Sunday, December 7, 2014

U.S. justice system is frayed and tattered

You can't turn on the TV anymore without seeing mobs of angry protesters throwing bricks through Starbucks and 7/11 convenience store windows.

It's not that these angry mobs are irritated that Starbucks charges $5 for a cup of coffee, or that 7/11 charges $4 for a dozen eggs.  

These mobs are lashing out at a system that is fraying and tattered: it takes months and sometimes years to have a legitimate court case adjudicated.  Policemen are getting ruder and more volatile in virtually everything they get involved in.  Simply watch the video of 5 police goons tackling, subduing and arresting Eric Garner for the heinous crime of selling individual cigarettes - a legal product in the land of the free and home of the brave.  5 police officers, count 'em.

And the mobs don't like that image, not that these angry mobs are the epitome of virtue, goodness and righteousness themselves.


In my opinion (of which I have many and of which are all rock solid and correct, just ask me, and I will tell you so), it is not hard to put the finger on what the root cause of all of this indignation: the justice system is swamped with activity.  It is overwhelmed with people wanting perfect justice.  And most of the people who make up these angry mobs are not removed from the root cause, either. 

When an angry woman calls 911 when a Port St. Lucy, Florida McDonalds Restaurant runs out of Chicken McNuggets, the system begins to fail.  When a McDonald's restaurant serves a woman scalding hot coffee and she spills it in her lap, sues and winds up with a jury verdict awarding her millions of dollars, the beginning of the end is upon us.  

We as a nation are guilty of demanding a Supreme Court decision on every little dispute, and we all want our neighbors clapped in irons, frog marched over to a police cruiser and taken downtown, and ultimately thrown into a federal prison because their neighbor committed the gross injustice of owning a dog that dug up their begonias. 

This is where we begin to see things run amok.  We sue everybody for every little thing.  Lawyers are everywhere, suing the pants off of everybody for the smallest of grievances. There is no end to the complaints that we process against our neighbors.

This is just one of the ways in which we swamp our system of justice.  And the other has become quite obvious as well: our police force is simply understaffed and under qualified to deal with what our society now expects out of them.

We are an educated society, so much so that we demand that our public schools hire only 4 year college graduates to teach our kindergarten students to finger paint.  You think I am exaggerating, think again.  Nowhere in the land of the free and the home of the brave, not one U.S. state will allow anyone without a bonafide four year college degree from an accredited four year college in front of a group of public school kindergarten kids to lead a class in finger painting.  Not one.  Anywhere.  

AND YET:  we issue hand guns, shot guns, assault rifles, tasers, billy clubs, and an assortment of deadly weapons to virtual kids with only a high school diploma, pin a badge on their lapel and call them a policeman.  Sometimes these high school graduates might have some college (aka college drop outs), and in a tiny, minuscule number of instances, some police have college degrees.

Armed with a high school diploma and an assault rifle, along with a billy club, we send these guys out on calls from the public to resolve an untold myriad of complaints.  It is not possibly reasonable to expect these kids to be all of the following: psychologist, marital counselor, hostage negotiator, soldier, business arbitrator, and even at times judge, jury and executioner when a fatality occurs with their involvement in the use of deadly force. 

The solutions to our fraying and sputtering justice system are simple, but elusive:  we need to change the justice system in two major areas: 1) loser pays court costs always, and 2) all police agents who are given authority to use lethal force have college degrees.

1)  Tort Reform.  When frivolous lawsuits are brought before judges, it bogs down the system with back logs stretching out for years.  If every little beef is processed through the system without cost to the plaintiff, there is no restraint to the number of beefs admitted onto the dockets and we get what we have now: chaos in the justice system.  Once a plaintiff understands that if they lose, they are hammered with the court costs involved,  which are substantial, only the most egregious of beefs will be prosecuted.  Problem solved.

2)  Upgrade police force requirements.  When high school kids, many of them college drop outs, are sent on calls to potentially arrest a perp, we see what we get (Eric Garner case): bad judgement.  The guy should have been issued a ticket at most.  Maybe not even that.  Terrible judgement by a gang of Wyatt Earp wannabes.  I do not have the information on all of these 5 arresting cops in the Eric Garner case, but I would wager an enormous amount of money that not one of them had a college degree.  Not one, and their judgement clearly shows this. Yes, they were trained on subduing a perp.  But they were clearly NOT trained as to when and under what circumstances to use this authorized force. 

