Monday, November 29, 2021

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A Conservative Argument for Police Reform


(The opinions expressed in guest op-eds are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of RedState.com.)

In today’s world, it seems you can either be in one of two camps: Either you back the Blue without hesitation, or you think ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards). But as usual, the reality is somewhere in the middle. What we have seen over the past year is a reactionary war between the two ideological camps as they seek to appease the most ardent amongst their supporters.

But, as has become the norm from the modern right, we have seen an overreaction to counter the messaging of the left. In doing so, those on the right have become so defensive over our police force that they seem willing to excuse almost any behavior, even when officers have clearly overstepped their authority.

When we talk about issues with policing, the most common conversation stems around the issues of police brutality or killing of black Americans. This conversation has become stale, with each side immediately retreating to their chosen statistics and talking points, rarely willing to have honest conversations around the individual instances that occur.

Those on the left will call those on the right racist, and those on the right will call those on the left morons and that’s about the extent of the conversation. Of course, each and every case should be treated as a unique event with all parties waiting until the evidence is presented to make their case. We have seen cases of legitimate brutality from police as well as cases in which the officer was completely justified in taking actions that resulted in the harm or loss of life of an individual.

We have seen many cases this past year, from George Floyd to Rayshard Brooks and Jacob Blake, to the more recent case in Ohio with a teenage girl being shot after pulling a knife and attempting to stab another young woman. But what about the cases in which officers abused their power without a life being lost? What happens when an officer enforces laws unequally, or enforces unconstitutional mandates? This past year we have seen police forces across the country being used to violate basic freedoms from citizens under the guise of “public emergency” powers.

We have seen Governors exercise newly found powers to shut down businesses, gyms, churches, schools, public spaces, and basically anything else in the world they deemed unnecessary in the moment. Each time they used law enforcement to impose these mandates resulting in teenage girls being tased at a high school football game, mothers being arrested for letting their kids play at a park, pastors having their churches closed and facing massive fines for holding public services, and untold numbers of small business owners being financially ruined.

Remember, communism in the USSR did not happen by choice. Instead, it was the KGB and other police forces coming to seize the property and assets of landlords and business owners. Operatives went door-to-door (as President Biden hinted he wants to do to force vaccine compliance) to ensure compliance with the state’s mandates. The same is being done in Venezuela, North Korea, Cuba, and mainland China.

As a conservative, my overarching goal is to preserve the individual rights and freedoms of all citizens in our country. This means ensuring our rights to privacy, speech, religion, and innocence until proven guilty by a jury of our peers remain intact. What we cannot do is allow ourselves to empower government officials to infringe upon our rights.

So, what to do? How can we simultaneously support our police forces while also ensuring we don’t grant them enough power to control our lives without repercussions? How do we ensure we don’t hand authority to those who want to use the power of government to remove our right to personal property the means to do so?

Our founding fathers fought long and hard about these issues, and what they gave us was a system in which the people are in control of their government, not vice versa. We have the ability to select those who are in power over us, with their intent being to represent our desires in government for us.

This notion is true whether it applies to your city, county, state, or federal representation. Increasingly, we have ceded control of our government over to those representatives, unwilling to demand our rights be maintained or restored once taken. We have found that Benjamin Franklin was correct when he stated: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither Liberty of Safety.”

When we give up our liberty the government never seems willing to give it back. They coax us into giving up more and more of our rights, all in the name of “public safety.” This is true of many government overreaches, whether enacted by those in power on the right or the left. Whether it be attempts to limit our Constitutional rights to free speech or gun ownership, or our right to not be surveilled by our own government, we must demand our rights be maintained and not infringed upon by either party.

We have seen a small collection of representatives be sent to Washington willing to protect our liberties at all costs. But, so far, these individuals seem to be in the overwhelming minority of those in power, with more than enough willing to take more power away from us. This has led to the government now having more say in our healthcare, finances, education, and perhaps soon, our ability to hold elections.

But none of these policies have any power without those officials’ ability to enforce them. And, that enforcement is derived directly from our local police forces. Lately, the Biden administration is even attempting to seize more influence over local police departments by attempting to manipulate the funding that these departments receive.

Do you want a world in which your right to determine which vaccinations you take are removed? Do you wish to see your local police department show up at your door demanding proof that you have acquiesced to the government’s demands? What happens when those in government decide your right to own a gun or practice your religion represents a “public health emergency?” What happens when meeting with your neighbors or shopping at your preferred retailer is suddenly off-limits by government decree?

We have already seen a government become increasingly willing to choose which companies get benefits and which are doomed to fail. I do not want to live in a country where my business can be destroyed simply because I am in competition with someone in government, or where a misinformed politician decides to crush an entire industry simply because their political supporters want to see it gone.

So, again the question is: What do we do? How do we ensure our government does not have the means to enforce unconstitutional laws or mandates?

My proposal is called “Community Accountability of Policing.” Allow me to lay out the rationale behind my policy and then explain it in detail.

  1. The vast majority of police are noble, upstanding citizens seeking to help their communities.
  2. Most cases of suspected police brutality turn out to be legitimate uses of force.
  3. Protecting good cops means getting rid of bad cops.
  4. The people of a city should have a direct line of accountability over their police force.

What I propose is a city-by-city policy in which the people of each municipality would be granted a direct form of accountability over the officers of their city by being allowed to vote on whether an officer accused of abuse of power by any member of their city remains on the police force in that community. What this means is that any citizen of a city would be able to obtain a petition signed by a specific portion of their citizenry that would then allow them to create a ballot initiative to determine the administrative fate of a particular officer.

This measure would work in a multitude of areas to ensure we maintain a local, limited government. First, this would let each city set the parameters around which this policy would be applied. Secondly, this would mean that no city has any authority over the police force of another city. This allows all municipalities to remain independent from one other, and therefore, reflect the will of the people in that community and their preferred level of policing.

But of course, this policy is not complete without affording the officer the right to defend themselves from accusations. In my proposal, the city would be required to hold a public hearing in which the officer is confronted with the claims against them and then allowed to present evidence or testimony on their behalf.

Should the officer wish to forgo this option, it is within their right to waive such an event. This will allow members of the public to hear directly from the officer accused of breaking the law, as well as allowing the officer the opportunity to present evidence that may sway public opinion in their favor. This will also be a means for members of the public to ask questions of the officer, to gauge for themselves their desire to keep that officer involved in their community.

The goal of this policy is to create a means by which the citizenry gets more direct input into their preferred level of governance. It is also a means to ensure that these decisions are made at the most local, direct level to prevent outside interference.

In my case, it is important that my city, Midland, Texas, is not placed under the whims of Austin, San Antonio, or Houston as they have a much larger population and would be able to dictate policies to us that we may not want. This also prevents our cities from being dictated to by larger governments, not allowing those in California, New York, or any other state to have a say in the local business of our city.

What we must not forget is that our freedoms are never far from being removed, and the more power we cede to our government officials the more opportunity exists for them to abuse that power. Just because those in government happen to agree with you today, does not mean that the opposite may not be true tomorrow. Control of our government can change hands quickly, and if we want to ensure we have the right to self-determination, we must ensure those larger governments do not have the means to foist their biases upon us.

Ross Schumann is a constitutional conservative from Midland, Texas. He served in the Texas Army National Guard for 10 years and has worked in the Oil and Gas industry since 2007. Ross is a candidate for City Council in Midland, Texas, and has been active in state and local politics as a proponent of conservative values.




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