Could These Reforms Help Police-Community Relations?
Updated: Mar 11
It is generally understood that in order for a community to function properly and for its people to remain safe, it must have a group of people who are trained to protect those who cannot protect themselves and investigate crimes after they occur. Personally, I was raised to respect police officers for their courageous efforts to keep our community safe. My parents taught me to comply if police were ever to ask something of me - and I always did. I have always believed that police were crucial to the function of a safe society. I do not want to live in a city where people can steal from or kill the elderly or ill without consequence.
If you have seen any news broadcast or article in the past few years, you are aware that there is a growing rift between police and citizens who believe in personal liberty. Although conservatives traditionally respected and supported local police, many American conservatives have grown concerned with the enforcement of victim-less crimes and the lack of accountability that police officers and departments seem to have. After living in NYC for ten years and working alongside the NYPD for 5 years, I have also come to distrust and resent police, especially large city police departments like the NYPD.
Before discussing my reforms, it’s important to understand that there is literally a one in several thousand chance that a cop who kills someone (maliciously) will be convicted of murder or even manslaughter. It’s also very important to understand that when police departments/municipalities grant victims of obvious police brutality money in damages, that money comes 100% from the city’s budget-meaning taxpayers of that municipality pay the bill in full 100% of the time. In NYC, that cost taxpayers over $300 million over a 5-year span. This gives the offending cop zero deterrent to commit the act again.
It’s equally important to understand that unions set guidelines with how municipalities/cities deal with disciplinary issues within police departments. These guidelines often include provisions that guarantee cops 100% of their pay when they are on leave or ‘modified duty’ during investigations. When a cop rapes or murders someone, they often continue to be paid in full by the city’s taxpayers until the completion of the investigation, which could take months. The percentage of complaints that are sustained against police departments with unions is less than half of the percentage of sustained complaints against non-union police departments, according to a federal study.
As an economist, I naturally think of every arrangement in society as a contract between two parties. When I go to work, I am deciding that the money I will be paid/the experience I will gain from working is worth more than the time I am putting into it. Conversely, my company decides each and every day that they are better off spending the money to pay me for my time and service than they would be if they did not employ me. Every municipality in the US essentially hires a police department. Every year, NYC decides to spend (an ever-increasing amount of) money to employ 50,000 people as part of the NYPD. Next year, the annual NYPD budget will hit $5 billion.
The NYPD is a company. The people who make the deal are the mayor and the city council, and they pay the NYPD 5 billion dollars a year with money that they forcefully take (taxation) from New Yorkers (along with some federal and state grants). The difference between the NYPD and the company you might hire to do your landscaping is that the NYPD knows with 100% certainty that they will have the contract with NYC year after year regardless of performance.
Every year, your landscaper does a good job because he knows that you will not use his company again if they do not meet your expectations. Furthermore, the NYPD has an incredibly strong union that negotiates incredible deals on their behalf, like guaranteeing full pay during leave while they’re being investigated for murder. They also get a badge and a gun and the ability to make up laws, disobey laws, and enforce whichever laws they feel like enforcing at any given moment and against any particular individual.
Another humongous issue is the enforcement of crimes that cause nobody any harm besides for potentially the offender themselves. Police should not arrest someone for smoking marijuana, eating a cheeseburger, or drinking liquor. They all have dangers, but they are nobody’s business, and it is un-American to criminalize actions that affect nobody else, and it is beyond un-American to force taxpayers to fund the war against unhealthy behavior.
Now that we are all aware of the inherent issues with modern police in the US, here are my seven reforms which I believe would massively improve policing in any city that implemented them:
1) No police department that utilizes a union of any sort to collectively bargain on behalf of the officers shall be employed by this municipality.
2) No officers shall be paid for more than one week of time off during any investigation. The sheriff may elect not to pay the officer during any investigation if there is any suspicion of malicious intent.
3) No police department shall be given a contract for longer than one year. Any police department/agency can be fired by the city council after each year for unsatisfactory service of any type.
4) All monies paid out to victims of police brutality, police misconduct, murder, vandalism, manslaughter, injury, or any other offense that the court rules harmed a citizen as a result of an officer’s actions shall be paid by the offending officer. Taxpayers should not be punished for an officer’s reckless or malicious actions.
5) No act not involving actual bodily harm or theft or damage of property of a specific person shall be enforced by the police department. Routine checkpoints for drivers shall be discontinued and traffic stops shall be prohibited other than in cases which could reasonably be justified as being highly likely to cause death to others within minutes, such as actively shooting a gun out of the window of a car.
6) For two weeks each year, each officer must live like typical unarmed citizens in every regard. This time is to be spent reflecting on how citizens feel when police intimidate them with their guns and badges. This will help police officers empathize with the people in their community that they are hired to protect.
7) As professionals enforcing government mandates with a gun and a badge, it is unacceptable to curse at or threaten citizens or to abuse the power of one's status as government enforcer. As such, in the event that anyone employed by the police department a) curses at a person who is under any sort of investigation, detainment, questioning, etc. or b) draws their gun while dealing with such a person, the perpetrating police employee must write an essay justifying the need for doing so. The essay is to be completed and sent to the city council and the sheriff within 24 hours, and presented by the offending officer at the next public city council meeting. Appropriate discipline shall follow.
Any city that implemented these seven simple, common sense reforms might see an improvement in police-civilian relations, crime, quality of life, liberty, and prosperity.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views held by The Liberty Block or any of its contributors or members.