, destruction, persecution, and so on.  I know force is necessary, but it’s got to be in the hands of a legalized police force.”

“Henry, what’s your meme?”

“What do you hear at the outset of practically any conflict?  ‘Force is the last resort.’  That’s my bad meme,” said Henry.  “It may not sound like a bad meme—none of them do, I guess—but it’s as bad as they come.  You can’t make a universal rule that governs all disputes between playground quarrels and world war, but, on the whole, you can say that the most damaging cases are the result of force being applied too late and/or too inadequately.

“We instinctively know this to be true when witnesses to a man being mugged or a woman being raped immediately react by calling for the police—that is to say, invoking forceful action at the earliest possible moment.  In such cases there is no thought given to negotiation with the assailant, no admonitions to him as to precisely which law he is violating, no mention whatsoever to the time-honored meme.

“However, many times crimes such as those described are committed and police are desperately summoned, such events have not constituted a learning experience for the public at large.  Consider a situation in which larger confrontations are involved—let us say throngs of demonstrators threaten violence.  An informed onlooker would argue that the obvious way to protect life and property from the mob would be to quickly and forcibly quell the agitators, break up suspicious groups, and make a handful of arrests to make clear that law enforcement is in command of the situation.  Unfortunately, what normally happens is that the bad meme rears its ugly head and debate becomes the first resort.  Words fly back and forth, the crowd’s mood darkens, radicals whip up the frenzy, rowdies take over, and, the next thing you know, its bricks and Molotov cocktails that are flying back and forth and dirty work ensues.

“As the scope of conflicts is enlarged and more lives and more properties are put at risk, the bad meme’s influence grows correspondingly.  Tin-pot fanatics, who could be hustled into paddy wagons by a handful of cops, are prominently seated at the conference table while their surrogates terrorize their populations and stockpile weapons of mass destruction.

“If one of these days, civilization gives up the struggle and is laid to rest, a fitting inscription on its tombstone might be, “Alas, force, was the very last resort.  That’s all I’ve got to say.”

“So, my friends,” said Martin addressing the Society members, “you can see we on the committee had our work cut out for us.  Bad memes always create problems but when they’re embedded in law enforcement they’re a matter of life and death.  When we got started on the system’s design, I felt a little like we were advancing into a mine field.  One misstep and bluey.  But anyway we got to work and, over a series of meetings here’s what we came up with.  Hopefully, it’s a system Newcapia can be proud of.

 

GENERAL ORGANIZATION

Based on their reading of history, Newcapians were convinced that the application of armed force was too vital a matter to be left to the whims of government.  Time and time again, neurotic leaders and/or volatile public opinion had committed their countries’ forces to unwise, often disastrous, foreign adventures.  Not to mention the multiple cases in which armed force, misdirected inward, terrorized entire populations at the behest of ruthless dictators.  Even in times of peace, the maintenance of a powerful army—coupled with the inevitable corruption surrounding it—sucked funds from more beneficial uses.  In short, Newcapians had good reason to regard combining governmental authority with military firepower as far too disadvantageous to consider.

Newcapian prejudice against armed force extended to include even the policeman on his local beat.  At the same time, they were well aware that there were always unlawful elements among them that had to be dealt with speedily and effectively to maintain their peaceable society.  Their solution, then, was to opt for a quasi-public, administratively independent, law enforcement structure provided with the exclusive responsibility to combat unlawfulness.  Then fearful that this free-wheeling system might get out of hand, they divided it into four, free-standing, divisions: the police, the criminal justice system, the judiciary, and the incarceration section.  And, as a further precaution, left these divisions without a centralized administration.

Given their concern regarding unqualified electorates in general, the Society’s committees have habitually avoided incorporating elections in their design of Newcapia’s government.  However, the law enforcement divisions presented a special case in that they were staffed by qualified, dependable professionals whose decision-making could be trusted.

Throughout the law enforcement’s divisions, then, each level elected its own set of chiefs for a single—that is to say, nonrenewable—three-year term.  At the conclusion of their term of office, the chieftains had the choice of returning to their earlier positions or running for office in any of the other three divisions at their current level or the one next higher.

This rule led to the creation of a fraternal management team that was experienced in different phases of law enforcement and favorably disposed toward their counterparts in other divisions with whom they once served.  In keeping with this collegiate mood, the superintendents of the four divisions met monthly to discuss matters of common interest.  These meetings did, of course, occasionally touch on issues that were in contention, but, in the spirit of good will and the help of a pint or two, such matters were resolved, if not when first raised, in the following few meetings.

