We need prosecutions, not deaths
You won’t hear “constitutional conservatives” admit it, but Ferguson revealed problems with the police that go far beyond a few bad apples. Real constitutionalists need to look again to America’s founding generations to find solutions.
America’s founders had a deep distrust of standing armies. The Third Amendment to the Constitution, forbidding the quartering of soldiers in people’s homes, was written because the British army served general warrants on a populace that was forced to board them. The Third and Fourth Amendments should be read together as proscriptions on an overweening police presence and for requiring warrants for every intrusion into personal privacy. Recently Las Vegas Metro was sued under the dormant Third Amendment for commandeering a private home for a stakeout.
The founding generations would look aghast at modern police much the same way they looked at the British Army. They wanted a more privatized method of keeping order. Victims of crime applied for warrants and solved crimes themselves. Grand juries comprised of citizen volunteers often assisted them by helping in investigations. Grand juries on their own initiative could freely investigate government corruption. If warrants were defective, suspects were justified in resisting arrest and those involved in the faulty warrants, including judges, were held liable.
Then around 1830, an Englishman named Robert Peel invented professional police. In England they are still called “Bobbies” after him. The idea was introduced to a hostile American public, but by the beginning of the 20th century, police forces were in every major American city. Over time, politicians and the courts have granted numerous legal protections to the police that ordinary citizens do not have. Qualified immunity makes it almost impossible to hold individual police officers accountable. Even if successfully sued, the taxpayers, not the cop, pay the judgment. Grand juries have lost their independence and are completely under the thumb of prosecutors. Our lawyer-packed legislatures write so many laws that almost anyone can be prosecuted for almost anything. Ambitious prosecutors often conceal exculpatory evidence, and it is an open secret that police “testilie” to get convictions, or to protect fellow cops.
Conservatives began exonerating Officer Wilson as soon as he shot Michael Brown. Liberals and libertarians were much more skeptical. We will not find out in open court what actually happened because, as is usually the case, the district attorney bent over backwards to prevent that. Michael Brown was not an angel, but he was no “demon” either. Brown had no rap sheet. Stealing a few cigarillos to create marijuana blunts does not give credibility to the officer’s testimony, never subjected to cross examination, that Brown viciously attacked him. District attorneys and police are a fraternity. Police testimony gets convictions and promotions for DAs. We need independent investigations and prosecutions of police use of deadly force. Police unions need to be stripped of their power to prevent bad cops from being fired. The drug war has to end.
Ferguson once more revealed the gap in perception between how middle class whites and minorities view the police. Poor whites are also harassed and shot by police. Government monopoly power and privilege is the problem. The public needs to be more skeptical of police shootings of both people and pets because the officer “feared for his life.” Citizens have a right to videotape the police and should have more latitude in resisting unlawful police commands, such as stop and frisk and “requests” to search vehicles without probable cause. It is time for a regime change here in America, from an overly militarized quasi police state back to the free society our founders fought for.