If people properly understood the role of police in the American system, they would probably trust anyone standing next to them in the grocery store to have their best interests at heart more than a “law enforcement” officer. There’s an important reason for this. According to a Cato study, if you are an American, you are 8X more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist. According to a Reason article, by Dec 9th 2014, police had killed 1,000 people that year. A search couldn’t find stats on unarmed people that police have killed outside of African American groups who keep track of it. The epidemic has reached the point that better data collecting is needed. But, if you just look at the number of unarmed black men (no weapon at all) killed by police in 2015, 104, and compare it to the amount of Americans worldwide in 2014 (including the US) whose deaths were attributed to terrorism, 32, American police killed over 3X as many unarmed black men in the US as terrorists killed Americans worldwide. Even if you want to say half of them were out of their minds on bath salts that’s almost 2X as many unarmed black men killed by police as Americans killed by terrorism all over the globe.
It is clear why many, including former law enforcement, believe this is such a huge issue. Trillions are being spent to combat terrorism worldwide, yet millions are being funneled to support the bigger threat to us, the imminent one in which uttering the wrong phrase at a traffic stop can change your life forever… and even end it without consequence to the one who steals your most precious possession. Your life, your very existence.
Those who have had a chance to consume, cover to cover, James Duane’s book, “You Have the Right to Remain Innocent,” share the same sentiments, mostly anger and despair. The amount of cases he discusses where innocent people lost decades of their lives because they decided to answer a police officer’s questions is infuriating and sad at the same time. They have a job to do and it’s not to protect you, it is to gather evidence against you if they suspect you’ve done something wrong. And the amount of innocent people that gave them just enough information in what they believed was an informal discussion that allowed a flawed and corrupt system to frame a narrative to “get their man/woman,” that a jury of people too stupid to get out of jury duty, or ones that know nothing of jury nullification, convicted them on is heartbreaking.
And then there is the epidemic we’ve seen pop up that really came to the forefront at Waco. The first thing the Federal police did was shoot the dogs. They weren’t guard dogs, they were pets. They were in a pen. Recently a police officer, who was eventually fired even though his police chief said he did “nothing against procedure,” shot a 9-pound dog in the face because his owner wouldn’t come to the road to talk to him. Officer Keenan Wallace, formerly of the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office in Conway Arkansas, did it out of spite. On July 5th, 2016, The Nation published an article reporting that police nationwide are killing 25 dogs a day. That’s over 9,000 a year. And the courts have ruled they have the right to do this. Why? The system is not your friend and the front-line soldiers are police.
People who believe this is a grave issue have the ability to fight back against this tyranny by gathering concerned neighbors and implementing a strategy that has proven to drastically reduce the footprint of “law enforcement” in their neighborhoods. Some of these you’ve probably heard of, but a few in particular many have no idea exist, or have existed.
Before solutions are presented, history can provide a good deal of context.
State law enforcement was not the norm in the original thirteen colonies. Early colonial governments played no active role in apprehending and prosecuting lawbreakers and police departments and prosecutors did not exist as they are known today. Therefore, a crime victim had to serve as policeman and prosecutor who, if he chose to apprehend an offender and initiate prosecution, did so directly and at his own expense. He did not have to rely on government agencies. On the contrary, he could not rely on them even if he wanted to because they either did not exist, or did not perform the function he sought. By the same token, he was obviously not constrained by such agencies to proceed with a prosecution if he chose to withdraw.
Public courts were available in most colonial capitals, but distance and poor roads made use of them for many colonists expensive. Thus, government trials could be, and frequently were, simply bypassed in favor of direct bargaining or third-party arbitration or mediation, with restitution to the victim from the offender being the dominant sanction. Again, early Americans held a restitutive theory of justice whereby forced reparations by the criminal to the victim were ordered, but punitive measures taken against the offender to the benefit of the victim were also demanded.
What would be the benefits of this? One, if you have to take money out of your own pocket to catch someone who has transgressed against you, and there are no police, false allegations would seem to all but disappear except in the case of someone who just has it out for someone; and even in that case, they are probably looking to do violence to the person other than seeking restitution.
Notice, this isn’t about some abstract concept called justice that is carried out by a “State” in which they don’t care if you are made whole or not.
Something else to take from this: would neighbors at the time have a stake in making sure this person was caught? Absolutely. The concept of a public protector doesn’t exist, so if there is someone going around stealing or damaging property it makes sense that one would want someone caught who had the potential to do the same to them. So, just by putting the word out it would make sense that you would have volunteers joining you in your search.
Going back to the rank psychopath who may just be seeking vengeance against someone he views as a foe, do you think people who are hearing the story of whatever the accused may or may not have done have a stake in making sure the accusations are accurate? Yes, or they could be the next victim of a false complaint.
All of this points to something that always makes a community, and especially a tight knit one, open to the ideas of self-policing; and that’s self-interest.
Before real solutions are presented, don’t discount the lesson of the previous. With everything mentioned about the colonies, one can see the importance of central power was not deemed important, so how much money could public officials demand. It is clear why they needed to expand their power. Any fines levied would find their way into public coffers and not back to the damaged party. Power as such generates income and one could argue a good free-market security force could demand a high price but that would be voluntary on the consumers part and that should be the goal.
