It is critically important to us, as a free society, that we have police forces to protect us, our loved ones, and our property, from those who would harm us or rob us. It follows that it also is of critical importance that our police be empowered to use reasonable force, including where warranted deadly force, to protect us from the scourge of crime.
At the same time, it is vital that we weed out those police officers with a different agenda. Thus, we have every right to condemn episodes that reveal the presence of racial bigotry in our police departments -- and to investigate reported incidents in which deadly force was used by police officers, to determine whether that force was justified under our governing legal standards and the circumstances in which the officers found themselves.
However, when it comes to telling the good cops from the bad, we have even bigger problems to worry about than racial bigotry. To appreciate this, let’s back up for a moment to consider two highly interrelated issues: why we have police, and who should control them.
The police exist to exert force where necessary. But to what end? Both bottom-up democratic republics and top-down dictatorial regimes have police officers. From a distance, they even look alike -- wearing similar uniforms, bearing similar ranks, and carrying similar weapons. But viewed up close, behind the façade, they are profoundly different. In bottom-up societies, the police exist to serve and protect the people and their freedoms by projecting power on the people’s behalf. In top-down societies, the police exist to protect the rulers’ position of authority by projecting power on the rulers’ behalf.