Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bring Back the Posse

Think a libertarian wrote this?

Years ago campus police were greeted as a welcome alternative to regular cops hassling students and creating trouble.. But now they mostly are regular cops, hassling students, dishing out speeding tickets like the one the Virigina Tech campus police issued Cho. They were good at spotting a car going a few miles over the limit, bad at protecting the campus from a smouldering psychotic.

The Virginia Tech terrible massacre should prompt a radical review of the utility of SWAT teams which now infest almost every community in America. Each time there's a hostage taking or a mass murderer on the rampage, one sees the same familiar sight: overweight SWAT men, doubled up under the weight of their costly artillery, lumbering along in their body armor and then hiding behind trees or cars or walls while the killer goes about his business. SWAT teams perform most efficiently when shooting down unarmed street people menacing them with cellphones.

The answer is to disband SWAT teams and kindred military units, and return to the idea of voluntary posses or militias: a speedy assembly of citizen volunteers with their own weapons. Such a body at Columbine or Virginia Tech might have saved many lifes. In other words: make the Second Amendment live up to its promise.

In 2005 I listened to some earnest ACLU type at a meeting in Garberville, an hour from where I live, deliver a judicious speech about Taser guns--a new toy for the cops, whereb y a person can be zapped with 50,000 volts. The ACLU guy was torn. On the one hand, he reasoned that the Taser -- being purportedly, though not actually non-lethal -- is better than a 12-gauge or high powered rifle. On the other hand, there is the possibility of "improper use". His answer: more regulation. He didn't entertain the actual course of events, namely that Tasers have now been added to the means whereby the police can kill or terrorize people and that regulation will be zero.

The left complain about SWAT teams, but doesn't see that the progressives bear a lot of responsibility for their rise. If you confer the task of social invigilation and protection to professional janissaries--cops -- and deny the right of self and social protection to ordinary citizens, you end up with crews of over-armed thugs running amok under official license, terrorizing the disarmed citizens. In the end you have the whole place run by the Army or the federalized National Guard, as is increasingly evident now with the overturning of the Posse Comitatus laws forbidding any role for the military in domestic law enforcement.



It's Alexander Cockburn of Counter Punch.

His criticism of SWAT teams has been echoed by Paul Craig Roberts; as for his allegation that the police have been timid in responding to mass killers, I don't know if he is being fair. After all, I have read elsewhere that such a passive "wait-and-see" attitude was the official procedure for many police departments.

As for the school administrators--he does not address the defense that school administrators have to respect to privacy laws. So what about them? Should they be revised?

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