One cannot leave a general discussion of Newcapian law enforcement without mentioning one of its guiding principles. The virtue of honesty was drilled into every officer-of-the-law as one of the qualities automatically expected of them.  Indeed, a single, purposeful transgression was enough to trigger a dishonorable discharge from the service.

FOCUS ON THE POLICE

A description of the police division’s elections will serve to convey a reasonably accurate impression of the other three.  At its lowest level each squad of officers elected a sergeant from its ranks.  The sergeants, in turn, elected their department’s lieutenants; lieutenants their section’s captains; and captains their division’s superintendent.

This created a hierarchal, yet flexible system that permitted, at the upper levels, the rapid deployment of whatever size overwhelming force was necessary to deal with whatever situation presented itself.   There were, of course, local groupings, regional forces, and nationwide units but, from top to bottom, they were run by a single superintendent empowered to quickly and unilaterally aggregate the men under his command.  And, of course, this same structure was effectively brought to bear   to meet natural disasters such as floods an earthquakes.

At the same time, at lower levels of conflict, the system encouraged individual initiative on the part of lower ranking officials.  In localized situations, every commissioned head was able to take unilateral action provided, of course, he was not subject to an order from one of his superiors.  In the case of a neighborhood brawl, for example, a sergeant could immediately send his squad to end it without first seeking the permission of higher ups.  The same was true up the levels except that, as the challenges grew more problematical, senior officials voluntarily consulted their staffs—captains their lieutenants, say—before taking action if time allowed.

From top to bottom, then, the word “unilaterally” was key.  Any violent confrontation—two men engaged in fisticuffs, a street mugging, threats emanating from a family quarrel, an act of violence in a street demonstration, disorders leading to property damage—can thus instigate immediate police response unhindered by the necessity for prior authorization from above.  And once on the scene, the police were automatically empowered to take whatever action was needed to end the violence without regard to the imputed virtue of those involved.  Disputants could be detained for up to two weeks without charges, brick throwers disbursed, and looters and vandals arrested.  In short, no official barriers prevented the Newcapian police from performing their duty in a way that was most likely to preserve life and property in the most expeditious manner possible.

The one restraint on police action was the law enforcement covenant that limited the range of their activities so as to prevent overlap.  What the police could not do was intrude upon the functions of the criminal justice division or any other.  They could not, for example, investigate a crime scene, research the records of suspects, present cases to the judiciary, and so on.  At the same time, when criminal justice wanted to see suspects detained, informers protected, the traffic of illegal materials disrupted, it had to requisition police help for the necessary muscle power. Thanks to this policy and, as mentioned earlier, the interchange of management, a cooperative spirit reigned among the divisions that went beyond the legalities involved.

LAW ENFORCEMENT MEETS FREE ENTERPRISE

Out of necessity, Newcapia’s law enforcement personnel were committed to businesslike practices given that their organizations were individually self-funded.  Without state support, charitable donations, or financial reserves, the divisions had to make do with what they could earn.  The rationale for this arrangement was straightforward.  Law abiding, hard-working, thrifty Newcapians were unwilling to be forced to pay for expenses run up by miscreants indifferent to the dollar cost of their wrongdoings.  Moreover, they reasoned that law enforcement performed socially-useful functions and was thus entitled to be paid for them.

It was left to each division to design the means to earn the income it required to sustain itself.  Listed below are a few examples of their solutions:

  • Whereas Newcapian citizens enjoyed, as part of their inalienable rights, the state’s protection of their individually-owned property, the state had no corresponding obligation with regard to commercial holdings.  The great majority of commercial property owners were agreeable, therefore, to pay the police for their protective services.
  • The criminal justice division charged all costs—direct and overhead—associated with each criminal fugitive including the investigation of his crimes, tracking down his whereabouts, his surveillance, and the court costs run up on his account.  Thus every felon’s file was appended by a running record of his financial debt to the division that could only be expunged by his repayment.  In Newcapia, the adage “crime does not pay” had teeth.
  • As described in the social committee’s report, most convicts were detained on Rehabilitation Island where they were obligated to pay for their room, board, and personal expenditures plus their share of the administrative costs of running the island.  Normally, charges withheld from their wages comfortably paid off such indebtedness and most discharged ex-cons left the island with a respectable bank account.
  • One has only to mention the identity of the professionals employed by the judiciary department—that is to say, attorneys—to reassure Society members that the division was more than adequately funded by its clients.

