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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Law Enforcement Fear Mongering

     Police administrators, aware that Americans tend to be wary of governmental authority, have never been above fear mongering. The "thin blue line" metaphor--the notion that a fragile barrier of uniformed cops stands between civilized society and hordes of rapists and looters--is a good example of scaring citizens into accepting and appreciating excessive police authority.

     Those skeptical of the "thin blue line" concept were proven right in the early 1970s following a series of experiments in Kansas City, Missouri by the Rand Corporation. The studies revealed no correlation between police patrols and crime prevention. Government fear mongering, from the "reefer madness" era through "thin blue line" period continues. Now, in addition to the specter of a society collapsing under the weight of drug addiction and crime, the fear of terrorism has propelled the move toward a more militarized, heavy-handed form of law enforcement. Today, getting on an airplane, or entering a public school, is like visiting someone in prison. Police officers patrol many big cities the way soldiers walk the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan. Many politicians want to turn school teachers into armed police officers. (If I had a child in school, I'd advise him not to talk back to any teacher under stress who's packing heat.) If this trend isn't reversed, the day may come when the fear of crime and terrorism will be matched by the fear of the police.

     As Winston Churchill once said, "Democracy means that when there's a knock at the door at three in the morning, it's probably the milkman." Today, in America, it's certainly not going to be the milkman, and if it's a SWAT team at your door, forget the knock.


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