What has been made clear over the last couple of weeks is that, in many cities, there has been a complete loss of control by ‘civilian’ authorities over local security forces. I put ‘civilian’ in quotes because the police are supposed to be civilians, even if many of them act as if they were occupying military forces. Sure, #NotAllCities, but if you look at many cities, such as New York, Seattle, or Philadelphia, the most charitable interpretation of events is that police are ignoring elected officials.
Unfortunately, this happens a lot. As some asshole with a blog noted five years ago about anti-jaywalking efforts, police often implement policies on their own:
Essentially, the LAPD is making a policy decision: they are attempting to retard the shift towards walking. It does have an effect–if Boston, D.C., or New York police officers ever decided to enforce a similar policy, that would probably be the one thing that could get every single elected official voted out of office. Cities require walking.
Yet the LAPD has decided that Los Angeles doesn’t. Is this a Ferguson-style attempt to raise revenue? Is this an attempt to fill monthly quotas (if they truly exist)? Probably not. Instead, it seems like the Police Department has decided, unilaterally, to try to limit pedestrian fatalities–a good thing to do. However, they clearly didn’t ask any elected officials, as shown by Councilmen Bonin’s and Huizar’s reactions.
While jaywalking obviously isn’t an issue of life and death, this is one example of how a police department, when there is no oversight, can de facto enact urban planning policy; this is all the more disturbing when most police officers and officials are not residents of the communities in which they are making these policies.
Elected officials, not to mention citizens, might want to do something about that.
What makes the breakdown of law and, given the looting, order so galling is that this often occurs in cities nominally run by Democratic officials. This is a failure of governance and accountability to the voters that put them in office. Too often, Democratic politicians are reluctant to take on police forces. This not only endangers residents’ lives, but also impoverishes the rest of the public sector, as other areas, like, lets’ say, public health departments, have their budgets slashed (good job, everybody!).
I realize, at the federal level, there are difficult choices for left-ish types about supporting (and how strongly) Democratic politicians, but, at the state and local levels, we really need to start choosing candidates who are willing to govern–and that includes retaking control of our internal security forces.
Aside:Speaking of local races, D.C.’s Ward 4 Council Member lost last night. He’s a former Republican who switched parties. Last week, he decided to send out a ton of flyers arguing that a vote for him would be a vote for police in Ward 4. Might not have been the best timing for that ad…