The cries of “‘defund the police’ is harsh and may alienate potential allies!” are full-throated, and I am thoroughly sick of them. Police and police unions are manipulating politics shamelessly, and have demonstrated again and again and again that consent decrees and legislation are just something they will work around.
I was chatting with someone the other day and they suggested that “defund the police” is too radical and just alienates them (if you are guessing that they’re white, you are correct) but the reality of the situation is that the police are already out of control and are actively maneuvering to prevent controls from being placed on them. You know the story: a jurisdiction passes an ordinance saying ‘no chokeholds’ and police shootings go up as the cops sanctimoniously explain that they’ve just been given no alternative but to kill civilians – the alternative being a bit of cerebral damage or death from anoxia. Heads, I win – tails, I win!
What’s mind-boggling is that the police also feel completely justified in saying that they’re going to ignore duly constituted authority, because apparently Judge Dredd was right: “I AM THE LAW!” That reveals a subtle flaw in the ‘reasoning’ of authoritarianism; the premise of every authoritarian is that there is no authority above them that they will submit to – except that every other authoritarian thinks that they are the ultimate authority. It’s what makes authoritarians so volatile, especially when they are armed and stupid; “Ultima Ratio Regum” and all that. Consider this guy: [KTLA]
Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco this week vowed not to enforce the state’s new coronavirus restrictions, calling Gov. Gavin Newsom’s efforts to contain the pandemic with business closures and stay-at-home orders “flat out ridiculous.”
“The metrics used for closures are unbelievably faulty and are not representative of true numbers and are disastrous for Riverside County,” the sheriff said in a video released Friday.
The Sheriff’s Department posted the video as state officials sounded the alarm on the dwindling number of available ICU beds across the state, announcing that regions with intensive care capacity that drop below 15% Saturday would have to impose another stay-at-home order at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.
So, he speaks for the entire Sheriff’s Department? Ronald Reagan (if they disagreed with him) would have fired the lot, because he was an authoritarian, too – he was just a bigger and more powerful authoritarian.
It took me a while to adjust my understanding of the authoritarian personality, because my immediate instinct was to go, “wait a minute! you swore to uphold the law, not merely the laws that you agree with!” except that’s not really what’s going on: the sheriff never gave a shit about the law at all, except for to nod in its general direction when it happened to agree with him, the ultimate authority in his jurisdiction.
Needless to say, I don’t think that Chad Bianco is qualified to hold the job of sheriff, or anything else that might allow him to exercise authority over anyone, because he has demonstrated conclusively that he does not understand authority well enough to be an authority himself. In authoritarian-land, he should be bowing and doffing his hat to a governor, not mouthing off publicly that, in effect, his opinion trumps the governor’s. In the land of Real Authoritarians he would never do something like that – imagine what would happen if some underling in Stalin’s goon squad publicly refuted Stalin by saying that he was going to blow off his orders. He’d probably get a good beating before they shot him, and the entire department would be ruthlessly purged.
The logic of authoritarianism is compelling, though, isn’t it? Sitting over here on the other side of the continent I am still thinking, “I’d show that son of a bitch; his department would have to hold a bake sale to buy bicycles because I’d re-allocate all their cruisers to a special team responsible for guarding a laundromat in Bakersfield.” That’s the problem with all of this (waving his hands to encompass All The Things) we’re working under authoritarian logic and we’ve got no breathing-room to ask ourselves what makes sense.
What makes sense?
Well, for one thing, I guess this illustrates the danger of having a Sheriff in charge of a department, who is an uneducated goon. Let me have goons about me that are educated! Instead of sending Beria and Blohkin to go sort him out, why didn’t the journalists who carried that story follow up requesting Bianco’s data that shows (as he says) “The metrics used for closures are unbelievably faulty and are not representative of true numbers and are disastrous for Riverside County,” Oh, really? What the fuck are you talking about, why is this within the scope of your authority, and why didn’t you just resign so that you don’t have to enforce this onerous policy? Wait, you’re not resigning? Lavrenti, run down and get his signed letter of resignation, and take Vasily with you. Tell him to bring his tool bag.
By all means, take Newsom to task for wining and dining at 3-star restaurants during the outbreak, and for all the sleazy, hypocritical things that are why we hate politicians. But this guy and anyone in his department that have decided they are a bigger authority than the governor out to be reality-checked, hard. If the governor is wrong, explain it to the media (who will dutifully mis-report it) but the pandemic death-rate and outbreak rate in Riverside County looks exactly like the rate in the rest of California – as opposed to, say, Christchurch, New Zealand – where Covid-19 has been contained and mostly snuffed out using completely effective low-tech techniques.
Defund the police may sound threatening. But, we need better police. How about just reinventing law enforcement so that dumb motherfuckers can’t be sheriff in any jurisdiction? The way to do that is to reallocate the money: create community agents and local jurisdiction support structures, and fund them by re-allocating some of the money that would go to the cry-babies in blue. They can apply for the new jobs that’ll be opening up. Or, they can join the (in mjr fantasy-land) flood of ex-cops applying for jobs as mall ninjas. [mall ninjas] Sure, then nobody’d go to the malls anymore, which is “2 birds, one stone.”
I know this is just one example of local law enforcement deciding to announce that they will not enforce laws they don’t like – essentially declaring themselves to be the higher authority. There was some jumped-up nobody sheriff in Virginia who said that if more restrictive gun laws were passed, he wouldn’t enforce them. What blows my mind is that “conservatives” (especially those who worship Saint Reagan) seem to be OK with union-busting and firing employees who don’t toe the party line – as long as they’re not cops.