Saturday, October 25, 2014
Copsurance: Donuts, Safety, Genocide, and Money
Cops perform a lot of social functions, to be sure. Many of them even do the things they believe they're supposed to do. They provide mobile flashing light barriers and clumsy traffic redirection at accident scenes; their constant roving about the place allows them to call in obtrusive roadkill sightings to the Department of Transportation for pickup much sooner than a DoT agent would otherwise go by an area; and, they take reports if a large non-human predator wanders out of the forest/hills and gets sighted in someone's backyard.
Let's call those things "Mobile Administrative" functions: things that aren't wholly bad (even if generally clumsy and expensive in their social effect), but things which could be done much better and more efficiently by people who aren't armed, aren't wearing body armor and command presence, and aren't licensed, trained, or expected to use deadly force. These are things that could almost always be more efficiently taken care of by general-purpose staff, whether in the public or private sector, even within America's current bloated model.
Cops also do the things they probably should do, like show up when some confused drunk is screaming at store cashiers, and escort the drunk out of the building. They show up to domestic disputes where there is a gun in the house, a couple's been screaming at itself for hours, and the neighbors have legitimate reasons to be concerned. And they go up to those scary guys who've been hanging around the drugstore parking garage for three hours, talk to them, and subtly and effectively imply that they should disperse, a pair of cops accomplishing, in 25 minutes of $48/hour combined, a task that would otherwise involve the facilities manager, who is 73 and really only makes the coffee in the mornings and sweeps the elevator at night. The prevention of citizen "self help" in this area is invaluable, because without it, the store manager and a couple of burly produce stockers have to go confront the screaming drunk, and Harry From Across The Street has to get his sawed-off and tell Sam and Martha to stop hollering, and casual background brawls become a constant part of everyone's day--even in the upscale suburbs, because bums and drunk teenagers can appear anywhere.
In every situation in which cops get involved, they're a reminder of state power, which is miserable. They know their badges make them a feared, loathed target; even the sweet old lady who is eminently grateful to see them near the checkout counter remembers, through her amygdala, that feeling in her stomach from her last speeding ticket 8 years ago. The associative state power is helpful when angry drivers are waiting for some idiot traffic forensics guys to finish their calculations of tire marks in a serious injury accident; the license to kill cuts down, however inappropriately, on upset motorists attempting to climb the medium and find their own way around the backup. Yes, much more of the time than not, that state power causes the cops and traffic analysts to swagger around the scene for an hour longer than necessary, feeling very important, but it's at least a marginal social benefit that, when work actually needs to be done, the presence of some beefy white guys with guns allows the work to be done with drivers confining their rage to the insides of their own vehicles.
More importantly for this section, the reminder of state power helps when cops are doing "Cop Stuff" functions. When Sam and Martha see the lights outside, all of that nasty state power really does get through to them. Plenty of Sams and Marthas still act like assholes, but almost always respond more cooperatively to the cops than they would to their angry neighbor with a shotgun. And that function comes with a price that cops pay--they have to be the ones to get out of the car and approach the house, and sometimes, some moron shoots at them. Not often, but sometimes, and there's an element of real strength and pride there, in being the one to walk up to that house knowing you have to face Sam and his NRA stickers and his three aggressive German Shepherds. It's easy to dismiss cops as worthless tools, if you don't know what it's like to be the one inside the blue suit walking at Sam at 9:45PM after neighbors reported shots being fired and you've read about Sam's history of paranoid delusions and armed robbery and assault on prison guards. The anarchist fantasyland fails to realize the difference between a cop response to this kind of situation, and the response of a concerned community, which almost inevitably becomes Harry From Across The Street killing three dogs, one Sam, and accidentally spraying Martha with buckshot, then helping himself to a TV and the liquor cabinet and starting a fire on his way out. Cop response really does beat neighbor response in those situations, in terms of lower aggregate death count and higher chance of a non-violent resolution. The stigma of the blue line makes Sam angry, but his amygdala dampens his response, whereas if he thinks Harry From Across The Street is coming over, he might take up sniper position in the attic and start laying out anyone he sees in the street.
Even worse for the cops, when you get to the house (or the grocery store, or wherever), you have to appear confident, talk to the morons who are making the trouble, and all too often, actually touch them, pulling their stinky, scabby, writhing bodies away from the cash register, cuffing them, getting their hepatital or syphilitic sweat on your face and uniform, and then letting them sit in the back of your car screaming at you for the next half hour as you drive them in for processing. Everyone knows you're out there, so no one has to be tough for themselves--the store manager can hide in his office with the loose cash drawers, call the cops, and wash his hands of the situation, rather than worrying, every day, that he might have to physically defend his cashiers on the spot when a late-night customer gets too rowdy.
