Like many, I've been watching the latest example of our slide toward the "police state," and have been thinking about what to say about it. Well, I need agonize no more. Ted Rall has taken the words right out of my mouth at his latest blog - Everyone Hates the Cops. It captures almost exactly what I've been thinking.
I particularly liked "I admit it: I don't like cops. I like the idea of cops. The specific people who actually are cops are the problem" and "Nevertheless, the Gates incident has illuminated some basic, strange assumptions about our society. Cops think they have a constitutional right to be treated deferentially."
I don't think it's so much a matter of individual cops consciously wanting to further the agenda of the police state but rather a matter of terror. The cops are terrified of the citizenry (in some neighborhoods justifiably so) but they've been trained to respond like soldiers in a war - shoot first and hope you're right. But the rational response should not be to ratchet up the fear and violence. A rational response would include, among other things:
Civilian oversight of the police. (In my own city, it's pointless to complain to the LAPD because they investigate themselves and invariably find that their actions were justified.)
A more just economic system. (I know, it won't and can't solve all crime and violence but you can see the ameliorative effect it has in countries where the divide between rich and poor is not so wide.)
Better police training that emphasizes defusing situations and an emphasis on those quaint Constitutional guarantees of privacy and innocence until proven guilty.