Beat cops aren't the problem in a 'police state'

Despite all the controversy over encounters between cops and citizens after the Ferguson incident, “police states” really aren’t about random meetings between uniformed police officers and regular folks going about their lives.  It’s all about the steady expansion of laws and regulators, not beat cops.

For example, Heather Wilhelm at RealClearPolitics relates “the story of Kari Anne Roy, an Austin children’s book author whose recent run-in with Child Protective Services rivals a scene in a George Orwell novel”:

Roy reports that she let her 6-year-old play outside, by himself, within sight of her house. Within about 10 minutes, her doorbell rang: It was a woman she didn’t know, wearing sunglasses, with Roy’s son in tow. She was “returning” him to safety, served with a side dish of neighborly scorn.

I’ll interrupt this story to admit that I am a bit of a paranoid helicopter parent. I have not yet let my kids play outside alone. However, due to my vigilant training, I would hope that my kids would run screaming from a sunglass-faced stranger getting all up in their business. In this instance, Roy’s son might have been wise to do the same: That “helpful” neighbor ended up calling the police, who visited Roy that same day. Child Protective Services paid a visit the following week.

What unfolded then was a bit of a horror show: A CPS officer interviewed each of Roy’s children, alone. “She asked my 12-year-old if he had ever done drugs or alcohol. She asked my 8-year-old daughter if she had ever seen movies with people’s private parts, so my daughter, who didn’t know that things like that exist, does now,” Roy told Lenore Skenazy, who wrote about the incident at Reason. “Thank you, CPS.”

So, there you have it, folks: childhood innocence, shattered, courtesy of your local government. Roy notes that her son cried himself to sleep the night of the incident, fearing that “someone was going to call the police because it was past bedtime and he was still awake”–and hey, after the way his day went, that seems like a pretty reasonable concern. He’s lucky OSHA didn’t show up to examine his blankie for dust mites.

Or try this doozy from Mark Steyn, an avid collector of such anecdotes:

On August 19, 2010, two inspectors from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) visited the Strictly Skillz Barbershop in Orlando and found everything in order: All of the barbers working there were properly licensed, and all of the work stations complied with state regulations. Two days later, even though no violations had been discovered and even though the DBPR is authorized to conduct such inspections only once every two years, the inspectors called again, this time accompanied by “between eight and ten officers, including narcotics agents,” who “rushed into” the barbershop “like [a] SWAT team.” Some of them wore masks and bulletproof vests and had their guns drawn. Meanwhile, police cars blocked off the parking lot.

The officers ordered all the customers to leave, announcing that the shop was “closed down indefinitely.” They handcuffed the owner, Brian Berry, and two barbers who rented chairs from him, then proceeded to search the work stations and a storage room. They demanded the barbers’ driver’s licenses and checked for outstanding warrants. One of the inspectors, Amanda Fields, asked for the same paperwork she had seen two days earlier, going through the motions of verifying (again) that the barbers were not cutting hair without a license (a second-degree misdemeanor). Finding no regulatory violations or contraband, the officers released Berry and the others after about an hour.

I’ve always been fascinated by people who profess to loathe “politics,” but are either actively supportive, or passively submissive, to the relentless expansion of government.  Guess what, kids – everything is politicized now, right down to your choice of chicken sandwich, which can prompt mayors and governors to declare war on chicken restaurants whose owners have unacceptable social views.  

Likewise, nobody who supports the overall expansion of government has any business complaining about a “police state.”  That’s a deceptive term anyway.  All states are “police states” when they get big enough.  Power is compulsion; it requires enforcement.  And it becomes increasingly one-sided, because responsibility and accountability dilute power.  The Ruling Class can’t manage your life properly if they have to obey the laws they impose upon you.  Your problem isn’t the police, but rather the mountain of rules towering behind them.


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