Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Armed revenue collectors

One basic problem with current policing is that police have become armed revenue collectors. That often seems to be their primary job. Indeed, their job depends on it. 

It's become a circular, incestuous dynamic: police exist to collect revenue, and revue exists to hire more police. 

When the city coffers are plush, more police are hired. When the city suffers a budget shortfall, police are laid off. You need more revenue to hire more police, and you need more police to collect more revenue. 

The police don't exist to protect the public, but to keep revenue flowing into the city coffers by ticketing as many citizens for as many infractions as possible. 

I see many more police on the road than I did back in the 60s and 70s. Admittedly, that's my anecdotal observation. 

But there seems to be an internal logic to it: to fund ever larger municipal gov't, you need an ever larger police force to collect supplemental revenue. Indeed, I think there's an informal ticket quota, although the police are loath to admit it.

This inevitably raises the number of unpleasant encounters and altercations between police and citizens. And this is often not about public safety, but fining people for purely technical infractions that exist, not to protect the public, but to generate municipal revenue. 

And by raising the odds of gratuitous altercations, you raise the odds of situations that end badly. It's a vicious cycle with predictable consequences. 

I'm not saying the police never save lives. But much of what they do is not about that. We've developed a hovering, predatory police presence. Police on the prowl for opportunities to rake in revenue. Casing the neighborhood to pounce on somebody for some technical violation that carries a fine. 

Instead of going after threatening people, all too often the police are threatening people who engage in perfectly innocuous behavior. The danger isn't coming from the general public but the squad car. On the lookout to make a buck for city hall. 

1 comment:

  1. This piece is excellent. Having been pulled over for going 33 in a 25 in my own quiet little neighborhood just today, and having then received a $114 ticket for exercising my right to (stupidly, I admit) not wear a seatbelt, this post rings true with extra vividness.