I mean to the average, non-violent citizen just trying to go about his business?
For him, cops are a nuisance – and increasingly, a threat. They don’t protect his property; indeed, they spend their days trying to take it away via enforcement of various and ever-increasing laws ranging from the minor (“speeding” fines) to the major (asset seizure for possessing or imbibing some substance the State has arbitrarily decreed to be “illegal”). Or maybe they’re out enforcing “free speech zones” and/or giving wood shampoos to the Mundanes (that’s Will Grigg’s wonderful term – full credit given here).
Libertarian writers such as Grigg, among others, have noted that most of us – very tellingly – do not feel “safe” when a cop rolls up behind us. Or when we see one in general. In fact we feel nervous and stressed – because we know instinctively that the cop is most emphatically not our “protector.” We gird our loins, grit our teeth. We hope the cop will “give us a break” – that is, decline to fully enforce the ukase he believes we’ve just transgressed. We become servile, mewling “yes sir, no sir” to some buzz-cut 24-year-old community college graduate (a few have managed to achieve the full four-year degree in “criminal justice” or some such from Turnpike Tech), hating the sound of ourselves as we grovel but knowing that we must grovel, else risk our “protector’s” largely unaccountable wrath.
Speaking of which:
Physical protection from criminal thugs is arguably the only moral service a cop can provide. But the truth is they don’t provide even this most elemental of services. Indeed, the Supremes have explicitly laid this out; i.e., cops have no duty to protect specific individuals from harm. Just “society.” That means you are on your own where it matters most; the one area where most of us would agree having some back-up would be nice to have.
Only, we don’t have it. And more, should not expect it.
There’s a great saying: I carry a gun because a cop is too heavy.
In our very rural county, it would probably take a cop at least 10-15 minutes (assuming he was fairly close by to start with) to respond to a 911 call. By the time he got here, it’d likely be over. Cops investigate crime, you see – as distinct from protecting you from crime. It is an important distinction. And the lesson to be taken from it is this:
If some SOB breaks into your home, it is up to you to provide the .45 (or double 00) enema to said SOB.
Ditto when you are out on the streets. If you are accosted, the only person responsible for your physical safety – for your life – is you.
(If, that is, “the law” even permits this. In several areas – Chicago and DC, for example – the only personages permitted to possess weapons are the cops and – de facto – the criminals. Use a weapon in self-defense in a “gun free” area and you have become the criminal; the transgressor of “the law.”)
So, what use are cops?
They spend their days catching “speeders,” fighting a “drug war” moral people are conscientiously opposed to and otherwise bothering (and sometimes, much worse) people who aren’t harming anyone except possibly themselves (which in an ostensibly free society ought to be as respected a right as the right to free exercise of religion).
The analogy here is the military. It is called national defense but in reality it is national offense. The last time the United States unquestionably fought a war of defense was back in 1812. The Troops – and the Cops (who are very often The Troops recycled) are there for largely offensive purposes, both abroad and back here in the Homeland.
Enormous resources – our resources – are thrown down the proverbial rathole subsidizing these activities, which are sanctified by the term, “law enforcement” – which is usually sufficient to shut up any potential critics, who must certainly be Hippies or communists or who at the very least hate Ahhhhmeerrrrikuh. (Where at least you know you’re free… etc.)
But the truth is most of the laws being enforced have very little do with keeping us from harming one another – or catching those who do.
Cops are on patrol for seatbelt scofflaws; lurking behind billboards to nab ne’er do wells who travel faster than a sign says they may. Even cold-cocking jaywalkers (yes, this has actually happened).
Or Tazering moms in minivans who dare to talk back.
Meanwhile, child rapists on home release are not being monitored (see the Jaycee Dugard case; it’s an example of the rule rather than the exception), old widows living alone are not being protected (except by themselves) and if you’re out walking the street at night, you best be prepared to defend yourself. Because the cops are just doing their job – and their job has very little do with protecting you from physical violence.
But they’ll be sure to investigate whatever happens to you after it’s all over with. Plenty of overtime pay, there.