Why I’m so critical of police: Personal Experience (part 1 of 2)
Hint: It’s not because I’m a delinquent and wish to commit crimes. Because I’m not. And I don’t.
I’ve recently been taking some heat for a couple of articles and videos I’ve posted on Facebook about police. I thought this was a good time for me to clarify my position, and the reasons I have opposed government police since about the age of twelve, even though I’ve never been in any serious trouble with them aside from traffic fines. (I’ve never been into drugs, vandalism, or theft, for example.)
The reasons I am opposed to a government police force fall into one of two categories. The first is based on personal experience, which may or may not translate well to others. (Regardless, it is not an argument as arguing based on personal experience is a logical fallacy.) The second category is one of ethics and reason, and hopefully I can at least persuade a couple of readers that you don’t have to be a social delinquent to distrust and oppose the current police system. This post will focus on the personal experiences, and the follow-up will hopefully craft a reasoned argument.
Personal Reasons I’m Anti-Police
First, I need to clarify that unlike some, I do not hate someone just because he or she is a police officer. I’ve known many police officers in my short time on this earth, and to throw them all under the bus for personal reasons wouldn’t be right, smart, or honest. There are police officers that genuinely wish to make a difference for the better in society, and many are good dads and good citizens. If you are a police officer reading this, and consider me to be a friend, you should already know that I am not talking about you. I also must clarify that I am not against keeping the peace and maintaining order. I just don’t think that that is what police officers do. I must also note that in my descriptions of my personal experiences, I have chosen not to use any names; if you grew up with me, you probably already know about whom I am writing anyway.
Childhood: Early Views and Early Doubts
Like most children, I was raised by my parents and by my public school to believe that police officers were the good guys. If you needed help, or if a bad person threatened your life or property, the police were there to swoop in and save you. Obviously, only a child could believe this. The first blemish on my view of police as selfless heroes happened in sixth grade when I was eleven or twelve years old, and involved the D.A.R.E. program. If you are under the age of thirty-five and went to a public school, you remember it. D.A.R.E. is an acronym for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, and it started when the War on (some) Drugs started. The program’s stated goal was “to keep kids off drugs.” I will not get into the many failures and wastes of the D.A.R.E. program here, as that’s not my topic. Rather, D.A.R.E. was central to my first distrust of police.
Once a month, our local police sergeant would visit our classroom to talk about the dangers of drugs like marijuana, cocaine, crack, and heroin. I happened to be the same age as his daughter, so we were in the same grade. One month, we had an essay writing contest about the dangers of illegal street drugs. The winner was to be picked by the police sergeant, and would win a new black jacket with the D.A.R.E. logo emblazoned on the back. To a twelve-year-old kid, this was a really cool prize. (You may already see where this is going, and you’re right.) The sergeant’s daughter won the grand prize, obviously. When it was announced at a school assembly, about half of the kids in attendance voiced their objections. Did she really write the best essay? Who knows. I don’t blame her for his (probable) nepotism, or being the sergeant’s daughter. I actually felt kind of sorry for her because she became the object of a lot of her schoolmate’s frustration.
This episode taught me (and probably a lot of other kids, as well) about favoritism and nepotism. We all do it, it’s in our nature to look out for those close to us and/or related to us. The problem comes when someone is in a position of power. The police sergeant, in this case, had the power to grant favors to whomever he wanted. In hindsight, and as an adult, I realize that of course he had to pick his daughter. It was not a fair situation for him to be in, either. I think this is a microcosm of what goes on with police in communities and cities all over the world. They give their buddies and family members breaks and kickbacks at the expense of the rest of us. This would not be a problem if there were a competing protection firm, or if their power wasn’t based on force and decrees. Since your local police has a monopoly on law enforcement in your jurisdiction, you’re out of luck if you’re not part of the favored inner circle.
Adolescence: Further Observations of Abuse
As a teenager and early twenty-something, and as a new driver, my dealings with police increased due to a few traffic violations. I was never into drugs, or stealing, or any other similar anti-social behavior, but I did like to drive fast. Admittedly, my own stops for violations were mostly justified, but there is an important exception that is still fresh in my mind. When I was twenty years old, I worked at the local Wal-Mart store. For lunch one afternoon, I had gone out to eat with a co-worker. We were trying to make it back to the store on time, but there was construction on the main route. One of the local police was directing cars through the parking lot of a Quick Chek convenience store to get around the roadblock. At the other side was a policeman pulling over the same cars and writing them tickets for “Cutting through private property,” which apparently is against the law in most of these United States. I explained to him that I was following the directions of the other policeman not 50 yards away, but my explanation fell on deaf ears. Regardless of whether the statute is logical/ethical, what is definitely unethical is that sort of entrapment to shake down the public.
