Our Police State Must Be Dismantled, One Step at a Time
Today’s blog entry began as a discussion of the junk science of field sobriety tests for DWI cases, particularly the junk science of horizontal nystagmus testing for blood alcohol level ranges, which cannot be correlated. However, as I developed the next paragraph below, I recognized that my field sobriety test blog will come separately on a later day, to focus further on my eternal campaign to reverse and dismantle the Nation’s police state.
Police officers learn information overload all too fast at the police academy. On a police officer’s first day alone in his or her cruiser, the officer’s mind is swimming with information and training on using his handgun, slapjack, asp, billy club, mini-shocker, taser, handcuffs, speed detectors, lights, and sirens; taking control of each situation; avoiding injury to the officer and others; pursuing alleged perpetrators at high speed; using escalating amounts of force; arresting; issuing tickets and writing reports; and the law.
The law alone has resulted from hundreds of thousands of hours of deliberation by legislators, legislation drafters, judges, judicial law clerks, and lawyers and law professors influencing the state of statutes and caselaw. That law runs from reasonable articulable suspicion briefly to detain suspects, to probable cause to search and arrest, to when and how to seek a search warrant, to executing a search warrant, to adhering to the Fifth Amendment and Miranda, to understanding the Supreme Court caselaw and exceptions to general rules of law, to identifying and testing for illegal drugs and other contraband, to investigating alleged crimes, to arresting and processing defendants, to testifying (and unfortunately for too many officers, testilying, the monstrous cousin of planting evidence of crimes on suspects), and to many other areas, including such technical and specialized areas thrown to all police officers to investigate and pursue as driving while impaired and intoxicated.
How does a police officer sufficiently absorb and apply all this information and training in such a short time? S/he cannot and does not. Instead, the best police officer absorbs his or her training and information as one does from a Contac capsule, little by little over time, meaning with years of experience, training, and retraining by police officers; and through focus, conscientiousness, common sense, compassion, and intellectual ability, which far from all members of society nor police officers have. What happens, then, with the mediocre or worse police officers who either are not able to rise to the occasion; don’t give a crap for anything but their paycheck, power and camaraderie; or have hostility and other biases against criminal suspects and/or certain racial groups? That amounts to the nation’s long-entrenched and monstrously overgrown and oppressive police state. This police state is compliments of the overly simplistic fears of too many people in society; the ignorance of too many people of how oppressive our police state and criminal justice system actually is; and our overgrown criminal justice system, with too few politicians and other government officials with the backbone to reign in this oppressive police state monster, lest they be accused by their political opponents of being soft on crime.
How do we reverse this oppressive police state of affairs? As I have blogged for over a decade, we start by shrinking the overgrown criminal justice system, starting with steps as simple as legalizing marijuana, prostitution, and gambling; heavily decriminalizing all other drugs; eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing; eliminating the death penalty; and eliminating per se guilty rules in DWI cases. Once we shrink the criminal justice system, we will be better able to balance our exorbitantly overgrown governmental budgets, and will be better able to hire, train, encourage, promote and pay performance-based bonuses and raises to the best possible police officers, not only who are the best based on ability, but on conscientiousness, honesty, devotion and conviction that policing is a necessary evil in our society that should be as free and open as possible, and that police serve the people rather than the opposite.
Once we have a smaller and more honest criminal justice system, the state of affairs with policing will shift from the current us versus them attitude of too many police towards too many members of society, and by too many members of society towards police, into a state of affairs where police and the public work more cooperatively (and I am not using cooperatively in the bastardized form used for snitching with police and prosecutors) and effectively together.
We see this shift taking place in various pockets of the nation, where sanctuary cities decline to shoulder the federal government’s role of enforcing the nation’s overly oppressive and inflexible immigration laws, leading undocumented people and their documented relatives to work with police, government officials and others in the community to improve the community; where marijuana possession is lawful, reducing a huge area of police oppression right there; and where politicians and other government officials demand good policing and police accountability, as with good government and government accountability, rather than towing the old mythical line of the near infallibility of police and soldiers.
This shift will not happen on its own. It will not happen by merely electing politicians running under the umbrella of our preferred political party, versus examining their records and words closely and demanding fully detailed and honest answers from politicians about their views and policies about criminal justice and policing. This shift will not happen without each of us getting effectively involved, if even in a small way, including how we vote; what we tell police, politicians, government officials and the rest of society; and what we say and do in praising good policing and calling out abusive and law-violating policing, starting with when we see them on the street, exercising our First Amendment right of free speech while also knowing that our First Amendment rights are limited to an extent by laws against obstruction of justice.
The Nation’s police state has been deeply entrenched and reinforced repeatedly over the entire 240 years of our Republic. It will not be undone overnight, but must be undone starting daily, one step at a time, until ours is no longer a police state.