In an ideal society, you still need cops for situations like this. It's nice to think that the community could respond better, but some variation on "cops" is how you accomplish that. Which member of the neighborhood should be expected to go over there when Martha screams that she's being hit, or that Sam should put down the knife? Yes, in an ideal society, almost all of us are physically fit, reasonably confident, and not looking to "prove" anything by rescuing Martha from Sam. However, we get tired. We get hungry. We go on vacations. We spend a lot of time as weak, underweight children, and a lot of time as weak, aging elders. Maybe we're all trained in basic hand-to-hand, but have we done extensive practice in disarming knife-wielding assailants? "Cop Stuff" needs to be done by some form of cop; like "mass transportation," it's the safest and most efficient way of accomplishing the function.
And of course, despite what most of them think, cops perform the "Social Control" functions. They know that they can assess and judge people based on socioeconomic status, so they enforce the informal caste system. They harass perceived white trash and blacks everywhere, and turn up the intensity as home values rise. They pick on people who look unsavory or homeless, sweep nicer areas to keep them, inappropriately and unfairly, clean of perceived undesirables, and use deadly force to, sometimes arbitrarily and sometimes as-directed by local elites, forcibly deport or execute any given set of untouchables. They act politely in better zip codes, all the way down to immediate hand-on-gun group frisking in others, and they mix the two in big cities, desperately trying to suburbanize nicer city blocks by intimidating people who are just walking through. Particularly in the American Confederacy, but eerily everywhere, they attack and murder blacks like it's formally on the agenda, and use victimless drug crimes to felonize and perpetually de-vote millions of people, primarily black, to ensure political stasis, prison profits, and maintain the general clime of fear, always destroying certain communities to keep wages and social demands down (e.g., it's better if blacks march about access to chlorinated, fluoridated water, than it is if they're marching about access to clean water).
There's no other way to view it: either blacks need extermination, or America has been the same ever since the Triangular Trade. Cops have murdered too many black children, too systematically, too consistently, both in the present and over the past hundred years, without any punishment and with large financial reward; there is no way to claim it's circumstantial. Pick one: either (1) more recently African-derived people are subhumans who need to be kept in check through regular state murder, or (2) the American government is the Ku Klux Klan, so thoroughly enmeshed in murdering blacks that it's willing to make a visually-black guy the Grand Dragon to perpetuate the system.
You'd like to pretend it's (3). Make-believe option (3) makes you feel good. You'd like to pretend your choices include: (3) because of a long and tragic history of racism, and inadequate education and troglodytic social policy, cops are more likely to view African Americans as suspects, more likely to feel threatened by them, and more likely to respond with inappropriate force. African Americans are more likely to be poor and live in bad neighborhoods, where they suffer a disproportionate effect of violent police responses.
Bullshit. Completely ridiculous. Cops have been taking sensitivity training for years. Municipalities have been paying out multi-million-dollar settlements to victims' families, over and over, without the voters or taxpayers or city managers ever caring enough to change police kill-policy. Cops get paid leave and witness protection and golden parachute retirements when they too-controversially murder someone. Powerful black mayors and DAs have completely revamped hiring and education policies. Juries of mixed races levy huge punishments and death on black offenders, across the entire country, not just in the Confederacy.
Even black and Hispanic cops join in the murder of blacks. A SWAT officer whose parents immigrated from Guatemala, and who is half black and lives in a black neighborhood and never benefited from slavery, is just as likely to kill a black baby with a flash-bang grenade while raiding the wrong house for marijuana possession; a black female patrol officer is just as likely to tase a stooping, chubby old black man standing on the street corner smoking--giving him a heart attack that they'll blame on "drug use and age"--because he might be the "tall, muscular black teenager" who robbed a convenience store two hours earlier. There's something deliberately systematic going on there--something that has absolutely nothing to do with what you'd prefer to believe. Yes, it's "racism" or "race realism," if you like, but not in the "critical analysis of Othello" way. It's actual, real, "official policy to kill and kill consistently for a hundred years" racism. It has nothing to do with movies, TV, or the the vaguely-formed memories of "American slavery" that almost everyone is too uneducated to really be aware of anyway, and it has everything to do with race war and guns and clubs and tasers and armored vehicles. Most of these people can't read or write, they're only vaguely aware of "the Declaration of Independence" or "Abraham Lincoln," and they simply don't have the perspective to be suffering from all the advanced racial misperceptions that you'd prefer they be suffering from.
I know. I'm sorry. I know you'd prefer to think there's something different between 2014 and 1870. I know you'd like to blame all those murders on either "uncivilized man-chimps" or "a nebulous mystery behind our outmoded social perceptions that justifies me not caring so long as I believe in my heart that I care and am willing to discuss these contentious issues to acknowledge the grievances of the black community," but no. It's just the Klan.
