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Freakonomics » How Cops Really Want to Police

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Perhaps this article inspired end of watch? If you've never interacted with police, this seems like a great idea ...


"1. If a drug addict robbed somebody, we used to take his drugs away and give them to someone else. Then we used to make him watch his buddy smoke all his stuff. THAT was real pain!

2. Let people decide what to do with the gangbangers. The funny thing is that the gangbangers don’t mind going to jail, but they can’t stand it when people in their community get back at them. And, let me tell you something, parents who have children can get really pissed. They make gangbangers clean their streets, pick up trash, and stand outside and look stupid. The key is letting folks decide what’s best [in terms of] dealing with criminals.

3. Always deal with domestic violence on the spot. Make sure that when you catch a perp, all the folks on the block see you drag his sorry a– to court. Shaming somebody can sometimes be your greatest weapon. Hell, sometimes we will cuff the perp to the car, turn on the lights, and just keep him there until all the people get a chance to see him.

4. We like to play gladiator. You know what I mean? Let two gangs beat each other up without weapons, and the winner gets to deal on the corner. Or, we grab a bunch of muggers, or maybe two crews who steal cars, and tell them, “Okay, you all fight each other — the one still standing gets to avoid jail.” I know: it sounds awful, but believe me, this really works.

5. You have to let people get revenge. One time, I caught a guy who was running around stealing jewelry. So I asked the women — the ones who got their rings stolen — if they’d like to come over to his place and take something. Two of them said, “Hell yeah!”

I brought them to this guy’s house, and they took a bunch of his things — a TV, a painting! It was hilarious. This doesn’t happen often, but I think it would be a great way to stop people from doing the little things — you know, robbing, shoplifting, beating up people."

law enforcement disruption

I'm not sure. Some of that stuff sounds pretty offensive. You'd have to be pretty jaded to believe that street justice is a way of breaking through people who are hiding behind their God given rights including one to due process.

Sounds like the start of a pretty interesting videogame, though.

Yes.. I think you hit the nail on the head: 'If you've never interacted with police, this seems like a great idea'

However, 'judge on the street' is something we definitely need. In all pre-modern societies, adjudication is/was mostly handled by respected community members, usually tribal or village elders. "king's Justice" was usually reserved for matters of state interest (if a state existed), like felonies, treasons, and inheritance. And by state interest, that means literally what it says: the state/government/king/warlord/etc. held some sort of direct, specific (usually financial) interest in the parties or the outcome.

But modern courts systems have devolved from disinterested dispute resolution into administrators of complex legal codes, so the 'street level' has no effective means to redress grievances. Police are forced into situations they're inadequately trained for and end up finding it necessary to abuse their authority, just to get the job done! It becomes a short step for such a person to turn crooked in that environment, drunk with their own power.

I've advocated, for quite a while now, turning judiciary into a guild or societal rank, where all sorts of highly respected people can be appointed the privilege of judgment, while otherwise keeping their existing lives, and to which people can bring their disputes and grievances, almost like notaries.. .and from that pool we employ our complex legal adminstrators in districts and circuits.

So basically a middle step between police and courts?

I think that if police had someone with judicial authority with them, or nearby, that there would be far less abuse of power by police, and far less stress on police. The guy who wields the baton should never be the same guy who decides it's appropriate to do so.

I wouldn't consider a judicial guild a middle step, but a return to the fundamental character of being a judge. We simply have way too few judges in our society.

I just read "no easy day" and it seems that on military missions there was always some kind of sign-off and even a non-navy observer tasked with verifying the accuracy of the Seals' reports. Now obviously they have internal affairs and perhaps couldn't afford an observer with every patrol car, but it is an interesting thought.

Many judges and magistrates are former cops, for what it's worth.

I was just using the math behind "why drug dealers live with their moms" but this concerns me. Vigilantism gets couched in the guise of normal after the officer has continual exposure to negative. It's like the reverse of the positive loops Eric discusses. After a while the officer becomes negative or tries to overcorrect for the evils in society. Sure, an apology or cleaning is character building, but thieving drug proceeds Robin Hood style, a slippery slope.

I turned down a job in law enforcement years back because I had these exact concerns. A broken corrections system not aiming to correct didn't help.

The domestic violence remedy would be better than what they currently do--keep it hidden behind closed doors. 

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