The horrific Boston bombings already have led to irrational
calls for more security cameras and more police officers, with some
Democrats absurdly using this tragedy as a reason to stop the
slight sequester-mandated cuts in federal spending growth.
Never mind that police spending primarily is a local matter. The
bigger questions that Americans have rarely asked, especially
following the 9/11 attacks: Do we really want the government to
hire new armies of police officers? Do we really want to pay the
price for this?
Knowing my views on the growing public-pension crisis, most
readers probably think the “price” I’m worried about the nation’s
multi-trillion-dollar unfunded pension liabilities driven largely
by the “3 percent at 50” pension deals that cost taxpayers millions
of dollars for each “first responder” who retires at 50 after 30
years of service.
That’s a huge problem — the result in part of Americans’
irrational embrace of the “more police” logic after the World Trade
Center and Pentagon attacks. But that’s not the main source of my
concern. My real concern involves our safety and civil liberties
given that police officers, and other groups of public employees,
have become a protected class that does not have to follow the same
rules as the average citizen.
A few years ago the Orange County Register reported on
California’s special-license plate program that puts the addresses
and license information of many public employees and their family
members in a special database that shields them from getting
tickets when they drive on the toll roads without paying the toll.
That’s somewhat infuriating.
But a series from the Sun Sentinel newspaper in Florida
found that “professional courtesy” — i.e., the way police allow
other police officers to speed, drive drunk, and violate every
manner of traffic law provided they are members of the
law-enforcement caste — also has dangerous consequences for the
The newspaper series, announced as a winner of a Pulitzer Prize
the same week as the Boston bombing, details the tragedies of
essentially giving one group free rein to drive in any manner its
members choose. In one incident documented by the newspaper, a
21-year-old girl was driving with her 14-year-old step sister and a
deputy accelerated from 24 to 87 miles per hour in 24 seconds as he
rushed to aid a fellow officer who had pulled over a driver with —
get this — a broken tail light. He T-boned the car, injured the
driver, and killed the passenger. The 14-year-old girl’s body was
found 37 feet from the accident.
The newspaper found police speeding routinely in excess of 120
miles per hour — not on emergency calls, but simply to get to work
or for the fun of it. We’ve all seen it on the highways and there
are news stories of tragic accidents with police killing citizens
throughout the nation. Many times, off-duty officers drive in the
same dangerous manner knowing that fellow officers will give them a
pass at the sight of a badge.
Here’s the Sun Sentinel, which reported that 21
Floridians have been killed or maimed by speeding cops since 2004:
“Speeding cops are often spared severe punishment in the criminal
justice system. Cops found at fault for fatal wrecks caused by
speeding have faced consequences ranging from no criminal charges
to a maximum of 60 days in jail. Inside many police agencies,
speeding isn’t taken seriously until it results in tragedy. Even
then, some cops are disciplined but stay on the job — and the road.
The dead include seven police officers who crashed at speeds up to
61 mph over the legal limit.”
On the last point: Police unions often point to the dangers of
their job. But about half of the police on-the-job fatalities are
due to traffic accidents, and a large portion of them are no doubt
the result of reckless driving by the officers themselves.
Recently, the Sacramento County sheriff was pulled over for a
speeding ticket and he made a big deal of telling the public the
police do get tickets. Maybe on occasion, but the “professional
courtesy” problem is real and it applies not just to speeding but
to every sort of police misbehavior.
Meanwhile, in California in particular, police unions have
exempted police disciplinary records of misbehaving cops from the
state’s public records law so the public never learns about the bad
actors in police agencies — the ones who routinely abuse the public
or who are involved in multiple car accidents due to their own
Police unions continue to push for special privileges — not just
higher benefit levels, expanded disability pay, and other such
benefits, but exemptions from every manner of oversight. Given the
power of the police unions among union-friendly Democrats and
law-and-order-supporting Republicans, there is no powerful
civil-liberties lobby to stand up against this endless drive for
more “protections” for those who patrol our communities.
The nation’s crime rates are at 40-year lows. Many studies have
been done on the link between more police officers and crime rates
and there’s little if any connection between the two. We cannot
create a society that is entirely safe — especially from attacks on
“soft” targets such as marathons and other such public events.