Obtaining a college degree is not the end-all and be-all in obtaining a semblance of judgement, but it certainly goes far.  It takes the following to complete a four year degree at an accredited four year college: 

  • Resources, either from a stable family or a municipal entity which sponsors your candidacy.  These resources are only available from stable factors that invoke that same stability in their candidates.  
  • Respect for authority, and this is a critical factor in the composition of the character of the candidate, for if there is no respect for their professors, administrators or institutions of higher learning, they will have little or no respect for their ultimate charges (the general public) once they are conferred with any power over another.
  • Work ethic, something that many non-graduates do not have. You have to show up for classes, whether you feel like it or not.  You have to study for your tests and do your homework, regardless of what parties and ski trips you will be missing. You have to sacrifice to achieve your educational goals. 
  • Tolerance of high levels of frustration.  Slogging though four years of high stress and expensive college classes is not a cake walk, regardless of your major.  You will be forgoing full time wages, and accordingly will not be in any way affluent (starving student syndrome).  You will have to work on group projects with sluggos who drag your group performance down, and you have to resist the urge to purge these slugs from your midst with nefarious and nasty means.  You have to work with all forms of disagreeable people around you, to include class mates, instructors and administrators.  
Simply put, our justice system is in need of overhaul.  The police force nationwide is understaffed by largely unqualified personnel who are asked to perform duties that are unarguably beyond their abilities to adequately perform.

Our courts are swamped with frivolous beefs that should be dealt with outside the justice system, and only the most egregious cases are adjudicated in the municipal courts.

Until this happens, we are going to see our frayed and tattered justice system get more frayed and more tattered, and the mobs at our doors will start to turn ugly.  Once these mobs start creeping outwards from their mostly urban confinements and into suburban environs, things could get very, very ugly.


Gorges Smythe said...

My county and city and state require an associate degree in law enforcement to get on. I don't know about other cities and counties within the state. Still, I can't see that it helps much. I think the basic problem is the same with cops as with politicians; those who most desire power are the least deserving of having it. Still, your idea MIGHT improve things.

Fredd said...


Sure, some parts of the country have higher standards than others. But if what I hear about West Virginia is true, you would need smarter cops to outsmart those moonshiners.

I've watched a few episodes of Moonshiners, and that Tickle is one sharp fellow, for a criminal.

And I am probably listening to the wrong folks about West Virginia. I heard that the highest compliment you can pay to a gal from West Virginia is 'Say, there good lookin', nice TOOTH.'

Or is that Oklahoma....

Just kidding, Gorges. But in all earnesty, my idea would solve quite a bit of this crap going on today. Even an associates degree would be a big leap forward in qualifying some of these precincts.

And I have no patience with power hungry cops. They are the worst. And should be screened out, which would be easy enough.

Ed Bonderenka said...

Four year degree?
You want to turn them into America hating liberals?
Stronger police academy,credit for miltary police courses, some other stuff I'm too lazy to come up with.
Your argument on the legal system is strong.
We used to forbid tort lawyers from advertising their services.
That was the start of the slide.

Fredd said...

Ed: you have a point about most four year institutions being liberal toilets.

Even so, consider this: the raging liberal institutions such as UCLA, U. of Washington and U. of Oregon (I am a Pac 12 guy) have ROTC programs for military officers. They pump out most of the officer rank in the military today.

Those kids still get degrees, are subsequently commissioned and serve well in the armed services. They are demonstrably not America hating liberals.

Stronger police academy: perhaps if you turned these academies into accredited four year programs, then fine. Anything less wont get the job done.

Euripides said...

The problem is one of ignorance, especially among the "educated." There's a great book called Unlearning Liberty by Greg Lukianoff (a Dem, by the way) that rips modern education up one side and down the other for not teaching students critical thinking skills in high school, and on into college.

By the way, all the police and detectives that I know personally are also college graduates. They are smart and aggressive in fighting crime in our fair city.

Fredd said...


I know only a few policemen personally, and neither are college graduates, but good people. Anecdotal tallies are not really pertinent here.

Of the hundreds of thousands of cops throughout the country, (millions of cops?) I would hazzard a guess that perhaps 10% - tops - have college degrees.

If, like 100% of public school kindergarten teachers have college degrees, ALL cops, or at least all cops that deal with the public while armed and/or are authorized use of deadly force, had college degrees, we wouldn't debating the status of our police force.

I just know this to be the truth. I just know it, Rip.

Kid said...

Fredd, Excellent write up.

The only thing I take issues with is the college degree I would argue that police officers attend a college for police officers, and those courses always reinforce the individual rights of the citizens along with any training for using force, as that will always be needed.

Let's remember that obama is a "college graduate". would you give him a gun and turn him loose? ;-)
Cheap shot maybe.

Then we have to wonder who wants to be a cop. They don't make that much until they start getting on the take. Who is going to go through all that for a starting salary of 45k? I'm guessing on the number.

