The following is a letter to the editor from Steve Sadowski. To submit your own letter, email the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org
The tinderbox, which has been the growing tension between minority communities and the police, has officially been lit. Who knows if the protests, revenge assassinations and martial crackdowns will slowly subside as the weather turns oppressive, or if like many revolutions, it grows and grows until the entire nation is embroiled in it somehow? What I do know is this: that even in the most bucolic of small towns where there is relative peace and a healthy relationship between the police and the citizens they protect, protests will be organized on commons and city squares statewide. Westford will have theirs on January 5th. I would ask the protesters, “Who did you vote for?”
There is a lot of finger pointing going on and a lot of anecdotal arguments being made by both sides, but no one is pointing the finger of blame where it truly belongs: we the voters. What people fail to understand is that the police are the enforcement arm of the legislative process. Every time, we the people, elect Selectmen, or representatives who then create policy, or pass bylaws, on the other end of those decisions, the police are charged with making sure those bylaws and regulations are obeyed.
This last year, several citizens in Westford felt that the existence of birdfeeders posed a threat to the fragile balance between homes and black bears. Their proposal: ban birdfeeders. That proposal did not get too far, even though it did make the local news as an interesting story. To me, I saw it as further proof for an ever-increasing trend in the country: to ban the things one does not like and demand subsidies for things one does like. Don’t like guns? We need to ban them. (Westford tried to; i.e. Article 30) Don’t like hunting? Well the town better create a task force to reign in these crazy hunters! (Westford did this last year.) You think our kids are getting too fat? We have to ban sugar. Ban this, ban that; it seems no one can live and let live anymore!
And this is what happened in the Eric Garner case. It didn’t start with the cops. It started with Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC Council banning everything they didn’t like (big soda, guns). What they couldn’t ban, they made it difficult to buy. They placed a usurious tax on cigarettes and when the tax predictably created a black market for cheap cigarettes, the enforcement arm of the tax was charged with arresting all violators like Mr. Garner. Unfortunately, Mr. Garner was in poor health and couldn’t handle being thrown and pinned to the ground when he resisted arrest and now Mr. Garner is dead. I don’t blame the cops. I blame the mentality that everything we don’t like has to be banned.
“I don’t like drugs so I want them banned!” (Funny how many of the same people saying this also drink) Few politicians are willing to admit that the War on Drugs is a failure and address alternatives to locking up young minority men en masse, filling our overcrowded prisons. The drug bans have real societal costs as a black market emerges and communities are targeted illicitly. Nothing is out in the open as teenagers are sneaking around behind their parents’ backs and drug deals are being made in secret. Meanwhile, people stand in line comfortably for their prescriptions at CVS or Walgreens and can feel confident that what they are buying is the exact dosage and ingredients on the label.
The distrust in the minority community between the residents and the police starts when the community leaders, sick of the gang violence, ask the police to step up patrols and do something about the crime in their neighborhood. Keep in mind, much of this gang violence with guns are in areas with the strictest bans on firearms! So the police come as asked. And when they come they start asking for I.D. from anyone just sitting around, or walking near a suspected drug zone. They stop cars frequently and look for any reason to search the vehicle. They are just doing their jobs. Maybe joints are found…Or maybe spent ammunition…Or maybe a needle? Now that person’s life will now be spent in prison instead of being a father to their son. The problems grow worse as the families disintegrate; the community asks for more help, the police come with even more patrols and even more programs. Resentment grows and the tinderbox is set.
Are there some bad cops? Sure. Does the union play a role in keeping bad cops on the street? Sure. But if there is a percentage of bad cops, the more laws you pass, the more cops you will need to enforce those laws and therefore whatever the percentage of bad cops goes up proportionally. N.Y.C., Chicago, L.A., Boston, et al, have a lot of laws, and a lot of cops to enforce those laws. Do the math.
Luckily, Westford does not have a gang problem, nor are there shootouts on Main Street, but we are just as susceptible here to want the things we disagree with banned and the things we like subsidized, whether it’s full day kindergarten, or sidewalks, or land purchased so no one can build a home on it, or various task forces formed so that our needs are included in any private business, or land owner’s decision. We have so many committees here in Westford and for every decision that gets made, a person with a clipboard, or an officer with a gun has to be there on the other end to enforce that decision. What is needed is a return to limited Constitutional government, an end to the failed drug war, and for all of us to allow other people to live their lives the way they see fit, resisting the urge to manage their lives even if it’s with the best of intentions.
Libertarian State Committee