Hello, Save Jerseyans. It’s been awhile!
Of late, we’ve been seeing an uptick in cases of “policing for profit.”
A Hudson County Democrat in the Assembly, Nicholas Chiaravalloti, recently proposed speed cameras to be set up in work zones when people go 11 miles per hour over the limit. Besides the mixed constitutionality in the courts of traffic cameras, as well as many states and municipalities doing away with them entirely, this is how a perverse structure of policing for profit occurs. Let us not forget: police are the enforcement agents of the state and legislators will try to use them to collect shortfalls in their budget. In fact, many governments rely on this source of revenue. This occurs at every single level, whether municipal, county, state, or federal.
There’s also a showdown in the cards between AG Jeff Sessions and the U.S. Supreme Court over civil asset forfeiture.
So what is the solution?
Here are what would be my solutions to change this predatory structure and get police back to what they should be doing… working on major crimes. I know many people will disagree with parts of this, but I ask you to be open as I explain my reasoning:
(1) All police fines from traffic-related incidents go to non-profit organization(s) that support the victims and victims’ families of crimes. No government should rely on this money for their existence. If they are, they’re likely spending too much money and should find ways to cut their budgets.
(2) Civil asset forfeiture should only be used upon a conviction or plea bargain of a person and if it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt the property was used or collected from a crime. If it cannot be, the money and property goes to the next of kin. This should be determined by a judge or jury of our peers. The 5th Amendment to the Constitution calls for due process prior to deprivations of life, liberty, and property, and this is the only way to assure due process for all three. And, once again, the money and property that is collected as a result goes to non-profit organization(s) that support the victims and victims’ families of crimes.
(3) Cameras should never be used for ticketing purposes. What if the driver of the car wasn’t in the car at the time? What if the license plate was mistakenly recorded? What if the red light or speed aspect of the camera was malfunctioning? There are too many issues with these cameras and they deny people due process under the 5th Amendment. There is no way for the camera to testify in a court of law unlike an officer who can. If we want to use cameras as evidence of a violation, that would be a great compromise while maintaining due process under the 5th Amendment.
(4) End the drug war in America. I know this will be unpopular or at least controversial with this site’s audience. But let’s take a look at the results. We have a rampant opioid addiction in America when certain opioids are already illegal (i.e. heroin). We have legal opioids already on the market, and yes, many of the active ingredients from the same poppy plants that make heroin and crack. In fact, there is a legal version of methamphetamine on the market that goes by the trade name, Desoxyn. Making something illegal doesn’t prevent use of it. It just pushes it to an ugly black market, where the drugs become more potent and the criminal element adds other forms of crime. We only need to go back to the days of alcohol prohibition in our country to see that.
If a person commits a crime under the influence of drugs, then they should be charged with said crime. But why do we then punish them with drug use on top of it? If we are trying to help someone in their life overcome addiction, aren’t resources that help that far superior. I mean, look at Alcoholics Anonymous and their successes in treating alcohol addiction. We don’t throw that person in jail for being an alcoholic.
Nor should we throw someone in jail for abusing a drug.
In fact, many of the drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine have great medicinal purposes. Did you know research is being conducted on marijuana to not only reduce the side effects of cancer, but perhaps the cancer itself? Do you know cocaine was used for a long time as an anesthetic? Did you know that methamphetamine can be used to help people with ADHD to allow them to focus? The only difference between those and the pharmaceutical drugs on the market are what the government makes legal or illegal, the potency, and the dose (all are a result of government intervention).
So how does the drug war lead to policing for profit in America? It encourages police departments and federal agencies to pad their budgets at taxpayers’ expense to have resources for drug busts. It allows for civil asset forfeiture because money is often involved in these cases, as is the case with any black market activity, like we can historically see with alcohol prohibition. Prohibitions just don’t work and, in fact, often backfire and create a worse situation not only for the person involved, but the families and communities.
Shouldn’t we, as conservatives and libertarians, be against feeding the state more money? It ends up being used to give away money for services and welfare for politicians to get re-elected and to further hinder our civil liberties. Think of it as a tax we don’t see as readily as some of the more common taxes, like income, sales, or excise taxes.
This would also make policing better for the police themselves. It would help re-build trust in communities that feel the police are just there to bully them and take their property. I want to make the job of the police easier and safer, and I believe these steps would help get us there.
Let us not forget: perception is reality and changing the perception is the first step towards making police trusted in their communities again.