Another incident that remains firm in my memory happened while I was working at the Farmstead Golf Course in Andover. My job was to clean and wash the carts after the golfers were done using them, and my station was next to the parking lot. We often had private golfing events at the course, where groups could rent the course and clubhouse for the day. By far, the most gracious and generous groups were the Japanese businessmen. The loudest and rudest groups were the local police. We had several incidents involving sexual harassment of our cart girls by the cops, and the bartenders constantly complained at the poor tips and excessive drunkenness of our public servants. Of course, the drunk officers would then drive while still intoxicated. One particular afternoon, three of the off-duty police broke off from the main group after hitting the bar pretty hard. They set up on a small incline by my station facing the parking lot and began chipping golf balls into the lot, trying to hit cars. Why they would want to damage the cars of their fellow officers is beyond me, but the staff also used the parking lot. I approached the officers and asked them to stop. When they laughed at me and refused, I informed them that if they hit my car, I would sue them. They asked me which car was mine, to which I replied, “I’m not stupid.” When they still didn’t stop, I informed the golf pro who then spoke to the head of the outing. They finally were made to stop, but I never found out what happened afterwards.
Early Adulthood: Further Personal Abuses
Another one of my encounters with the law involved one of my former classmates. Since graduating high school, he had become a police officer. I spoke to him very briefly at our ten year high school reunion, but walked away when he asked me if I wanted to snort some cocaine. Frankly, I really don’t care if he or anyone else wants to use cocaine. His body, his choice. Regardless of your opinion of the drug war, however, police officers should not be breaking the laws for which they’ll arrest ordinary citizens and ruin their lives with fines and/or prison time. This is a blatant and obvious double standard, and caused me to lose respect for this person.
The last corruption that I’d like to discuss is the big one. (I’ve saved the worst for last.) This incident took place in Paris, France on October 20, 2003. I remember the date very well because this was the date my college roommate and I were held hostage by some shady Eastern European characters. The Clif’s Notes version of the story is that we went into a bar in north Paris, were offered prostitutes, and were charged an exorbitant amount of money for them even though we made it clear that we did not wish to become Johns that evening. When I refused to pay, the owners held my roommate hostage and forced me to withdraw 3300 euros (approximately $4000 at the time) to bail him out. It was the most terrifying experience of my life and one of the only times I thought I was going to die. After paying them off, my roommate and I went to the US Embassy to report it. The ambassador was very kind, but informed us that she couldn’t really do anything about it and we needed to file a police report. We found the local police station, but when we arrived, they wouldn’t even let us in the door. When it was clear we weren’t going to leave, a young female officer was sent out to handle us. I told her the story of the hostage situation and theft, and when I had finished recounting the tale, she said, and I quote: “Go home, stupid Americans.” The one time in my life I actually needed police assistance, they refused to help. A good friend of mine theorized that they are on the take to look the other way, but it’s just a guess. I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure.
Personal Experience is not an Argument
I’m well aware that stories of personal experience are not substitutes for an argument based on facts and logic, and all these experiences could very well all be isolated incidents. If they are, though, I’m one of many, many citizens who have experienced police corruption and abuse in America and all over the world. Even though these personal experiences are not a substitute for reason, they contribute to how I view police (as oppressors) and inform me how I much I should trust them (I shouldn’t). In the next section, I’ll deal with the logical, reasoned arguments for opposing a government police system.
A Disclaimer About My Politics
Thanks for reading this post, I hope I challenged you in some way. Agree with me? That’s cool. Disagree? Even better. I’m just a random guy on the internet, voicing his opinion (at the time of writing this blog post – check the date; opinions change as more facts and experience are gathered). But imagine if I had the political power and will to force you to agree with me! That would be terrible, and that’s the point of voluntarism and non-aggression. You should not be forced to agree with me. Please extend me the same courtesy.
“The word ‘politics’ is derived from the word ‘poly’ meaning ‘many’, and the word ‘ticks’ meaning ‘blood sucking parasites’.” -Larry Hardiman
Political Blog Posts
- The Democrats Don’t Deserve Your Vote
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- The Libertarians Don’t Deserve Your Vote
- Democracy ≠ Freedom
- I Don’t “Feel the Bern.”
- Confessions of a Public Servant
- Leaders vs. Rulers
- Libertarianism is Better Than Progressivism
- Why I Do Not Vote (And Neither Should You)
- The Traffic Court Swindle
- Top Five Reasons I Don’t Argue Politics on Social Media
- Why Meaningful Debate is Impossible
- Dos and Do Nots for the Liberty Minded
- “There ought to be a law…”
- A Defense of Fugitive Slaves
- Conspiracy Theories are Dumb
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