In the midst of recent events in Baltimore, Al Sharpton once again claimed the spotlight, calling for the Department of Justice to take over the nation’s “policing,” He suggested that nationalization was the only way to hold cops accountable for their actions.
But in his quest for a national police monopoly, Sharpton ignores the fact that the feds created the problem of militarized cops wielding excessive force in the first place.
Sharpton made similar comments recently, after a North Charleston man was shot in the back multiple times while fleeing from police. “There must be national policy and national law on policing,” he said. “We can’t go from state to state; we’ve got to have national law to protect people against these continued questions.”
He went one step further this time around, upping his rhetoric to claim that “we’re going to have to fight states’ rights in terms of closing down police cases.”
Tenth Amendment Center national communications director Mike Maharrey addressed this recently, noting that the Constitution does not authorize federal authority over state and local policing. And for good reason. The Founders recognized the inherent dangers of centralized authority.
The question is, when are we going to?
There is no lack of evidence. The national war on drugs – as the primary example – has been an abysmal failure. In the name of fighting this so called “war,” the federal government has increasingly acted to militarize local police – the very law enforcement agencies we now see using excessive force on a daily basis.
The feds distribute surplus military weaponry and gear, such as armored vehicles and assault rifles, free of charge.
Local police are also incentivized by federal government programs such as Equitable Sharing, which “enables—indeed, encourages—state and local police and prosecutors to circumvent the civil forfeiture laws of their states for financial gain.”
This is not to mention the various other task forces (ATF, US Marshals) which encourage local police to act like soldiers in a war. Even the Bureau of Land Management and the Food & Drug Administration now have SWAT teams to help the locals police violations.
In fact, the line between state and local, and federal policing has already been blurred nearly out of existence. And as the lines between the two have disappeared, we’ve seen an increase in problems like excessive force. Hardly a week goes by without some new horror being revealed; from children injured in no knock raids (where the police never even find any evidence of narcotics), to the recent revelations of DEA sex scandals.
Sharpton wants the feds to police the police. But who is policing the DEA and other large federal government entities? Even the DOJ that Sharpton believes can police the rest of the country, can’t obtain the information it needs from other government agencies in a timely manner – if at all. The Justice Department noted the following in a report on sexual misconduct:
“Initially, the FBI and DEA refused to provide the OIG with unredacted information that was responsive to our requests…” and later; “we cannot be completely confident that the FBI and DEA provided us with all information relevant to this review, As a result, our report reflects the findings and conclusions we reached based on the information made available to us.”
So, the FBI doesn’t even cooperate with the Department of Justice, and yet somehow, Sharpton considers it more accountable than local law enforcement?
The truth is, federal meddling in state and local policing is the source of the problem. The feds actually drive local policing priorities and policies by leading your neighborhood cop to focus most of his efforts on fighting the drug war, the never-ending and vague war on terror, and enforcing unconstitutional federal firearm restrictions. They also rope local police into assisting in a ridiculous medley of regulatory task forces, finding new and invasive ways to collect revenue – and sanction citizens.
The feds drive local police priorities leading to all manner of profiling, surveillance, and violence. Your local police department now primarily focuses on federal priorities rather than serving and protecting the community.
We see the results. Consider just one example – as police have dedicated more and more resources to fighting the “drug war,” the number of solved murders has dropped. Thanks to federal influence, far too many police officers view themselves as soldiers on the battlefield, or hired enforcers, not peace officers protecting their neighbors. Is it any wonder we’ve witnessed a huge increase in cops using excessive force and operating with an “any means necessary” mentality?
Instead of giving the federal government more control over local cops, its time to do away with these federal programs and policies that are destroying local accountability over law enforcement.
Some states are starting to do just that.
Just last month the Montana legislature passed a bill restricting the types of military grade equipment state and local police can obtain through federal programs. New Jersey didn’t go quite as far, but did pass a law requiring local law enforcement agencies to get approval from local government before obtaining military gear, providing the people a way to stop it. If other states followed suit, we would certainly see a shift as local police found themselves more confined – no longer able to militarize themselves through federal grants and programs that the general public is unaware of.
Also this year, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez signed HB 560 into law, dismantling civil asset forfeiture. No longer can property be seized from citizens on civil grounds, during an arrest or simple traffic stop, based only on a suspicion that it may have been used in a crime.
These are just two examples of the many state bills introduced to reign in such destructive policies.
Significant problems with law enforcement are rampant in most of our states and communities. This is never going to change until we fully recognize the source of the problem – the funding, training and incentivizing of such activities by the federal government. These policies caused these problems in the first place, and states can stop them in their tracks.
Consolidating power even more – asking the federal government to intervene – is just asking the same people who created the problem to fix it. Al Sharpton’s plan is guaranteed to make things worse.
Mike Maharrey contributed to this article.
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