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NY cops’ harassment and manhandling of dancing prankster underlines why we need to shrink the criminal justice system

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The United States has become too much of a police state. Do not expect anything but police state fallout while the government spends billions of dollars on law enforcement, hires and maintains countless police and national security personnel, and passes laws galore aimed against illegal drugs, against drunk driving, and for protecting homeland security. This sorry state of affairs will continue until we massively shrink the criminal justice system, including legalizing marijuana, prostitution and gambling; heavily decriminalizing all other drugs; eliminating mandatory minimum prison sentencing; eliminating per se drunk driving blood alcohol laws; and eliminating the death penalty. Let our nation truly be the land of the free and home of the brave, and not the current land of the cops and home of the caged.

It goes without saying that the December 20, 2014, assassination of the two NYPD cops is beyond deplorable. However, that assassination does not justify muting calls to end decades of unjustified and race-based police misconduct.

Harmless prankster Alexander Bok learned how humorless, condescending, harassing, and manhandling too many police can be, when he faced all of that from New York City police on Christmas eve, thankfully caught on video. Granted it might be obnoxious to be dancing directly behind strangers on the street, but it also is lawful, and did not justify anything worse from the cops than telling Mr. Bok not to get in their way or to move on his way. The video (now removed from YouTube) (short and long versions) spoke for itself.

While the assassination of the two New York police officers just four days before may have contributed to tense feelings by the police confronting Mr. Bok, that tension did not justify their actions against him. Clearly, Bok posed no threat to them, and the police continued to treat him like a piece of sh*t even after they saw he was no more harmful than a deer caught in the headlights.

I have seen such police misconduct before (see here and here for instance). Unless a police officer has grown up completely committed to the principle that police are a necessary evil here to serve the public — and not vice versa — how can we expect them to see such a light when under the daily stresses and dangers of their jobs? Too many police seem to see themselves as owning the streets and as the arbiters of appropriate and inappropriate behavior by civilians, beyond what any criminal law code says.

Of further concern is that if these police officers were ready to so grossly mistreat Mr. Bok in full view of a video camera and pedestrians, how much worse might they have treated him had they been fully protected by the cover of darkness?

I do not view this mistreatment of Mr. Bok as mere aberrations by some bad police apples. I believe that such police misbehavior runs too rampant throughout the nation, with too little fear of repercussions for police wrongdoers to change their ways. It is not enough for good cops to be good cops. They should speak up against the police misconduct that they witness, and should teach their peers by their good example.