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Criminal Justice at a Crossroads: Defund The Police or Privatization?

in Activism/Free Market/Opinion/Politics
Criminal Justice at a Crossroads: Defund The Police or Privatization?

For many years the United States has struggled with the dilemma of both efficiently and fairly providing for public safety. We have tried to do so through the failed government program we call the police department. Whether those failures are the result of innate flaws in our government system or evidence of our nation’s long history of state-sponsored racism seem to be a side-show debate the media circus has used to distract us from the truth.  The communities targeted certainly seem disproportionate. They are the poor and the minority, both vulnerable populations without the means to fight back. They’re always a popular goat of our failed tyrannical system. But in the light of tragedies and injustices like that of George Floyd, the real question should be what the solutions are. How can we prevent tragedies like this from happening the future?

There is no doubt that our criminal justice system is in need of dire reforms, but is #defundthepolice the answer? Are there other reforms to be considered, and is any of it enough? Finally, what about the benefits of privatization? Can community-based and free market solutions fill the gap where public law enforcement has failed?

If one is too squeamish for full privatization, a great deal of research has been conducted on the benefits of a blended system, but it does show the potential improvements we could see from something more privatized.

First Thing’s First: Qualified Immunity

George Floyd is certainly not the first public figure to spark protests, popular political movements, and even violent riots across the country. The flaws with our criminal justice system have been evident since the days of Rodney King, and frankly even long before that. It hasn’t really stopped, but it’s hard to say whether it’s gotten worse or we’re just seeing it for the first time because of technology. So with the ability to publicly share such obvious and incriminating evidence, why does it require so much civil unrest and public outrage to ensure any justice in police brutality cases? Much of that can be largely placed on the shoulders of qualified immunity.

All the public safety reforms in the world will mean little as long as the officers who enforce them are immune to accountability on the job. Many “defund the police” efforts have called for safety “community groups” sometimes armed or sometimes not, trained in “de-escalation” and dispute mediation” techniques, but what authority do they have and how will they use it? Let’s not forget that George Zimmerman, killer of Trayvon Martin was not a cop, but such a “community group member”

Qualified immunity for those acting on “behalf of the law” is not only unjust.  It is a danger to our communities, and if unaddressed the current “defund the police efforts” may simply lead to mob rule by a new evil taking place of the old.

Justin Amash’s Tri-Partisan bill would address this issue swiftly, but unfortunately will require immense support since Trump has made it clear he won’t support it.

Is America Ready to Disband the Police?

While hopes look high for the #defundthepolice efforts with the Minneapolis City Council approving unanimously,  the results of this program remain to be seen. First, there are a few pitfalls this movement may not be considering. For instance, have they considered the fact that pension funding for police officers, is a large chunk of the budget and is virtually untouchable? Or what about the fact that in some cases a department may run as much as nearly 1/3 of its budget on collected fines on minor public violations? Unless they also decriminalize victimless offenses, officers may turn to more aggressive techniques that result in more police violence and harassment of citizens to cover the difference. They will also need to address the existence of victimless crimes to rid their communities of  dangerous, black market elements that will still exist even if the the police aren’t confronting them.

Furthermore, is the general American public ready to support such a measure? Initial polling would seem to indicate otherwise with only 16% of the American public in support of “Defund the Police” efforts. On the other hand earlier surveys have shown 75% of Americans do support an overhaul of our evidently broken criminal justice system. Is there a logical compromise accompanied by sensible reforms that mainstream American can agree too?

Defunding Through Privatization

 One of the stated goals of #defundthepolice is to transfer police funding to other “more beneficial” public initiatives, as well as to re-prioritize the efforts of police in focusing on serious and violent crimes. Police privatization may be the best way to do just that. We’ve already discussed some of the pitfalls above, and why these initiatives might not go as planned. But there’s more…

First let’s consider that employees working for private security companies on average make about 47% less than unionized public police officers. Let’s also consider that private police companies working with limited capital will be forced to manage their priorities. According to Police Chief Magazine, privatization may actually soon be coming to you. Why? Mostly because of budget constraints. At least one county saved over $1 million switching to a privatized system.

Not only are budgets becoming a problem but recruitment has also been down for years. This trend may not be the end of the world according to the Marshall Project whose research showed that violent crime at the same time has been down. Correlation is not causation, but this does show that numbers don’t tell the whole story. If departments are forced to do so, they may better manage their resources. ‘

Private companies exist to do just that.  

What About Government Protections For Citizens? ‘

One of the most common fears surrounding privatization of the police is that it would lead to a rampant violation of citizens rights. The fear is that private security officers would not be subject to the same restrictions a publicly funded police force would. This can be true with security officers patrolling private property, for example, a mall security guard may search a suspected shoplifted without consent or probable cause. However, they cannot make an arrest.

Despite this pitfall, this would not be the case for a privatized municipal police force due to a groundbreaking civil rights case known as Marsh v. Alabama. The ruling indicated that officers performing duties of law enforcement in a community that was “open to the public” were subject to the same standards and regulations as public police officers. In other words if they were playing the function of law enforcement in a public space, they were just as bound as police officers to respect our constitutional rights. This and other case law would lead to the doctrine of “State Action” since the officers were seen as “State Actors” or acting on behalf of the government. 

