Across the political spectrum many people are unhappy with the actions of government, too often with good reason. The Tea Party movement began in 2009 in the first months of Obama admin. Black Lives Matter has been protesting police shootings since 2013 or so. Some of their early grievances, mainly Ferguson, were not [IMO] justified, but for most of the subsequent ones, the grievances are wholly justified. When the Ferguson incident first happened, a minor controversy ensued after Charles Barkley ran his mouth. Hard to believe I know.
All Americans love Charles Barkley and ESPN gave him a chance to repent and discuss his views with Kenny Johnson, who all Houstonians love for his cool-headed play when Houston Rockets won two straight NBA championships, destroying Celtics, Spurs, Mavericks, and, most deliciously, Lakers along the way. Their discussion was 100x more intelligent than anything else at the time about race, police, police shootings, Ferguson and BLM. And at the start of that discussion Charles says something beautiful “We, as black people, need the cops in our community. They’re not there just to quote-unquote kill black men, they’re there to protect us, and we, as black people, have got to develop a relationship with them.”
That is a worthy goal. It is also bigger than the black community and bigger than the police and their way too often trigger-happy gun play. At the general level, we all, as citizens, want to have good relationships with government officials. And we need responsible people working for the government to make that happen. That’s not what we get. Taking a knee or blocking a freeway doesn’t change anything in any meaningful way. What is needed here is the art of the deal.
You can’t fix a problem if you don’t define the problem and identify the causes correctly. For the problem of police shootings, I maintain that the cause is not racism. In support of this position I can offer many examples of white-on-white police shootings as bad as any of the ones BLM is protesting. The better name of the cause is government-ism. It’s not white supremacy, it’s government supremacy. And it goes way beyond police shootings. This creates an opportunity to build a coalition for change.
Spoiler: To stop the [unjustified] shootings BLM is protesting, make police officers personally liable for use of force. In the exact same way private citizens who use firearms and other weapons in self-defense are personally liable. This will change the trigger-happy behavior immediately. Police will have skin in the game, as defined by Nicholas Taleb in his Incerto series of books and papers.
Any attempt to impose personal liability on police officers will be opposed by police unions, DAs, most judges and most elected reps state and federal. It will politically difficult thing to put into law and practice The release from personal liability for police and LEOs and all other government employees, is aka qualified immunity, and was given to them by judges who are not disinterested parties. But I cannot stress enough that in agitating, cogitating, and maneuvering for change, we need to speak of law enforcement officials with respect. Referring back to Charles B, we, all of us, need wise, honest, prudent cops, DAs, tax collectors, judges, counter intelligence investigators, undercover cops, regulators, etc. in our communities. And there are many good ones. But
It is worth noting that there is something about law enforcement and politics that will attract authoritarian / totalitarian creeps, sadists, and perverts. New York AG Eric Schneiderman was recently revealed to be violently abusive, sadistic creep who physically abused women he called his slaves. One internet wise guy remarked how surprising it was that sadistic assholes would want to be prosecutors. Same is true for many other government employees whether law enforcement officers, elected officials, judges,
Thinking back to problem definition there is this saying, one way to solve a problem is to make it bigger. Could a bigger solution to a bigger problem create bigger coalition? One capable of overcoming the fierce resistance all proposals to make government officials accountable are sure to encounter.
There’s lots of interest across the political spectrum in criminal justice reform. Kim Kardashian recently met with Trump and secured a pardon for Alice Marie Johnson. Most of the focus by lefty criminal justice activists is on high US incarceration rates and long prison terms. That was the focus of the criminal justice reform bill Trump recently signed. The concerns are about harsh treatment for those that are [presumably] correctly convicted. But what is more urgent for criminal justice reform than discouraging wrongful deaths, reckless use of force, false convictions, politicized investigations and harassment? Which happens all too often….
As an example, the DoJ recently settled a lawsuit for $101 million dollars for wrongful conviction for murder of four men, each spending decades in prison, two dying there. DoJ attorneys and FBI agents knowingly withheld evidence which would have exonerated the men. The $110 million was paid for by US taxpayers who are also, no doubt, at this moment paying the pensions of all the people who did this. And this is not an outlier, as there are inevitably many more undetected cases than the one that are discovered, litigated, and paid out in damages.
Then there are the actions of Federal prosecutors recounted in Sidney Powell’s book Licensed to Lie. She saw, up close as a defense attorney, the same tactics of withholding exculpatory evidence by Federal prosecutors used to convict Merril Lynch employees in the wake of Enron collapse. The same group of prosecutors used the same tactics to falsely convict US Senator Ted Stevens , flipping control of the Senate in the process. Now some of the same people are working for Robert Mueller.
Another example, the IRS recently settled a lawsuit by tea party activists for $3.5 million, admitting that they gave 21 CDs full of information on political opponents of Obama to the Obama White House (seems as bad as Nixon enemies list, no?). Key IRS attorney Lois Lerner was put on leave with full pay to help her deal with the stress of the results of her own corrupt actions. She is or soon will be cashin’ her pension checks.
Could BLM activists and lefty + libertarian criminal justice reformers join Tea Party / Trump supporters to support and enact reform of qualified immunity? Stranger things (e.g. Trump) have happened. The reform is very simple
- Qualified Immunity only applies in response to active shooter or live hostage situations. In case of active shooter the qualified immunity applies to anyone acting to stop the shooter or shooters.
- In all other activities. government employees hold full liability for damages caused by their actions as employee with their pension fund acting as a deep pocket backstop over that. Taxpayers are permanently off the hook for civil servant misdeeds.
Incentives for quick on the trigger gun play, no-knock raids and ultra aggressive SWAT tactics change, bigly. Note again that with respect to use of force, it merely gives law enforcement officers the same liability that private citizens have now. Prosecutors, investigators, and detectives will have good reasons to play it straight and fair. Putting pensions at risk will help make the change cultural, all government employees will be more focused on fairness, safety, and justice.
If this reform were enacted it is likely to create a market for insurance for police and prosecutors. A light bit of regulation will help insure that the good effects of the reform are preserved, say a minimum deductible of $100K for LEOS and $250K for prosecutors and bureaucrats and some basic minimum capital requirements for insurers. Not rocket science.
A coalition where some sides consider some of the other sides to be racist sounds like a tall order. Probably easier to get Koreans to make peace with each other.
Update Feb 2019 Updated this post based on intelligent feedback from people on twitter. Crazy I know