Thursday, September 13, 2007

Don't Just Look At The Story, Look At The Big Picture

Radley Balco brings us this story of the good samaritan sex offender. Basically, a Chicago man waiting in a car with his wife was approached by an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute. The man was then arrested for solicitation. The charges were eventually dropped, but the city of Chicago refuses to return the family's car until towing and storage fees were paid.

Balco has been a blogging superman as to stories like these of apparent police abuses. But I think the point must be made that libertarian focus on stories like these is not to point out that all police are pigs or even that corruption and dishonesty are rampant among our nation's police. Rather, the point is that our laws and our system of policing make these sorts of abuses more likely and more common. Like Balco's work on paramilitary police raids, these stories point out how things can go wrong- how innocent people can get entangled with the police. The question we need to ask ourselves is whether all this collateral damage is worth the price of aggressively pursuing victimless crimes? Do we need prostitution stings? Do we need drug stings? Or does this sort of policing do us more harm than good? Based on all the work Balco's done, I'd like to say no.

The problem is, when we blame these incidents on "bad eggs," we tend to ignore the fact that our policy has encouraged this sort of behavior, if not openly, than tacitly. And even if you're someone wholly convinced of the evils of drugs, or prostitution, or whatever, you have to agree that it would seemingly be more efficient to have police focus on more serious violent crimes. I know I'd feel safer if more police just patrolled the streets rather than engaging in drug and prostitution stings.


Blogger Jim Fryar said...

Great Post, I haven't checked out Radley in a while, but thanks for the reminder.

These 'sting' operations are appalling, in that they involve policing our moral failings, but our thinking about it as well.

4:40 AM  

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