Cops Should Act Like Firemen in a Free Society

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Mark R. Crovelli
May 10, 2012

An important characteristic of both crimes and fires is the impossibility of knowing where either will occur. Firemen may have a general sense of the buildings that are at a higher risk of burning down, but they have absolutely no idea about which particular house will be the next one to catch fire (unless the firemen are the arsonists). Similarly, cops may have a general sense of what neighborhoods have a higher crime rate than others, but they have absolutely no idea which person will be the next one to commit murder or rape (unless the cops themselves commit the next murder or rape).

Given that cops and firemen are both concerned to respond to events that cannot be predicted, it is extremely odd that they act so differently from one another. Firemen do not “patrol” neighborhoods in the hope of spotting the next house fire or car accident. They wait until someone calls them, and they respond accordingly. Cops, on the other hand, do “patrol” neighborhoods, hide under overpasses, dress up in “undercover” costumes and otherwise skulk about their communities looking for crimes that are being committed.

What gives? Why don’t cops and firemen use the same strategy? Crimes can be predicted no better than fires, so why don’t cops just wait to be called instead of driving around looking for something that is impossible to predict?

The answer is to be found in the fact that the United States is no longer a free country. When almost everything people do is either illegal or “regulated,” there is an overabundance of so-called “crimes” being committed at every moment of the day. Murder and rape, like house fires, are relatively rare events, but when the state has criminalized all sorts of normal and non-aggressive actions, like consuming certain plants or driving one’s car over a certain arbitrary speed, the cops have a glut of criminals to deal with. They can’t just sit in their offices and wait to respond to murders, thefts, rapes and assaults because they have to deal with millions of other people that the political class has labeled “criminals.”

At this very moment, for example, there are literally thousands of “criminals” in the United States who are driving around in their cars without seatbelts on, and thousands of other “criminals” who are ingesting substances that the politicians in Washington don’t like. In other words, the streets are literally crawling with “criminals” at all times, which means that cops have no time whatsoever to go back to the station to rest. The 24-hour patrol is thus necessitated by politicians’ ever-expanding definition of crime.

In other words, the police are no longer in the business of protecting people from rare and costly events, and thus have nothing whatsoever in common with firemen. They are in the business of cracking skulls and enforcing the political class’s dictates on the people. Firemen, on the other hand, are overwhelmingly volunteers who simply wait to respond to accidents. Firemen are a form of voluntary social insurance against accidents, while the police are merely thuggish tools of the political class.

In a truly free society, the police act just like firemen (if they exist at all), and they wait to be called upon to protect people’s lives and property. That’s it. There is no room in a free society for laws and regulations that criminalize normal, non-aggressive actions to the point where policemen must be on patrol 24 hours a day. If the police feel overwhelmed with “criminals” and they have no time to simply go back to the office for doughnuts, this is a sure sign that liberty is dead.

If the police are out in the streets beating schizophrenics to death instead of waiting to be called on to protect people, liberty is completely dead. If the police are hiding under overpasses trying to “catch” people to fine instead of perfecting their reaction time to real emergencies, liberty is completely dead. If the police are required to run around spraying non-aggressive people in the face with pepper spray instead of locating stolen property, liberty is completely dead. If the police are breaking into innocent people’s homes and filling them with bullets in front of their children instead of solving all of the rapes in their precincts, liberty is completely dead. In fact, if the police are doing anything other than sitting in their offices waiting for a call for help or working on solving past crimes, they are thereby destroying liberty. A free society has no need for antisocial thugs that will do whatever the political class tells them to.

Real crimes like murder, rape, theft and assault are relatively rare, just like fires. They would be even rarer if we lived in a free country and the police were in the business of reacting to and solving these crimes instead of wasting their time and energy (and our money) shoving Washington’s vision of morality down our throats. We Americans don’t need policemen to beat us and fine us into doing the right thing any more than we need firemen to beat and fine us into doing the right thing. We just need them both to protect our lives and property.

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