A Police Force that Serves the Community

One of the greatest benefits of a privatized police force essentially boils down to motivation. Private sector security companies are motivated by the mission of creating an environment of public safety and order for their clients. Law enforcement agencies are designed simply to enforce existing laws and statutes. Their funding is either guaranteed through taxation and they thus have no motivation to earn it, or it’s otherwise derived through the harassment of its citizenry.

Private companies and organizations will also not only be more likely to face public scrutiny and legal troubles if they perform poorly, but often their members are motivated by more philanthropic ventures. Consider the example of Dale Brown, the owner and founder of the Detroit Threat Management Center.

His organization began as he says with him “A rifle, and a dog” and his goal was to make his community safe in the face of frequent robberies and home invasion where he worked in his Detroit community. His low-cost body guard program has been provided for free to society’s most vulnerable members, including domestic violence victims. He is proud to say that in 20 years of his program none of his officers or clients have ever been injured on the job, and officers regularly use nonviolent and de-escalation approaches in lieu of deadly force.

His service has resulted in companies worth millions of dollars in crime-ridden neighborhoods going from red to black in the first time in years, as well as renewing and revitalizing Detroit communities the police had given up on.

Dale Brown has often said the key to his success has been motivation and putting the citizen first.

“The cornerstone for protection is love, not violence, not guns, not laws, but love. You cannot and will not truly protect anything that you don’t love.”

Whatever your opinions on law enforcement and criminal justice reform, it’s hard to argue with that. Perhaps men in the private sector like Dale Brown should be more often listened to.

Dave Beaver, June 19, 2020

We Are All In This Pandemic Together And Will Emerge Stronger With A Bond Of Love For Our Fellow Travelers On Planet Earth

in Activism/Free Market/Opinion/Politics/Poor Pratt's Almanack
Love For Our Fellow Travelers On Planet Earth - We Are In This Together And Will Emerge Stronger

Here is a copy of a boots on the ground pandemic dose of reality social media post authored by Christian Baldwin, my former First Data/Fiserv colleague and trusted friend.

Christian and his wife, along with neighbors and friends Diane and Steve Becker, have generously helped us with grocery shopping and mail pickup while Re and I are in extended age-related self-quarantine going on five weeks and who knows how long.

Christian’s wife is on the front lines as a nurse in Omaha and likewise for Christian’s son in an essential grocery service capacity. Christian says he is tempted to hose his son down every day when his son returns home from work. The entire Baldwin family is at considerable risk, yet they step up to the plate because of their moral stance that we are all in this together.

Both Becker’s have underlying conditions yet they continue to risk exposure while taking care of neighbors.

A big mental hug and heartfelt thank you to the all the heroic Baldwin’s and Becker’s of the world who lead by example and risk themselves daily while getting stuff done that our well being and future depend on.

Just as medical providers commit to the Hippocratic Oath, our concerned friend and neighbor benefactors operate on what might be called the ‘Golden Rule Oath’.


“-Christian Baldwin post from Facebook

-Just so I never forget…..

April 4, 2020:

-Gas prices in NE are $1.60

-School canceled

-Yes, canceled

-Self-distancing measures on the rise

-Tape on the floors at grocery stores and others to help distance shoppers (6 ft) from each other

-A limited number of people inside stores, therefore, lineups outside the store doors

-Non-essential stores and businesses mandated closed

-Parks, trails, entire cities locked up

-The entire sports season canceled

-Concerts, tours, festivals, entertainment events canceled

-Weddings, family celebrations, holiday gatherings canceled

-No masses, churches are closed

-No gatherings of 50 or more, then 20 or more, now 10 or more

-Don’t socialize with anyone outside of your home

-Children’s outdoor play parks are closed

-We are to distance from each other

-Shortage of masks, gowns, gloves for our front-line workers

-Shortage of ventilators for the critically ill

-Panic buying sets in and we have no toilet paper, no disinfecting supplies, no paper towel no laundry soap, no hand sanitizer

-Shelves are bare

-Manufacturers, distilleries and other businesses switch their lines to help make visors, masks, hand sanitizer and PPE

-The government closes the border to all non-essential travel

-Fines are established for breaking the rules

-Stadiums and recreation facilities open up for the overflow of Covid-19 patients

-Press conferences daily from the President and the governors. Daily updates on new cases, recoveries, and deaths

-Government incentives to stay home

-Barely anyone on the roads

-People wearing masks and gloves outside

-Essential service workers are terrified to go to work

-Medical field workers are afraid to go home to their families

-This is the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic, declared March 11th, 2020

-Why, you ask, do I write this status? One day it will show up in my memory feed, and it will be a yearly reminder that life is precious and not to take the things we dearly love for granted. We have so much! Be thankful. Be grateful. Be kind to each other – love one another – support everyone. We are all one!

❤️Copy and share


Thank you, Christian!

Thoughts? D. Pratt Tseramed, April 4, 2020

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