INDIRECT BENEFITS

Whereas such money-making schemes involved additional paperwork, the expense was well justified by privatization’s numerous benefits

  • First, they decreased crime.  The fear of being burdened by a heavy debt to society proved, in many cases, to be a greater deferent than the threat of imprisonment.
  • Second, the records provided a useful source of big data solutions that enabled law enforcement to apply their resource most effectively.
  • Third, the records themselves became a crime-busting tool when lists of wanted fugitives were posted and notice given that a reward of ten per cent of their associated indebtedness was payable for information leading to their arrest.
  • Fourth, society as a whole benefited by gleaning from the divisions’ budgets the full, detailed cost of crime prevention rather than having those costs buried in indecipherable governmental reports.
  • Fifth, were the internal efficiencies and innovations that could be expected from the workings of a free-market system.  For example, once legal procedures were loosened and attorneys openly free to compete with one another, clients in the judiciary division were far better served.  Most cases were arbitrated by one firm representing both sides.  Honest presentations replaced courtroom histrionics.  Firms competed by promoting the integrity of their members and the speed with which they settled cases.  Judges were spared the hours of misrepresentation that plagued the hidebound, client-be-damned conduct that typified older proceedings.
  • And, sixth, and, perhaps, most importantly, law enforcement staffs were incentivized to increase the income from their money-making activities for it meant not only better living standards for themselves but added pride in the groups’ crime fighting achievements.  This boost in morale across all law enforcement activities, did much to make Newcapia a happier, safer society.

Initially, it must be admitted that the success of privatizing law enforcement led to some excesses.  These gave rise to legitimate complaints on the part of the criminal world that since law enforcement was, in effect, awarded a monopoly on crime busting, there was no restraint on their charges.  And, to back up their contentions, criminals had no trouble pointing out the inordinately high salaries earned by some in the upper ranks of the system.  Out of these protests, public clamor eventually required division-by-division, annual audits and set standards that, over time, did much to quiet these concerns.

ABOVE-THE-LAW ENFORCEMENT

The law enforcement divisions were normally meticulous in their observance of the law; however, Newcapia provided them an exclusive legal device that allowed them a good deal of discretion in this regard when the security of the state was at stake. The operative mechanism that came into play in such cases was the exclusion tribunal.  Its workings can best be explained by a fictitious example.

Let us say an attempted arrest of a teenage shoplifter goes awry when the boy breaks away from his police captor and makes a run for it.  The policeman’s repeated warnings go unheeded and, frustrated, he shoots the escaping culprit.

Since the use of deadly force is in express violation of the juvenile code, a complaint is promptly filed with the exclusion tribunal where arguments are heard on both sides.  The case against the cop is clear on both statutory and humanitarian grounds.  The boy was unarmed, he threatened no one, and the dollar amount of the theft was trivial.  The cop’s actions were not only illegal but, from a common sense viewpoint, disproportionate to the offense.

The policeman acknowledges all of the above but, he claims that, in the heat of the moment, he was overcome by the realization that letting the boy escape would sanction an affront to police authority that could have grave social consequences.  Thus there would indeed be a grave disproportionality involved if a single, thoughtless teenager were allowed to weaken the entire community’s respect for law and order.

After weighing these arguments, the tribunal exonerates the cop.  He was, the tribunal declares, justified in abrogating the law.

On a case-by-case basis, the tribunal could thus make it possible for law enforcement personnel to combat criminals on an equal footing—that is to say, unlawfully—in circumstances such as those involving entrapment, breaches of privacy, infiltration of gangs, apprehension of top-rung drug dealers, and other grey-area strategies.  That is not to say, however, the tribunal always sided with law enforcement.  It also functioned to protect the general public by calling law enforcement to account when it was guilty of excessive force and/or brutality.

 

“That concludes our presentation on our version of Newcapia’s law enforcement system,” said Martin.  “Thanks for coming.  I’m sure that you have a number of comments you’d like to make regarding the political committee’s proposal.  Please jot them down, bring them to the next general meeting, and we’ll respond to them as best we can.  It should be a great give-and-take session.  We’re looking forward to it and hope you are too.  See you, then.”

 

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