Friday, December 5, 2014

Police: The Human Side/Front Line of Uncertainty

It's not hard to see how uncertainty has played out in recent years. Mainstream financial and economic aspects of uncertainty are still regularly discussed. Even so, some components of institutional externalities (i.e. supposedly ZMP workers) scarcely even make their way into the discussions. Specifically? Consider the broader societal effects which result from those who are "left behind". One of the more obvious results is a growing lack of trust by all concerned.

Of course, why bother, right? After all, much of the U.S. economy in general has "cleaned up" nicely, with encouraging unemployment statistics and growth gains. Look even closer, to the Main Streets and neighborhoods of prosperous areas which inspire such confidence...umm, not so fast. Today's uncertainty often hides in the corners of economic statistics and "get out of the road" areas where little work (or life meaning) exists. As to the human side of uncertainty - when and if the marginalized cannot always remain "nicely" hidden - who sees, hence often needs to deal with them first?

That's right: members of police departments. And the longer the marginalized are forgotten...the more their numbers grow, the more contact they will have with police forces over time. Consequently, it has grown more difficult to predict the actions of any person, because many individuals remain exposed to pressures of which they have few resources to address. It's oh-so-easy to get angry with any number of police departments right now. I know I have, plenty of times. And I most assuredly do not want to be in path of certain police on the wrong day, or in the wrong place. But then, think about what they have to confront, which everyone else - economists, private interests, governments and public alike - have long since chosen not to personally deal with.

Much as marginalized individuals may feel uncertainty when a police car approaches; so too the policeman, as to the motives of the individuals he encounters. Indeed, sometimes this can extend to the most seemingly ridiculous of circumstance, such as the arrest of someone entering their own house, or the killing of a twelve year old wielding a toy gun. Even videotapes of such circumstances - for whatever help they provide - can't express what is really going through anyone's mind.

Likewise, I would be extremely nervous about taking a long auto trip with any real amount of cash. Why? A personal friend lost thousands to the police doing just that, long before the present uproar began. Unfortunately, we now have atrocities like civil forfeiture and military hardware toys, in large part because negative economic access externalities were left at the front door of police stations for too long.

Not long ago, the police received a few extra negotiation pointers for dealing with the mentally ill, who were basically dumped on the streets. Now they need to "learn" compassion for citizens who don't gain the "appropriate" work to take care of housing and healthcare needs, such as when arrests occur for overdue hospital bills. What about the lack of compassion that exists elsewhere??

Think about what is actually involved. Unlike the associated negative externalities of pollution, nations have yet to address the root causes of inadequate access. In a sense, it's easy to see why pollution generally gets first priority, for one would otherwise step outside the front door and be "assaulted" by pollution. Hope springs eternal however, that police can always keep the negative externalities of the marginalized at bay. Even though the odds for assault at one's front door still exist, they are far more random than pollution.

Depending on the police force, some departments get more "help" than others. How so? Institutions and economies of all kinds still push the marginalized ever elsewhere, instead of seeking circumstance where larger portions of the population are able to thrive. Some cities keep out "riff raff" and undesirables by making certain that local real estate is best suited for those with high incomes. That is certainly an understandable strategy, because it makes other elements of municipal responsibility easier as well. For one thing, it increases the level of trust on the part of strangers.

What about the cities, then, which can't keep real estate "top notch" to a degree the marginalized can be "kept at bay"? Philadelphia comes to mind, because of the numerous stories of police insensitivity which sully what many might otherwise find a desirable city for relocation (yes I've looked into the possibility). How to think about this?

At first glance, it's easy to agree with Adam Ozimek's sentiments re making police "less powerful", for example. Ozimek stressed in a recent post the need for police - such as any other employment environment - to be hired and fired at will. I especially agree with the latter sentiment, for work choice in all aspects is central to my belief system. Still, think about job security as a perk which some municipalities may not otherwise have to offer those with the most demanding jobs. Police are the first line of defense for what everyone else has chosen to collectively ignore for too long. 

Even though I personally abhor the militarization of the police and the present lack of justice in the system, I can understand why some aspects of these circumstance have occurred. Sure, more prosperous cities can follow up on pronouncements regarding measures to make certain their police are less reactive and violent. Other cities? Perhaps not so much.

In short, it is no longer easy to make a simple set of guidelines, regarding response to uncertain activities in public areas and streets which people share. Many individuals from all walks of life have been left to fend for themselves for too long. In some instances, this has reduced them to a state of reactive behavior, because they do not have enough certainty in their lives to project the equanimity they seek. None of this is to say that dysfunction on the part of police departments doesn't need to be reduced. Only that dysfunction in other economic circumstance needs to be addressed as well.

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