Sunday, April 13, 2008

ARRESTED BY REALITY. Police hassled a bunch of people for dancing at the Jefferson Memorial! Only the dancers weren't dirty hippies, they were libertarians! To the barricades leaps conservatarian Peter Suderman, who, while explaining that "I hold both police officers as people and police as an institution in pretty high esteem," wonders
What does an arresting officer in any circumstance like this possibly think he or she is going to accomplish? Give his buddies something to do for the night? Maybe he’s got a paperwork fetish? Just can’t wait to take the paddy wagon for a spin?
The easy answer is, the officers think they are accomplishing their job, in accordance with the "Broken Windows" theory:
Popularized in New York City under the Giuliani administration, “Broken Windows” calls for the police to arrest people for petty violations and to investigate suspicious people in high-crime areas. Theoretically, arrests made for petty violations will provide apprehensions of people who are wanted for crimes that are more serious.
In this case "pretty violations" can be anything -- Public Nuisance is a good one. Failure to Disperse is another. There's no end to what a good officer can come up with, especially when you talk back to him.

I don't know what Suderman thinks of Broken Windows, but he's certainly a fan of Giuliani's "toughness," which reputation was based in no small measure on his willingness to arrest practically anybody. I daresay he finds it less appealing when his buddies are on the wrong end of the nightstick. With any luck he'll remember this when the cops sweep some miscreants who can't afford iPods.

Failing that, for his own sake I hope he has at least absorbed the ancient folk wisdom that you always try to swing with a policeman/And never ring-a-ding a policeman.

UPDATE. Peter Suderman tells me: "I don't find Giuliani all that appealing a candidate; my libertarian instincts are too strong." (We all talk to each other, you know; in fact we post all this crap from the same large, industrially-lit crap farm.) His post led me another way, but I believe him. Of course now it's days later and no one will notice, demonstrating once again the educational method of the blogosphere.

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