Monday, April 25, 2011

On Police and Personal Rights

I was reading a story recently about a guy who basically got railroaded by the FBI after someone used his unsecured wireless connection to download child porn. Now, child porn is pretty horrible, but so was the abuse this poor guy had to endure at the hands of the FBI, who, as far as I can tell, doesn't care about respecting people's rights at all. Between this, the various recent privacy abuse stories, and the ongoing controversy over recording police activity (which, btw, should absolutely be unequivocally protected), I got to thinking: our current system is pretty bad at protecting peoples' rights, especially against abuse from law enforcement.

It's no surprise why this is so, of course. The police (and I use this term generally, to be inclusive of local, state, federal, and other government enforcers and thugs) are required to respect the laws, but commonly do not. I mean, are we even surprised when we see police routinely disregard traffic laws whenever they feel like it? This is so common, it's not even regarded by average people as surprising, even though it is clearly illegal. Should it come as any surprise, then, that some police officers feel they can step over people's rights as they will, with no consequence? After all, even when they are "caught" and sued, they don't feel the pain: it's the city/state/country, and eventually the taxpayers, who have to foot the bill. This might be somewhat fair if the police acted in the interests of the people, but I think that's so far removed from reality that it's laughable at this point.

What I would propose is to create a disincentive which would actually work, for the betterment of society. Every police force has retirement benefits, paid by the government, and negotiated as part of compensation packages. I would like to see a system where if there were any judgements against the police for violating people's rights, those were paid directly from the pool of money allocated for retirement benefits (perhaps over the next year), reducing the benefit payouts accordingly, and every single affected police officer get a note explaining which officers committed the violation(s) which directly cost them money.

You know what? There wouldn't be any more incidents of breaking down someone's door, beating them, and accusing them of child porn unless the police were sure they had the right guy. You know why? Because Officer Bob doesn't want to have to explain to his 10,000 retired buddies why he personally cost them each part of their rent payments by not taking the extra five minutes to do a 'duh' check with the tech department. There also would be a whole lot less beating random people, and if we (the people) are lucky, we might actually get the police to back efforts to let us record their activities, since the only police seemingly opposed to that are the ones who like to beat people. You know what else? We might accidentally also raise the level of quality we expect and receive from the people who nominally work to "protect and serve".

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