All of those cop activities are important, and necessary to the functioning of current society, yes. But we have to ask ourselves: is it cost-justified? Even considering civil asset forfeiture and the massive profits from private prisons, cops still require other bullshit, like redirected school funding to "drug programs," and "civil traffic violations," just to pay their overhead. It's all very well and good for them to be out there keeping the population constantly cowed and rationally afraid for their lives, but picture some dolla bills being rubbed together, and ask yourself, "Who is really paying for this?" Is it worth it to spend that much just to kill all those black people? It's necessary--elites need those drug laws and race wars to ravage society and stymie humanity's progress--but elites would prefer to hoard money. They don't fix bridges, develop reliable transportation networks, or do any of the other things that they'd do if they really cared about making society sustainable, even for their own benefit. So what makes them willing to spend so much on this team of guys who drives around all day wearing special suits and writing parking tickets?
Insurance, baby. You know the FIRE sector, right? The missing externality here is insurance. What do cops really do with their time? They serve as the public-funded arms of insurance companies.
You know how much cops complain about paperwork, right? Just like doctors. "Oh, why is so much of this job filing bullshit paperwork?" Well, here's what patrol units spend the majority of their time doing:
1) Finding the dead bodies of sick or elderly persons, filling out paperwork about the death, supervising the parties who formally verify the death, and using the death to search the residence and surrounding area for contributing factors or other interesting stuff. Taking it back to the station, filing it, entering it into databases, then following up with the victims in detail about the extent of the loss.
2) Taking reports of burglary, private property damage, or domestic disturbances, writing it up, taking it back to the station, filing it, entering it into databases, then following up with the victims in detail about the extent of the loss.
3) Checking up on commercial property damage, loss of stock, or employee theft, writing it up, taking it back to the station, filing it, entering it into databases, then following up with the victims in detail about the extent of the loss.
4) Responding to car crashes, from fender-benders to twelve-car multiple fatality deaths, specially arranging the scene, supervising investigators, taking extensive records of vehicular and bodily damage, taking it back to the station, filing it, entering it into databases, then following up with the victims in detail about the extent of the loss.
5) Spending billions of long, aimless man-hours trolling the streets of the entire country, from Times Square to that old dirt road in Utah, punching license plate numbers into dashboard computers and verifying that insurance and registration are current. Pulling over drivers to verify license, registration, and vehicle ownership, rolling through neighborhoods to eyeball foreign plates. Checking cracked windshields and broken taillights, writing tickets to raise insurance rates...
...aaaaaand, that's it. The primary reason America developed this eerie, ridiculous, full-time professional police force was so that banks and insurance companies could use "public safety" as a justification to have armed, 100% taxpayer-subsidized employees constantly patrolling their customers' neighborhoods, ready to act as free, primary claims responders for the insured nation. Drug and prison cartels might control 49% of the police, but the slight edge goes to insurance--cops spend far more time performing bureaucratic functions for the major insurers than they do fighting crime, or even harassing blacks.
Want to fake your death to get your family life insurance? Nope--private insurance companies have frontline armed investigators, medical and forensic specialists, and fleets of cars in your zip code, all to check up on whether they should be fulfilling their private contract. Something get taken from your apartment? Here come the cops to take a police report, without which the insurance company won't look into things or pay benefits. That's the real financial value of "state power" to the insurance company--the things we'd be willing to say to some insurance-company asshole, we're not willing to say to police, because of their known proclivity for beating and killing.
Think about the railroads, the banks, or the highway networks, here. In each of those situations, private companies bribed (or became) government officials in order to take public resources--land or taxpayer funds--for private use. Railroads got free land and immigration policy and subsidized strikebreaking services, in order to corporate-welfare their way into a massively successful business; later developers and car manufacturers did the same, using "the public good" to take money from those who work hard and give it to builders who created a nationwide web of "streets" and "highways" that could be used to justify individual automobile sales. And banks, as amazingly brazen as always, got to take taxpayer money in order to fund ways to loan imaginary dollars to taxpayers for them to use in commerce. Fun!
Cops are the same, both pharmacologically and financially. They bust up pot dealers so the Ritalin dealers can control the territory, and they show up when someone stole your TV, so that the insurance company can sell its product without having to pay, by itself, the costs of having its own employees investigate its own customers' claims. That's what all the "paperwork" is, that the NYPD officers always get to vocally complain about. Insurers are generous enough to allow us to use the cops we pay for to deal with crazy people, when they have spare time in their shifts between taking burglary reports (that they never investigate beyond verifying loss value), verifying car insurance coverage, and handing out rate-justifying tickets.