Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Shining Lights on Bad Practices

For one brief shining moment there was a website where bad police officers could be publicly exposed. The website in question, Rate My Cop, lasted only a few days before government complaints shut it down. Go complain to the hosting company.

There are many websites that purport to expose bad practices in certain demographics, such as Rate-My-Teacher, Rate-My-Neighbor, and the very good Source Watch. Rate My Cop is directed at government, much like Source Watch or Project Vote Smart. The difference is, this is directed at those who actually enforce the rules.

Yes, the police, they are a very special group. They are the ones who actually enforce the laws. Elected officials do not enforce laws. Without the police (and other agents of the executive), there is no police state, and the elected officials become nothing more than caricatures of themselves, blustering impotently about their own importance.

Those who show ire to the police do so knowing that the police are the front line of the government. Anybody who despises police does so knowing, at some level, that the oppression is the result of the police, and that if one is driven to actually resist governmental injustice it will be the police who are the individuals involved in the struggle.

The police are often given the special defense of “just doing their jobs”, as if that were sufficient defense when they enforce bad laws. Suggest that the police should decline to enforce bad laws and the reaction is a furious (and frightened) clamor as people demand to know if that means the police can make up the law on the spot. The fright isn’t so much that police would be able to create law, but that some law somewhere might go unenforced.

To make things perfectly clear, suggesting that the police decline to enforce a law has nothing in common with suggesting that the police can create law.

That website was treated as a threat to the police. Threats to police are threats to the entire power structure of the government. The crimes that are most harshly enforced and punished are crimes against the government, and any equivalent crime without the government as a victim has a less severe punishment.

That being said, the website was not a threat any more than YouTube videos are threats.

That being said, the police are becoming increasingly reluctant to release videos to the public.

All the website did was shine light upon the police and their activities.

So now this brings up another topic, that of essential privacy rights. Some try to make an argument of equivalence between giving officers privacy and giving civilians privacy. The difference is that police officers should be held to a higher standard, instead of the current practice of holding them to a lower standard. Instead of saying “if anyone else did that it would be a crime” the mode of thought should be “for civilians that would be acceptable behavior but you are a cop.”

In the performance of their duties, police should not expect, should not even ask, for privacy. A reluctance for their activities to be exposed shows that they know they should not be doing what they are doing.

There was a time when police were considered public servants. That time seems to be forgotten. Instead it seems the laws apply to everyone except those in power, and of course the front line.


Anonymous said...

Is it back? Right now it says:

"Who's Online
We have 111 guests and 12 members online"

Ayn R. Key said...

I think it is back. It's been a struggle for them to keep it up.