I say we get rid of most of the cops. They spend 99% of their time on domestic disputes and traffic tickets, and go back to the Wild Wild West. It was a lot more peaceful when everyone figured everyone was armed.
Those that don't arm themselves will remove themselves from society and post haste and that's a plus.

Ed Bonderenka said...

" Anecdotal tallies are not really pertinent here."

"Of the hundreds of thousands of cops throughout the country, (millions of cops?) I would hazzard a guess that perhaps 10% - tops - have college degrees."


Fredd said...

Ed: I bet that number is pretty close. If you don't require one for the job, you're not going to get a lot of people with them.

What's your number? And I stick with my discounting anectdotal evidence. Useless.

Fredd said...

Kid: you are hit and miss on your points here:

1. Nobody wants to work for $45K annually with a college degree. To a certain extent, true. So, we need to jack up the starting salary to attract quality candidates. Goes with the premise that we need a higher quality police force. Currently, we are trying to police our streets on the cheap, and we see what we get.

2. Obama has a college degree. I don't buy that, since he won't release his transcripts. The guy is a professional liar, and I need to see proof of everything he claims. Even then, his people (whoever they are) probably bribed the registrars.

3. College for cops. I would agree with your cop college only if it measures up to an equivalent of a Bachelors in criminal justice. And why will nobody answer my question: why do we require public school kindergarten teachers to have a BS in education before they teach our kids to finger paint, and yet we give guns to policemen, send them into situations that can take civilian lives, and only require a high school diploma. I want to know what our rationale is on that one. I really do.

4. Less cops, more guns in the hands of the rest of us. Couldn't agree more, Kid. The justice system dynamic would change somewhat, as there would be many less perps languishing in jail awaiting murder trials: they would be shot dead by their intended victims, or by others who get involved. The Wild Wild West wasn't all that wild, when you consider that only the hairiest shootouts made the history books (OK Coral, Johnson County War, etc) and seemed to color the entire period as bullets flying everywhere. That wasn't the case.

LL said...

There is a vast difference in police pay and training in the USA. In Southern California where I live a BA/BS degree is a prerequisite for employment as a police officer or probation officer.

There are a number of street cops in SoCal with master's degrees. There are a number of them with law degrees (yes, it's true). They're well paid and well trained. It doesn't mean that they won't make mistakes.

LL said...

I had served with the SEAL Teams as a commissioned officer when I went to work for the Orange County (CA) District Attorney's Office as an investigator (Peace Officer). I had a BA in accounting and a MS in mathematics from the Naval Postgraduate school. My education was on par with those of my peers. Some were more educated, some were less.

Calling ME a raging liberal because I am educated is not accurate.

Fredd said...

LL: hold on, there, Kimosabe! I don't ever recall calling you, the esteemed international jewel thief and man of mystery that you are, a raging liberal because you are educated.

As an aside, I am familiar the the Naval Postgraduate School, having been an enlisted guy in boot camp at next door Fort Ord, and then the next year at the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterrey studying Hungarian.

I would never call anyone a raging liberal because they have gobs of education. I myself have way more education than anybody should be allowed (BA from U. of Oregon, MBA from Oregon State). And I am somewhat to the right of Ghengis Khan, no liberal here.

If I inferred the "l" word on you, LL, my apologies for this aggregious mistake. I clearly know you are a right wing nut job (the term of endearment from our detractors, a badge of honor for us), just like me.

Fredd said...


Of course there are regional differences in police force requirements, as I have seen "Beverly Hills Cop" (several times).

I talk in general, large aggregate terms. My larger point is that we need as a country to raise the aggregate quality of our law enforcement personnel.

And neither of us know the exact educational composition of the 5 guys taking down Eric Garner, but my bet would be that there was not an MS in Mathematics among the lot of them.

I would wager large amounts of scratch on that assumption.

FINALLY: nobody yet has come up with a satisfactory explanation as to why we require BS degrees from people to teach our public school kindergarten kids to fingerpaint, and yet have a lesser requirements to give a badge, a gun and authorization to use lethal force to folks of lesser qualifications. If anyone can make me understand why this is, you can LL.

LL said...

Professionalizing the police takes money and the will to have an educated and competent group that has the ability to speak their mind and be heard. It also all but eliminates corruption.

And there are people in America - politicians in America - who prefer a malleable and corrupt police force.

Fredd said...

LL: 'professionalizing the police force.' Yes, this is the fix. A utopian dream on my part. Yes, sadly.

The money it would take is not something we are willing to pony up. Why we decided to pony up for all teachers to have BS degrees, and not police officers, I am still at a loss as to why one and not the other.

But that is the decision we as a free people made. And we are living with that decision every day.