Anyone who joins the police force out of a conviction that he is called to protect and serve society is making a virtuous decision. We all know the basic rationale for civil government is to protect us from crime and exploitation. We believe, rightly, that everyone should get that protection regardless of age or sex or race or economic class.
As laudable as it is to try to ensure that everyone is protected, economic reality can’t be suspended by wishful thinking. The police are a tax funded monopoly organization. They have ongoing case loads. They have many duties (not least various forms of revenue collection for local municipalities). They have union protection. They have political pressure. They gain their income and promotions on the basis of factors that may not depend on their ability to solve hard crimes.
More and more news is coming out about how often the police were warned about something suspicious going on at the house that was the prison for Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight. According to the Daily Mail,
“Neighbors of accused kidnapper Ariel Castro have revealed they saw three naked young girls crawling in the backyard of his house on all fours with dog leashes around their necks and three men controlling them, but amazingly police never responded to their call.”
“Elsie Cintron, who lives three houses away, said her daughter once saw a naked woman crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard several years ago and called police. ‘But they didn’t take it seriously,’ she said. Another neighbor, Israel Lugo, said he heard pounding on some of the doors of Castro’s house, which had plastic bags on the windows, in November 2011. Lugo said officers knocked on the front door, but no one answered. ‘They walked to the side of the house and then left,’ he said.”
There were other instances. It isn’t completely surprising that government employees have not performed as well as one would like. That may not even be the personal faults of the individual police involved.
I’m not interested in condemning police officers. I am interested in Americans waking up to the fact that no one can promise them security or protection. Socialism doesn’t work. Security is a desirable commodity just like any other service you can buy. Here in St. Louis I know places where I am not supposed to walk at night because we all know the government does not allocate enough security resources in those areas to create a reasonable expectation of safety. There are times the police impress you with their work, but you really have no way of measuring what it ought to cost for such services in comparison to what the government pays for it.
I can support the police on the ground that it is better to do something inefficiently rather than not do it at all; but I can’t condone pretending that the police should be our only line of defense against crime.
The DHS slogan is, “If you see something, say something.” That slogan is a recipe for societal impotence. The Cintron families and the Lugo families both thought they had discharged their responsibilities to their neighbors by “saying something” more than once. I wish we lived in a world where they were empowered—where they saw it as their duty to investigate for themselves and find out what was going on.
We need a society with a different mantra: See Something? Do Something!