The ‘Wild, Wild West’
What of the widely held perception that the eighteenth-century West was a lawless society dominated by violence, where the strongest and most ruthless ruled by force? It is true that miners, farmers, ranchers, and many other individuals moved westward much more rapidly than government entities could expand the state’s law enforcement system, particularly from 1830 to 1900. But this does not mean that the frontier was lawless.
Remember who writes the history books. That the West was a wild, violent, and lawless place is not just something that is popularly believed but rejected by researchers. Many simply assume (or assert) that violence was prevalent and then proceed to explain why that should be the case. Is there any real evidence of relatively violent behavior in the West?
Some historical accounts focus on a particularly notorious event or individual, and these certainly existed. But there appears to be a serious selection bias problem when the entire West is characterized on the basis of the conclusions of such studies. Interestingly, even those studies discover a good deal of social order. When you examine the Texas frontier from 1875–90, for instance, one finds that many kinds of criminal offenses common today were nonexistent. Burglaries and robberies of homes and businesses (except for banks) simply did not occur. Doors were not locked, and hospitality was widespread, indicating that citizens had relatively little fear of invasive violent or property offenses. Shootings did occur, but they typically involved what the citizenry considered to be “fair fights.” Stage and train robberies occurred, but these incidents were isolated from most citizens and caused them little to no concern.
So again, one must ask whether government, the monopoly on violence, should be in charge of policing. If at a time where the closest “government protector” could be hours away, the crime rate was low. Why is it so high now? Because so much of what is considered a crime is something where there is no injured party. When you see on a charging document, “THE STATE OF….” Vs “so and so”, the damaged party isn’t present. No victim, no crime. Violations of person and property are the only crimes.
One would do well to argue that you would want people you are either paying voluntarily to protect you, or people you trust. So, what are a few ways in which that can be done absent government actors.
To spend time on the concept of the “neighborhood watch” isn’t warranted. Most people are familiar with the concept.
There is an example of a good “free market” approach that has been seen in recent decades. Dale Brown, the founder of Detroit Threat Management, started out with the idea that people had to be responsible for their own security. He figured out that policing is not based on protection, but on prosecution. So, if police show up on average less than 5% of the time to stop a crime, what are you to do? Police are historians, they do not work in current events. They are evidence gatherers, and the sooner the masses come to that realization, the better.
When you start speaking out against modern police techniques, the first response you get, without fail, is, “Well if you get in trouble, call a crackhead!” This is common. And before we proceed further, one thing Dale says that should stick with you is that law enforcement is for people who have broken the law, or CHOSEN to have laws enforced against them. He is saying YOU CHOOSE THIS.
Dale designed a system in which he was training people, families and groups how to protect themselves from violence. He was doing this in parks, pretty much anywhere he could. An owner of an apartment building let him use an empty space.
The turn for him was the realization that teaching people to protect themselves was not going to be enough. There were people who just couldn’t do it. He taught pre-emptive techniques like securing your dwelling which is absolutely essential. Something he says which should be considered but most people don’t is that if someone breaks into your home, and you defend it by killing or hurting that person, you’ll probably want to move immediately. People have family and friends, and having them know exactly where you are puts a target on your back. Revenge is very real. So, making sure you secure yourself and your dwelling isn’t an option, it’s essential. Another point he makes is, just because you have a gun, and know how to use it, doesn’t mean anything. Every dead cop had a gun. So, prevention is where you start. Understanding human behavior is more important. Think about the name of his company, Threat Management. It’s about preparation. Getting to the point where you actually have to fight, should be a major outlier.
It’s easy to see that even though this is about the entrepreneur, or entrepreneurs who may wish to begin an endeavor as such, there is also a lot of info for the individual. In his realization that many people couldn’t protect themselves he decided his strategy needed to evolve. In 1995 he approached, and was hired by building owners to be their security. This was in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Detroit that was rife with rapes, assaults and murders. His goal was easy. If he could make rich people richer (building and land owners having a safer environment to thrive in), he would be paid for his efforts.
In the beginning he, and those who worked for him, would get part of their pay with “free” housing. As it progressed, he could charge for his service. He now has a huge company, with contracts to privately protect some of the wealthiest and best neighborhoods out there. Mind you, many were not safe to start with, they are ones he cleaned up by letting people know that he was going to make sure they were safe by using all the techniques he found would prevent violence in the first place.
The most realistic example for pushing the government monopoly on violence and force out of the communities’ people live in is the Shomrim society? Shomrim is the Hebrew word for “watcher’ or “guard.” These are probably most famous in NYC although they have groups scattered through America and Britain. Shomrim will “work” with the police, but honestly, it is only because the cops have a monopoly on force. They would prefer to take care of their own, and should be applauded for it because in a truly libertarian society, that is who you’d want looking out for you even more so than any security you may hire.
