Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Martial Law in Arkansas

Liz Klimas reports on Paragould, Arkansas', resort to martial law to reduce street crime:


So many ideas that seem good replicate the good ideas of the kings against whom the United States exists in opposition...and thus run afoul of that pesky old Constitution.

We all like our police officers, right? Well, most of them...the ones we wanted to be like when we were kids, the ones who are our friends and relatives, the ones who've helped us remove trespassers from our property or whatever. We don't mind talking to them. We're glad to see them out there watching for incidents of street crime to occur. We're willing to tell them whatever we remember about anything we saw.

Well, that's definitely true for Priscilla King, Gena Greene, Grandma Bonnie Peters, Adayahi, Oogesti, Oliver's Humans, the human currently living in the shade of Saloli's tree, all the readers we personally know; we're all law-abiding people. If you are not a law-abiding person, stick around, maybe you can pick up some ideas about how to become more law-abiding, but this post does not speak for you.

But one reason why we love our police is that they are required to operate under the provisions of the U.S. Constitution and the principle that people are innocent until they are proven guilty.

I know that that can be a royal pain. Believe me, I know how annoying it is when you see a vandal running away from the scene of his crime, and you can't see his face in the dark, and you're 99.99% sure who he is, but the police can't go and arrest him for you. Multiply that feeling of annoyance by the number of times a police officer feels it in the course of a work day, and you can understand why...they need to stop with the neighborly greeting and self-introductions.

When the police ask someone for ID, they check that information over the radio. Which means that anyone who has a radio tuned to that frequency--and many small-town storekeepers keep one tuned to that frequency all the time--hears confidential information about a law-abiding citizen being broadcast over the radio. Even if neighbors who prick up their ears hear "Yup, that's a resident of the neighborhood with a clean record," or "Well, there's a traffic violation in 1982--paid," evildoers have still heard that confidential information. Is that something the police should be allowed to do when people are out shopping, or walking to work, or walking the dog?

I think the city police are right to saturate neighborhoods with officers, but, in the absence of a positive complaint, they need to stop the interactions with citizens at the point of a neighborly greeting. No ID check should be allowed. Nothing that aggravates the annoyance the citizens are feeling, too, and nothing that makes the citizens more vulnerable to criminals who may now be motivated to choose more sophisticated crimes.