January 11, 2009

Police Do Not Serve and Protect

Wendy McElroy has highlighted some of the most important points in the wake of recent police killings of public citizens. In Australia three police officers reacted to a 15-year old kid who was carrying two knives and made threats against the officers by killing him, firing 10 bullets. Does anybody see a problem here? The kid was no doubt in psychological distress, his father had recently passed away, and his actions are no excuse. Still, as a police officer you have to be trained to deal with these types of situations appropriately. Wearing the badge is a duty, not a privilege. As McElroy points out, these are not isolated events but exceedingly common. The passage below is worth quoting in full.
These options were not used -- and probably not considered -- because police are no longer trained to protect. They are trained in military fashion to suppress and to control -- and nothing, nothing is so controlled as a dead body. That is zero-tolerance suppression. Indeed, one of the main reasons civil libertarians argue against conflating the police and the military is because the two serve totally different functions...or, at least, they should. The police should address crimes against person and property, they should defuse situations and protect people; they are public 'servants'. By contrast, the military views the public it confronts as "the enemy" from which it protects itself, often through lefhal force. The military is trained to kill and not to protect, to view the population as 'hostiles' not as equals. And, now, so are the police and all other agents who are part of Homeland Security.
The entire article is here.