The common denominator of their critiques centers around how the Ferguson Police Department is a primary source of revenue for the City of Ferguson and that its officers are encouraged to write tickets for traffic violations whether warranted or not.
Leon H. Wolf:
The results of this pressure to write tickets are eminently predictable. If you tell a cop to write more tickets or else, he will write more tickets. If the pressure continues, he will write more tickets for more trivial (and more legally questionable) offenses. He will likewise seek to maximize the use of his time by issuing as many tickets as he can per each stop – and the evidence (again, exclusively from FPD records) demonstrates that this is exactly what happens. And the evidence further shows (again, exclusively from FPD records) that Ferguson’s black community did, in fact, suffer the brunt of these legally questionable and trivial stops, and also that they were far more likely to suffer from “ticket stacking”.
The game is rigged. And conservatives have a real opportunity to talk about why. This is the community-policing version of the regulatory state. There is a tendency among the right to counter attempts to gain sympathy for criminals by saying something like, “well don’t break the law.” And I suppose that’s true as far as it goes. But here’s the thing: it’s no longer so easy not to break the law, in all sorts of respects. And the proliferation of ticky-tack charges makes it that much easier to run afoul of the law.
Again, racism is certainly a part of this too in many cases. But the government exacerbates the problem by encouraging the police to see law-abiding citizens as potential piñatas. When you pass a law you put the state’s monopoly on the use of force behind it. And when you add a significant price tag to such arrests policing becomes like a video game. And when you bring the arms of municipal government under the unified command of the police, you remove the potential for necessary oversight.
The government has ballooned its own spending to the point where arresting citizens, and turning the innocent into criminals, has become a new form of stealth taxation. It’s dehumanizing, and limited-government conservatives are missing a real opportunity by not shouting it from the rooftops.
We often take for granted the rule of law. If you are blessed to live in a town where the officials are relatively clean, or if you’re among the class of people that officials fear to cross, then public institutions seem benign — helpful, even. But there are millions of our fellow citizens who live a different reality, under the authority of different kinds of public officials — officials who view them as virtual ATMs, regardless of their ability to pay. And when the government imposes that mindset on police officers, forcing men and women who are trained to respond to (and anticipate) the most violent incidents to essentially become the armed tax collectors of a corrupt system, then that government is unjust, and its officials must be made to feel the bite of the Constitution that they’ve willfully and continually abused.
With all due respect to Wolf, Mandel and French, do they think that the DOJ, be it under Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch, are suddenly going to become champions of limited government?