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I am retired from government, law enforcement, politics and all other pointless endeavors. I eat when I am hungry and sleep when I am tired.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Drudge carried a picture yesterday of what appears to be Sheriff Deputies about to kill a motorist at an Iowa flood roadblock. The image shows one deputy positioned in front of an SUV with his automatic pistol aimed at the driver while another is about to smash a window with his folding baton. I saw no direct explanation for the picture in the body of either flood story but it's clear what is happening.

Many residents of the flood zone are frantic to get back to their residences and businesses. The government closed these areas off for safety's sake and apparently for safety's sake is quite willing to kill people who insist in going home that way anyway. It's instructive that the one deputy has positioned himself in front of the citizens vehicle and has drawn his hand gun. By doing so, he has turned a potential "failure to obey a lawful order" situation into a "deadly force situation." Police shooting motorists for attempting to run them down, sometimes under rather strained justification, is a direct outgrowth of the epidemic of car theft emanating from the usual suspects in our cities. So in this way as well as many others, the norms of enforcement in the ghetto are applied to everyone.

Liberals used to complain that police had too much discretion and that they needed to be "professionalized" and brought more directly under the disciplinary hand of lawyers who can review standard procedures. This has been accomplished with a vengeance. Law enforcement officers operating according to legally sanctioned procedural manuals upholding the principle that the power of the state must prevail at literally any cost. Citizens are seen as potentially dangerous simpletons who must be curbed and ordered about for the good of the government. They get to vote, but after that they need to shut up and take orders. The war on drugs and its ugly little sister, the war on drunk drivers has empowered two generations of police officers to operate like soldiers on a mission more than public servants. These, added to the many speed trap communities many of us drive through have changed the interaction between the police and ordinary citizens from one of respect to one of fear and resentment.

In the name of professionalism, tactics that would have been unthinkable before, are now standard operating procedure. The routine handcuffing of citizens before arrest "for the officers and the citizens safety" is now common as is ordering citizens to lay on the ground at gunpoint before being handcuffed. Of course there are tactical reasons for these methods. In an age of tiny affirmative action police people, the desire to render citizens harmless before they can be dealt with is a clear temptation. The safety of the government employee is paramount.

Of course the Government needs to establish order in emergencies, but shooting citizens "for their own good," where no immanent threat exists, is so foreign to our history and culture that one wonders how we allowed ourselves to get to this pass. If a citizen insists on risking his own life to retrieve his belongings, what right has the state to stop him. Some things we do at our own risk. Increasingly the government arrogates to itself the job of assessing risk and using the police power of the state to abridge our liberties.

In this case there may be a concern with looting. If that's so, the Government should restrict it's actions to letting only residents into an affected area. Residents might loot each others property but then that can be proved and adjudicated later. The fear that some residents may not be honest provides no license for the government to kill flood victims.

Two things are clear, the war on drugs is a failure and the war on our ancient rights to liberty and dignity is going very well indeed.

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