When the Cops Are the Robbers

You could make a sport out of writing on police misconduct at this point. And to date I may as well have — I’ve written about police brutality and the (partly intentional) lack of statistics for said brutality. More recently I’ve written about their ability to act like a mafia towards their critics as well. And there’s more.

Today’s addition to the increasingly voluminous catalog surrounds another unfortunately common theme: The thievery of cops.

As blogger Martin Armstrong recently revealed, in 2014, the money received from civil asset forfeiture was greater than the amount taken by all instances of private, non-police burglary.

Armstrong wrote, “… [asset forfeiture] had ballooned to roughly $4.5 billion for the year,” while “the total amount of goods stolen by criminals in 2014 burglary offenses suffered an estimated $3.9 billion in property losses.”

For those who don’t know, civil forfeiture is the act of taking cash or property from individuals by police. These individuals may have been charged or convicted of wrongdoing. The “may” in that sentence is reflects the fact that you don’t actually need to have been charged or convicted. It just helps the police justify their theft.

But how can the police do this? Because, as usual, the police can act with impunity if they have “reasonable suspicion” to justify their actions. This moral and legal impunity goes back to what the police fundamentally are: A monopoly on the use of defensive violence.

To be sure, the police aren’t a pure monopoly. Self-defense is technically still an option for the private individual. And you could, in theory, form neighborhood defense associations in place of calling the cops.

But in either case your chances of doing so are hindered either directly by the police themselves or laws surrounding self-defense — be they gun laws or even more petty state regulations surrounding basic protections like pepper spray.

The Washington Times added some helpful qualifiers to Armstrong’s statistics, clarifying, for instance, that, “If you add up all the property stolen in 2014, from burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and other means, you arrive at roughly $12.3 billion, according to the FBI. That’s more than double the federal asset forfeiture haul.”

The Times adds several other caveats to Armstrong’s claim, but concludes, “Still, boil down all the numbers and caveats above and you arrive at a simple fact: In the United States, in 2014, more cash and property transferred hands via civil asset forfeiture than via burglary. The total value of asset forfeitures was more than one-third of the total value of property stolen by criminals in 2014.”

Let’s consider if an individual had engaged in this behavior. If they routinely stole millions of dollars a year would you allow them in your community? What if this was all done by an organization that you weren’t forced to pay for? Would you voluntarily pay for such a group’s “protection”?

These incidents reaffirm the anarchist critique: The police are based on theft, violence and the disempowerment of individuals and their ability to defend themselves. And, as one of the main arms of the state, they are also one of our biggest impediments to freedom. As such, if we want to have a truly freed society, we must abolish the police. We must form our own associations that subvert the existing laws, regulations and norms in society. We must strive to make our communities safer for individuals — especially the marginalized and oppressed among us. Encourage queers to bash back, young black men to arm themselves, and women to be armed as well.

We do this so that we may let the oppressors know they are not welcome in our communities. Whether they are racists, men who harass women, homophobic and transphobic bigots, or “even” the police.

Break the monopolistic hold the police have on society. Let’s stop playing a game of cops and robbers with a bunch of thugs.

Citations to this article:

Free Markets & Capitalism?
Markets Not Capitalism
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist