Heavy-Handed Policing isn’t just Unpleasant, it’s Harmful

The British Police arresting people just for DNA samples

I have never been arrested. My police encounters, while not always pleasant, have been nominal — i.e. they were examples of proper police conduct. That being said, I’ve seen first hand and heard of second hand, many examples of the police abusing authority, harrassing people for reprehensible reasons, and generally acting like they’re jailors of the general public, not their protectors.

This example from the UK is just another example in a long line of heavy-handed abuse of power by the police. And I’m not writing this to express my righteous indignation, or not just that. Rather I’d like to make this point, which isn’t made often enough: Every time the Police do something shady like this, they don’t just violate the rights of their victims, they harm the law and civil society. How can anyone respect the rule of law if those sworn to uphold it do not?

Police are human beings, of course, which means their behavior will fall short of the ideal. But this is just one example amongst many of the way police, not as a momentary failing but as a matter of conscious policy, make a mockery of law and society. They should aspire to be more than thugs.

Consider this one example; in the US (and I assume most places), it is a matter of settled law that the Police can lie in order to gain information in an investigation. While I can understand that some flexibility is required, particularly where lives are at stake, policeman often make promises they have no intention of keeping to suspects, and tell them things about the law itself that aren’t true. This is extremely harmful to the law and society, because it goes against something that I consider a valuable societal convention. Namely, that you can trust the police.

But that simply isn’t the case. In any situation where you’re being investigated, whether you are guilty or not, you can never, ever, trust the police. It is NEVER in your best interest to tell them anything that may by any stretch of the imagination incriminate you. It’s not the case, as you’re taught as a child, that the Policeman Is Your Friend.

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