On a daily basis, most Americans venture out into the world to earn a living, get an education or simply go about their regular lives. The moment we leave our homes, we are expected to abide by certain standards of society. In order to drive a vehicle, you must have a valid driver’s license, proper auto insurance, and vehicle registration. In order to work, we must have a social security number, tax ID, citizenship, or some other proof of identification. We’re surrounded by credit cards, ID’s, registrations, social security numbers, etc. Occasionally, for some people these types of things go into default; as a result of lack of resources or even by mistake. One might ask, why do we have these things and what happens if we’re caught without them?
Most of these items are to represent what or who we are in the eyes of the government. They reveal crucial information about our identities and sometimes even personal information about our lives. The moment we are born, we are issued an identity in the form of a social security number. It stays with us even after the moment of death. These items represent us as an individual, but do they portray us as living, breathing, human-beings? By simply being born on United States soil, it is assumed that you automatically have a lifelong contract with the state. If however, that contract is broken, does the government discern between a contract, and a body made of flesh and blood? The answer is no.
It is assumed that not having these things is against the law. Some states have a “Stop and ID” law which allows police officers to stop anyone they believe has committed a crime. They can then detain them until they believe otherwise or until an arrest is made. When this detainment occurs, it is legal for police to demand the detainee’s identification or the detainee must identify themselves. Most infractions of these laws are enforced by a mandatory fine if they are broken. In any breach of “contract” with the state, the individual can be held against their will until the fine is settled with the state or until an arrangement is made.
Let’s talk about Joe. Joe is your average, blue collar guy that happens to be a police officer. He is an active member of his community, he attends neighborhood BBQ’s and he’s an engaged member of the PTA at his children’s school. Overall, Joe is a pretty good guy. Every morning Joe wakes up, he straps on his boots, pins on his badge, and begins his day “protecting and serving”. At this point, it might be important to ask, who is Joe protecting and serving? It would be egotistical and vain to assume that slogan is in reference to your protection or service.
What is a police officer? A police officer is a government agent. The moment he is sworn in, he is assumed to have more rights than the average citizen and those rights are protected by government. It is important to note that the police officer represented by a badge number is not the same person as Joe; just as your social security number is no more of a representation of you. It is police officer Joe’s duty to uphold laws that are enacted by government. If he does not uphold those laws, Joe no longer has a job. Of course, it would be important to Joe that he does his job properly, so that he can continue to provide for his children and attend neighborhood BBQ’s with the rest of us.
What if the laws that Joe is upholding directly interfere with the basic human rights of a person?
Police agencies all across the nation generate millions of dollars per year in revenue from victimless crimes: non moving traffic violations, registration violations, insurance violations (proof of fiscal responsibility), possession of non narcotic drugs for personal use, red light camera violations, “safety/seatbelt” checkpoints etc. The list goes on. The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution states that Americans have the right to confront and cross examine their accuser in a court of law. How can one cross examine a camera? There is an overwhelming amount of revenue generated from these victimless crimes. Someone must be appointed to enforce those laws and ensure that people who break them are held accountable. That person is a police officer.
It can be argued that policing for profit is one of the most detrimental occurrences to ever have happened to our country. All too frequently, people are harassed, beaten, robbed or even killed over profitable crimes. The Constitution was written as a result of tyranny by the men who experienced it first-hand. Policing for profit quite literally translates to taxation without representation. The fourth amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, yet policing for profit has managed to create loopholes that bypass the amendment itself. For example, getting pulled over for allegedly not using a turn signal; as a result, being searched, detained, questioned, humiliated, given a ticket, and then having that ticket dismissed, because the law cited wasn’t even a law.
(as seen in this video) taken in DeKalb, Illinois.
July 17th 2014, Eric Garner was choked to death by NYPD on the sidewalk for selling untaxed cigarettes.
April 7th 2015, Walter Scott of North Carolina was pulled over for a broken taillight. It’s said that he ran from the officer because he owed child support arrearages. He was shot eight times in the back as he ran.
Since when is a broken taillight, child support or an untaxed cigarette worth a man’s life?
Reform of the way policing is done is long overdue in our country. It is important to ask, would these tragic events have ever occurred if the police were never given a reason to confront them in the first place? It is crucial that the issue of policing for profit is addressed by the public. When the majority of public opinion is uninformed, or believes that the current system is working and those men deserved to die, things will progressively deteriorate. It is safe to say that once the objective of profit is removed from the equation, accountability and transparency become a priority. People that are set in place to help others, logically and ethically, cannot have a monetarily oriented agenda. Nor can they be given orders by people that do. It is impossible for police departments to connect with the communities that they are “protecting and serving” if they are nickel and diming them at the barrel of a gun.