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When it Suits You

Casual readers might think I am a plain ‘ol Republican, and I can see why you might think so. But if you had to ask me what the top three egregious acts of our current political system are, at least one of them is wholly supported and perpetuated by the right – and that is an utter unwillingness to think about the criminal justice system. Check out this Radley Balko post for an illustration.

But let’s be honest, here. This is some pretty blatantly selective fidelity to the Constitution. The drug war is as direct and aggressive an assault on federalism and the power of states and localities to make their own criminal justice policy as anything else the federal government does. Yet Hutchison, Coburn and the rest of the GOP senators who killed the Webb bill all support it. They also support all sorts of federal grants to local police departments. They all support letting the Pentagon give military equipment to local police departments.

Along comes a bill that would create a committee to make some non-binding suggestions that, if followed, may make it less likely that someone will be wrongfully imprisoned, or beaten by cops, or otherwise  get screwed over by the criminal justice system, and suddenly all of these GOP senators get a case of the constitutional vapors.

This is the sort of blind adherence to ideology that leads many of us to argue things like, “Education is not about education,” “the environment is not about the environment, and so on.” I wholly expect the right to ridicule me for being soft on crime. Let me ask the right a simple question, go to a nice safe neighborhood where you live and ask yourself if it is that way because of the way we organize our police and criminal justice system.

I live in absurdly pleasant Pittsford and Perinton, NY.

2 Responses to “When it Suits You”

  1. RIT_Rich says:

    Sorry but I’m not convinced. Pittsford has low crime rates because of the people who live there and because of the various private security measures they can afford to take. How does your model apply to the 19th Ward, down the street (where I was mugged, had my house and car broken into, my bicycle stolen etc). BTW I usually saw cops around Pittsford at a very very high frequency, but they avoid the streets of the 19th Ward like the Plague. Any correlation?

    Also, simply because someone SAYS the legislation will “make it less likely that someone will be wrongfully imprisoned, or beaten by cops, or otherwise get screwed over by the criminal justice system”…that it will in fact do that. Also, HOW did they figure it will do this? Is “beaten by the cops”…a problem? I can count the times it happens, supposedly unjustly, maybe on my fingers and toes per year. Compared to the total number of arrests or other types of interaction, its an occurrence rarer than an eclipse. yet somehow a lot of people react as if cops are prowling the streets waiting to beat black people and ditsy lefty girls in the 19th Ward who are professional Lefty agitators (like the one you posted a video off)

    At the end of the day, for me it comes down to this. Law enforcement is a duty of government. Whether we like it or not, thats pretty much why government exists. We haven’t come up with a better alternative to it, nor have we come up with a way of improving it significantly. A lot of “libertarians” have a knee-jerk reaction to police or military. So what are we complaining about? If law enforcement is the duty of government, we’d like the government to focus on those duties, and be as good at them as possible, constrained by the costs.

    I personally can’t say the various law enforcement agencies in the US are doing a poor job. They’re not doing a perfect job…but its not something I would ever dream of putting in my top 3 of items to complain about.

  2. Harry says:

    I remember watching a movie called “Punishment Park” in a theater that was near the intersection of Third Avenue and 34th Street. Before I bought my ticket, I asked the guy in the ticket booth what the movie was about, and he told me darkly, “It’s about dissent.”

    It turned out the movie was a fictional account about hippies (this was 1970) being imprisoned in some state south of the Mason-Dixon where fat white policemen beat innocent young women when they uttered sassy remarks, like calling the fat cops pigs. The OWS crowd may have read the screenplay.

    Wintercow is correct to remind us all about the danger of state power, even those of us who instinctly are biased toward the police. In my township, we were about to pass a recycling ordinance that could have meant time in jail and a big fine for an elderly lady putting an aluminum can in the wrong trash bin (as opposed to never throwing out any trash, ever). The argument made by the township solicitor was that they needed strenuous enforcement powers, in case a noncompliant person might resist the supervisors’ ukase.

    Fortunately, my brother and a few other cooler heads were on the recycling committee, and proposed a much less coercive ordinance that would comply with the mandate passed by the Commonwealth.

    Now, it happens that our municipality has no police; we rely on the State Police for investigation of crime and to enforce state traffic law. This works out just fine, since there is little crime, and the township saves about a million a year by not having police, who might during their idle time might harass the residents for breaking the recycling ordinance, or for cooking hot dogs in the back yard over a fire not made of seasoned hardwoods, or landing your helicopter. I am not making this up.

    I do sympathasize with RIT Rich’s being mugged, and in that situation, were I on the jury, would vote to throw the book at the muggers, if they were proved guilty, even if they had been tasered by the pigs.

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