The broken windows theory of police abuse

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about police abuse of power lately, for reasons that are probably obvious to anyone living on Earth in 2020. (For those of you *not* living on Earth in 2020, a police officer strangled to death a citizen who had committed a trivial offense. The citizen was of the skin color that is systematically abused on earth and the officer was of the skin color that is traditionally associated with privilege and power. There have been widespread uprisings against both the skin-color aspect of the crime and against the police state in general and the idea most police seem to have that they are above the law.)

One of the things I’m thinking about is how we need to send the message to police much more often, and in much stronger ways, that they are not above the law. I think a AI needs to ride along in every police cruiser, and every time a cop uses his lights to skip a light, or changes lanes without signalling, or otherwise ignores the law because he or she think they’re above it, they should accumulate some form of fine or logged history of abuse. Too much abuse, and they should be fired.

The problem is that neural networks learn entirely too easily, and so often we don’t even know they’re learning. The cop learns at a subconscious level that they can break the rules they enforce on other people and nothing will stop them. Eventually they think so much that they’re above the law that they start murdering.

One of my thoughts about this whole matter is that power and responsibility must, as Heinlein pointed out, balance. When someone has power without responsibility they become progressively more abusive. this article documents how power causes brain damage. I’ve seen police posting on facebook who obviously are deeply brain damaged – they think all citizens should kowtow to them even as officers commit murder, that protests of murder should be met with progressively more abuse. And of course, that’s exactly what we’re seeing.. whenever protesters and cops meet up, the cops are using tear gas and batons even when the protesters are doing nothing wrong. THe police are angry that we dare challenge their authority, and part of why they are angry is they have brain damage from being police for too long.

Anyway, I do think that we all see officers ignore the law driving around in their cruisers all the time. And I also think that doing so emboldens them to think they are above the rest of us and can do anything they want to the rest of us. I think we need to continue to make it clear to them that they are a part of us but that they are not above us and that the same laws apply to them as to us. While it’s understandable that they might break some laws when in pursuit of a criminal, they should scale that to match the crime. THe fact that the cops *always* catch the criminals – even when all the criminals did was speeding – suggests to me the cops are abusing their powers. I suspect most police would risk people’s lives in order to make sure they bust someone for the crime of running away from the police. We know that they feel they should shoot at people who run away if they are of certian skin colors. I know that the only time I’ve been physically abused by the police, it was for the crime of not stopping quickly enough – I did stop, but it took about a minute.

One of the things I don’t think the police have thought about is that there is a feedback loop here. I run from the police when I am in a manic state because I am afraid of them. Being afraid of them is reasonable because over and over I have seen that the police kill citizens. I know from the statistics that as a person with a mental illness, being killed by the police is statistically one of the most likely ways for me to die. The fear is reasonable. And yet, the fear angers them. As the police abuse more and more, more and more people will be afraid and all of this will continue to grow worse.

I have been repeatedly threatened by the police inappropriately. As such, my opinion is that if possible, we should fire all of the police and start over. I believe there is a culture of abuse in America’s police departments where there needs to be a culture of safety. I believe most citizens already know this. And I think one thing that shows this is how often police break laws in ways that threaten the public when they are driving around in their cruisers. One of the things I have seen repeatedly on my small low traffic street is police driving at double or more the speed limit – not because there is any need, but just because they are “above the law”. I think a AI monitoring their behavior would be hugely helpful and I do not think such a AI would be difficult to create. Unfortunately we have a very large corpus of police behaving badly to train it on.

There are two other large obvious problems. One is that Americans are trained via propiganda to think well of the police. Most Americans have never thought about the absurdity of charging someone with a crime for selling a loose cigarette in a train station, or stealing $100. Americans think it’s reasonable to do a year of prison for stealing $100 – life is cheaper in America than in any other third world country I know of. The people who make the laws are not actually thinking about making a utopia, they are thinking about how they can get reelected and keep their cushy job. I know as a progarmmer that it’s difficult to write code that works well under all circumstances even after careful consideration and with all the best tools for writing and maintaining code humanity can invent. Laws are code for humans and they do not run in a testbed, they are not debugged, and they are enforced at times by angry thugs who are also members of white power organizations. We need a better way of writing and testing laws, and we need a good way to delete laws, and we badly need for the police force to be on the side of the criminal rather than on the side of the politican until we reach a point where our laws are balanced and sane. Elsewhere I have made other criticisms of our criminal justice system, and I think it needs reformed top to bottom with a ‘throw it all out’ mentality that only saves the very best bits – and we should ask for the help of other, more successful countries when we do this

Anyway, the point is, Americans are by and large already inclined to side with the cops and seldom realize how unreasonable most of American law is. And it only requires one holdout on a jury to avoid a cop being convicted of a crime. In the meantime, the supreme court has basically said, “Cops can murder if they want to. They have qualified immunity” – and you can safely bet every police officer is told about this early on in their career. And the police union will hire the best emotional-button-pushing lawyer to get them off. My theory is when a cop is convicted, the jury should be entirely made up of criminals. Yes, it’s a double standard. But police should be *better* citizens, at least when it comes to following the laws, than the rest of us. And they aren’t. They don’t follow the laws at all. We know they plant evidence, because we’ve seen them do this on cop cams. We know they murder. We also can guess that the type of person who *wants* to be a cop, who likes the job, is probably deeply flawed in a lot of ways.

Now, I can cite counterexamples. I do not think any of this is true of every cop, and I think only a very small percentage of cops are willing to actually murder. But the percentage is getting larger, and the powers that be are encouraging further abuse, and I do seriously think every cop who speeds just because he can should face the same fines the citizens he stops do. (It might be amusing to make the enforcement of the fines for places where the AI detects the cop committing offenses aligned to times the cop busted citizens.. if you don’t enforce speed laws, you can speed, but the minute you bust a citizen for 5 over, you accrue fines for every time you drove 5 over when you didn’t need to. It might lead to a *awesome* outcome – police refusing to enforce unreasonable laws)

Anyway, I think there is universal agreement that we need to change things. I think the changes needed are much deeper than most people think, and I think that our memetics are awful – we have been taught fundamentally wrong lessons that make us willing to shoot at a burgler to avoid having our TV stolen, for example. And we have allowed our police to turn into a dog that worries the sheep.

3 Responses to “The broken windows theory of police abuse”

  1. sheer_panic Says:

    I do love this answer for “who watches the gaurdians” – AI, of course. The one thing that will not be corrupted by the power.

  2. sheer_panic Says:

    By the way, if you’re a cop reading this and thinking about retribution, consider just how much part of the problem you must be.

  3. Firesong Says:

    If we could make your ideas work, they’d be great. We definitely need a complete teardown of the current police and justice system. I like your ending here — you can certainly turn a phrase.

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