Police In The Real World

Commentary, Role of Government, Pierre Lemieux

Alberta Solicitor General Fred Lindsay wants “more policemen on our streets” (Calgary Herald, October 21, 2008). This is a standard conservative incantation and a general government hang-up, the “Hare Krishna” of the statocrats. But the question must be raised, why in heavens do we need more policemen?

Our society is already full of them. In 2007, there were 64,000 policemen in Canada, 25% more than two decades ago. Over the same period, total expenditures on policing have jumped from $4 billion to $10 billion.

“No absolute monarch ever had at his disposal a police force comparable to those of modern democracies”, wrote Bertrand de Jouvenel in On Power (1945). In a city of 1.6 million inhabitants, the Montréal Police Department employs more than 7,000 persons, not counting the provincial and federal cops roaming around. This is about the number of policemen and soldiers in late-17th-century Paris, where modern, centralized policing was created. It must be admitted that the French capital was then about half the size of today’s Montréal (see Marc Chassaigne’s delicious 1906 book La Lieutenance générale de police de Paris), yet today’s police are far better equipped, better informed, and more powerful than anything Louis XIV could dream of.

So why do we need more policemen? To enforce laws, of course. But this raises the question, “which laws?” And this is the main issue in the real world. Most of the laws that “policemen on our streets” enforce are, like in 17th-century Paris, designed more to protect the state apparatus than the subjects’ liberties. Canada’s Criminal Code contains 600 pages of crimes, of which a big chunk are crimes against the state and state morality. Twenty-five pages are concerned with the criminalization of guns. The definition of “terrorism” seems carefully crafted to protect the state against domestic insurrection.

Only one-sixth of the Criminal Code — one-third if we exclude all the procedural stuff — is concerned with the protection of person and property, but even these portions of the Code are encumbered by speech crimes (like “hate propaganda” and defamation), by scams like the prohibition on driving after two glasses of wine, by such fabricated crimes as polygamy, blasphemous libel, criminal interest rates, insider trading, “discrimination against trade unionists”, and by such terrible crimes as “[operating] a vessel while towing a person on any water skis, surf-board, water sled or other object during the period from one hour after sunset to sunrise”.

Most criminal law, when it is not designed to protect the state, aims to impose state-defined morality on those who partake in victimless “crimes” — with disastrous consequences. The war on drugs has led to gang wars, the killing of innocents, scores of lives broken by criminal records, and a wholesale onslaught on our liberties. Close to 25% of all criminal charges that come before Canadian courts involve illicit drugs. A large part of the prison population is there for drug-related crimes. Even cigarette smugglers now get jail sentences! Money laundering, a crime recently invented to fight drugs, covers more than 15 pages in the Criminal Code.

And this does not count all the other liberticidal non-criminal legislations, whether federal, provincial, or municipal, that impose prohibitions, regulations, licences and permits, and carry fines or jail sentences. In many provinces, civil forfeiture laws have been added to the feds’ criminal forfeiture, empowering provincial governments to administratively seize property allegedly related to law breaking.

We are not very far from England where cops are more interested in arresting people who exercise their right to self-defence and in prosecuting “crimes” against political correctness than in going after old-fashioned violent crimes.

Look, young fellow, this is the world as it is. Policemen have reverted to their first function: praetorians of the state. You want an emblematic example? The bureau of the Québec provincial police that enforces federal gun controls reports to the “Direction de la protection de l’État”, that is, literally, the Directorate for the Protection of the State, which might be translated in better English as the State Security Directorate, a name even more authoritarian sounding that the old “State Security Committee” or KGB.

It is some claim that we need more of these praetorians on our streets!

This article appeared originally at http://www.libertyincanada.com/