And we should not blindly embrace the call for more police
without first reading the Sun Sentinel series about the
potential downside. …
The horrific Boston bombings already have led to irrational
You probably haven’t heard of Christopher Knight. Until this week, almost no one had. But for decades there were tales told of “the hermit of the North Pond” — a furtive figure, torn from the pages of a Jack London novel, living deep in the wilderness of central Maine, surviving on wits and what little he would pilfer from nearby campsites.On Wednesday, the Maine Morning Sentinel reported that Knight’s time in the wild had been abruptly ended with an arrest during a burglary last week. He had reportedly committed over 1,000 burglaries over his three decades living in isolation “always taking only what he needed to survive,” the Morning Sentinel noted, reporting that “the 47-year-old hermit now awaits his future at the Kennebec County Jail, where he is being held in lieu of $5,000 cash bail on charges of burglary and theft.”Continue Reading… …
During a Wednesday morning hearing, members of the Senate agreed 39-0 that police departments should be spared the power to conduct overhead spy missions using unmanned aerial vehicles, except in situations where the US Department of Homeland Security believes that drones could deter a high-risk terrorist attack.”It’s fine to kill terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan with drones, but I don’t think we should use them to monitor the activities of law-abiding Floridians,” Senator Joe Negron (R-Stuart) told his colleagues when he first introduced his bill for discussion.Police agencies across Florida had largely objected to any rules that would limit the use of surveillance drones for law enforcement purposes, but Sen. Negron’s bill found newfangled support a few weeks before Wednesday’s vote when Lt. Aviel Sanchez, commander of the aviation unit of the Miami-Dade Police Department, said his agency wouldn’t object.”The bill fits our purpose of the program well,” Lt. Aviel Sanchez told the Orlando Sentinel in March.Back in 2011, the Miami-Dade Police Department became the first local law agency in the country to be approved to use a drone aircraft. As recently as January 2013, however, Sanchez said the pair of UAVs his agency obtained had yet to be used in real life scenarios.The MDPD still owns their pair of Honeywell RQ-16 T-Hawk drones, but Sanchez says he only plans to deploy them in “tactical or emergency circumstances.” Those situations that would be allowed under Sen. Negron’s bill, since his SB 92 — the “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act” — lists an exception for instances where the use of a drone might “counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization.”In an editorial published on Tuesday in the TC Palm, though, former Port St. Lucie, Florida Police Department Chief Don Shinnamon urged lawmakers to reject any law that would let limit law enforcement from using unmanned aircraft to their fullest potential. In the op-ed, titled “Don’t fiddle with laws that would limit drones in Florida,” Shinnamon said UAVS can “keep people safe and enhance rescue missions.”After his bill passed the Senate successfully just hours later, though, Sen. Negron ensured the Sun-Sentinel newspaper that his SB 92 lets police agencies use drones in instances where they could indeed be instrumental in saving lives. “This bill simply regulates the use of drones,” he said. “It provides for common sense exceptions when the use of a drone would be appropriate. I believe that we’ve achieved a delicate balance between freedom and security.”Now the Florida House of Representatives will have to agree on moving ahead with an anti-drone law before any legislation lands on the desk of Governor Rick Scott. Once there, though, a signature from the state’s top official seems almost certain.”This law will ensure that the rights of Florida families are protected from the unwarranted use of drones and other unmanned aircraft,” Gov. Scott says in a statement, promising to promptly sign the measure once it’s received. …
Republican lawmakers in Tennessee are threatening to block Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s school voucher bill over fears that Muslim schools could receive funding. The Knoxville News Sentinel reported on Monday that Haslam hinted that he would withdraw his bill after objections from Republican…
Ed Asner, the 83 year-old actor best known for his roles in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and its spin-off “Lou Grant,” has been released from a Chicago hospital, reports the Associated Press. Asner was originally hospitalized due to exhaustion on Tuesday night, when he was taken off the stage during a performance in Gary, Ind.The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that Asner’s local performance of his one-man show, “FDR,” has been canceled tonight, and the AP reports that additional performances in the national tour may be postponed as Asner recovers.He is currently headed home to Los Angeles, says publicist Charles Sherman. ;Continue Reading… …
Nearly 30 people were injured during a NASCAR event in Daytona Beach, Florida on Saturday when a multi-car collision in the race’s final lap hurled debris and a participant’s car hurtling toward the stands. The Orlando Sentinel reported that 14 people were hospitalized — one…