The mission statement/message people get when they go to the “Shomrim Crown Heights” webpage:
Crown Heights Shomrim is a neighborhood patrol organization made up entirely of volunteers whose mission is to help protect the streets of Crown Heights and to give aid to victims of crime. Crown Heights Shomrim is based in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York, a neighborhood comprised of ultra-Orthodox Hassidic Jews of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement alongside a large West Indian and African American population. Founded in the 1960’s Crown Heights Shomrim is the evolution of the Maccabees – a first of its kind volunteer patrol – which was founded by residents of the neighborhood who were frustrated with an understaffed and ineffective police department which allowed residents to fall victims to violent crimes.
During the infamous anti-Semitic riots in 1991, Shomrim expanded its operations and today is the most veteran, respected and responsible organizations charged with providing residents with a reinforced sense of security. Shomrim works closely with members of the New York City Police Department and other branches of law enforcement as well as emergency rescue personal and many of our volunteers have received training by the NYPD, New York City’s Office of Emergency Management and the Department of Homeland Security.
If you start to run searches on Showrim groups you will find articles on blogs about how they may push people around and a couple of “mainstream” articles on abuses but that is not what should be focused on. Sure, these kinds of things will happen. But they’re not libertarians. What do they know about the non-aggression principle? Of course, you would want to tailor any group formed to the non-aggression principle.
Each Shomrim group maintains its own dispatcher and 24-hour hotline, whose number is known throughout the Orthodox Jewish community. Shomrim responds to a wide variety of crimes and cases, including reports of purse snatching, vandalism, car and bicycle thefts, and missing persons. Volunteers patrol the city streets in the wee hours of the morning as a deterrent presence. When they are not on duty, they remain on call, and are often summoned to help other Shomrim groups or other Jewish community rescue organizations such as Hatzalah and Chaverim during large-scale search and rescue operations.
Shomrim has been effective in apprehending suspects of burglaries, robberies, assault, car thefts, vandalism, domestic violence, nuisance crimes, and antisemitic attacks. In an incident in 2010, four Brooklyn South Shomrim volunteers gave chase to a suspected child predator who drew a gun and shot each of them after they had tackled him to the ground. The shooter was later acquitted of all charges except possessing a gun. Following that incident, the Brooklyn South Shomrim were issued bullet-proof vests by the New York State Senate.
Shomrim volunteers have occasionally been criticized for using excessive force with suspects, particularly non-Jews. In 1996, a Crown Heights Shomrim volunteer was convicted of assault charges after repeatedly hitting a suspect on the head with a walkie-talkie after the man had been subdued. In 2010 a Baltimore Shomrim volunteer was arrested for allegedly striking a black teenager. He was suspended pending internal investigation, with Shomrim confident that he would be vindicated in court, and was sentenced to three years of probation in 2012. In 2011, two Monsey Shomrim volunteers were charged with misdemeanors in a fracas that erupted after a girl hit a passing van with a water balloon.
Shomrim volunteers, who are unpaid, are mostly members of the Haredi Jewish communities that they serve; however, around 70 percent of the victims they help are not from the Orthodox Jewish community, usually just local residents from any race or religion. In Brooklyn, Shomrim members, according to their coordinator, are fingerprinted and checked for a criminal record before being allowed to join the patrol.
Shomrim volunteers – who range from a few dozen to over 100, depending on the group – work on foot or in cars. Generally, members work two to a vehicle that is equipped with a radio and a siren. However, the UK divisions of Shomrim do not have audible or visual warning equipment (blues-and-twos) fitted in their vehicles. Some Brooklyn patrols have marked cars which resemble New York City Police Department (NYPD) vehicles, but most use their own unmarked cars. The patrols may also carry walkie-talkies. They wear identifying jackets and yarmulkes on the job.
The volunteers, says a coordinator, do not carry guns, batons, pepper spray, or handcuffs, and do not have the authority to make arrests. However, they are trained in how to safely track and detain suspects until police arrive, otherwise known as citizen’s arrest. They have been known to quickly mobilize area residents to block off streets in order to stop suspects.
Their funding comes from donations mostly, although some have been able to get tax-payer money as, especially in their local communities, they are a large voting bloc. A libertarian-type order would, of course, reject this.
These groups are known to prevent crime and actually solve a few, including missing persons cases.
Two examples have been presented to show how to drastically reduce the footprint of government police in any neighborhood. When thinking about publicly-funded law enforcement, it is important to remember a few points:
1. They are not protectors; they are there to record history and help prosecutors punish “criminals.” James Duane’s book, “You Have the Right to Remain Innocent,” is required reading.
2. They are hammers and all they see is a nail. Between shooting unarmed people and executing animals, wouldn’t you rather trust someone you know or are paying directly?
3. In the case of Detroit Threat Management, think of it as a business opportunity. Of course, as in all “free market” endeavors, you will only succeed if you do the job.
Governments, and members of their citizenry who were “just following orders,” killed more than 200 million people last century. It’s time for a better way, a more direct way, a way that if people see it working will seek to choose it over the status quo. It’s time to cast away monopolies who don’t care if the job is done well or efficiently. They certainly don’t care about you or your loved ones.