Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 501, January 11, 2009

"Complaining won't get you anywhere,
so the question really is: what are
you doing about all this?"

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Police Reform
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: the initial version of the following article was written more than a dozen years ago, and appeared, in two parts, in The Libertarian Enterprise Number 30, June 15, 1997. Those wishing to see the originals may find them at:

As desperate as the abusive police situation may be today, the warning signs were already plain, at least to me, four years before this century's "Reichstag Fire"—the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001—which gave the government the excuse it needed to turn the entire country into a prison. This article will be revised further and included in the book I'm writing with my daughter Rylla, What Libertarians Believe.

* * * * * * * *

The Problem

When you see three police cars pulled over at the side of a city street to deal with a single bicycle rider, you know there are too many cops. Every day we hear of some act of brutality carried out by federal, state, or local "law enforcement" against individuals or groups whose only crime was the exercise of their unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human rights. "Policemen" at every level of government have become, more than any mere military organization, the "standing army" hated and feared by America's Founders.

There are many reasons for this, foremost among them a failure on the part of those Founders to provide for proper enforcement of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights. Creating and enacting such a "penalty clause" should be among the highest priorities for libertarians and the Libertarian Party.

Much of today's general freedom movement (which consists of libertarians, "Constitutionalists", and even a growing number of "liberals" or "progressives") is attempting to identify the causes of America's ills. As long as the causes of a problem are addressed, there's nothing wrong with ameliorating its symptoms, as well. You may get a CAT-scan to see why you suffer from terrible headaches, but you also take an aspirin. Accordingly, I suggest the following steps -- many of which I've thought about for decades—to begin treating the symptoms by which we understand we've all begun living in a police state.

Any one of these measures (or all of them grouped together), may be pursued by concerned individuals and organizations—without regard to their political ideology—who find them interesting or useful, as conventional legislation, as constitutional or charter amendments, as initiated referenda, or as a part of settlements in lawsuits.

In the short term, what's important is to generate as much public discussion of them as possible, so the authorities will understand that, if they don't change their ways, their ways will be changed for them.

Some Answers

First, there being no provision in the United States Constitution for a national police force of any kind—and in compliance with the 9th and 10th Amendments—all federal "law enforcement" agencies must be abolished and their present and former employees subjected to legal scrutiny of their current and past activities for possible criminal behavior. As "interim" measures, these agencies and their employees will be forbidden to carry or employ weapons of any kind, and will be permitted to operate at all only under close supervision by local police.

All military weapons, military vehicles, and military aircraft presently in use by these agencies—or by local police—will be surrendered for distribution to the civilian populace who paid for them.

Independent civilian review boards will be established to insure that all federal conduct remains fully consistent with the Bill of Rights. No pleas of secrecy or "national security" will be permitted to impede their investigations. Any willful misunderstanding, for political or any other purposes, of any article of the Bill of Rights on the part of any elected or appointed official will be considered prima facie evidence of an intention to commit a crime against the Constitution.

Local Police

All police officers at state, county, and local levels of government will be required to wear uniforms on duty and be forbidden to act in a professional capacity when off duty, or wearing civilian clothing. All uniforms must bear individual name patches and badge numbers which are easily legible from a distance of fifty yards; it will be unlawful to cover or obscure them in any way. It will also be unlawful for police officers to conceal their facial features with any sort of helmet or mask, or to wear camouflaged or military-style clothing.

All vehicles employed by local police must be clearly marked and readily identifiable, with highly-visible registration numbers. With the exception of emergency medical services, agencies at every level of government will be absolutely forbidden the use of helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, or unmanned drones which, in recent years, have increasingly become instruments of state terrorism and statist oppression.

To reestablish the proper relationship between the police and the people they're supposed to serve, officers may not possess, carry, or employ any weapon that is prohibited to the civilians within their jurisdiction, nor may they carry any weapon of any kind off duty, concealed or otherwise, until the laws at every level of government forbidding civilians to do so in exactly the same manner have been repealed.

In general, so they will be dependent on the good will of armed civilians, police officers must be limited to the traditional six-shot revolver, and four-shot pump shotgun. They must be forbidden to use or carry rifles, Tasers, stunguns, or full or semiautomatic weapons of any kind.

Likewise, bullet resistant clothing and equipment—which seem only to have engendered an increasingly contemptuous disregard for the lives, property, and rights of civilians—will be strictly forbidden.

To avoid conflict of interest and prevent over-zealous enforcement of various statues and ordinances, all fines and traffic revenues will be divided equally between the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International—provided, of course, those organizations adopt a view of the Bill of Rights which is consistent from article to article.

Handcuffs or other restraining devices may not be used on anyone arrested for nonviolent crimes—especially for the purpose of a humiliating public display. Arresting officials will be held fully and individually responsible under civil and criminal law for any degree of humiliation to which arrestees later proven innocent have been subjected.

In "siege" situations (which may not be initiated by authorities merely because an individual expresses a wish to be left alone, locks himself in his home, or is known to possess weapons) authorities will be prohibited from interrupting telephone or other utilities, or from restricting free access by the media to the subjects of their operations.

Illegal activity by the police should be treated as felonies and punished.

A Newer Covenant

Individual members of the military and police must be required to prove themselves again, at regular intervals by publicly taking an oath to uphold, defend, and enforce—without reservation—every separate article of the Bill of Rights as written and intended by the Founders.

Any police officer or member of the military who refuses to obey an order which, in good faith, he or she considers to be unlawful or unconstitutional will receive executive clemency and, should the order subsequently prove to have been unlawful or unconstitutional, reinstatement, promotion, an appropriate reward, and raises in pay and benefits.

Privacy and Civil Liberties

The American people will have their privacy once again, whether the government and government-chartered corporations want them to or not.

In general, owing to a long-established pattern of abuse by police agencies and individual officers, all eavesdropping, wiretapping, internet surveillance, infrared photography, and other invasions of individual privacy—or any procedure, including taxation, that requires disclosure of private financial information—will be forbidden.

Given the clear and unmistakable injunction of the Second Amendment, possession or use of any device for the detection of personal weapons—whether by government at any level or by government-chartered corporations—will be illegal and severely punishable.

It is inappropriate for sovereign individuals to be labelled, sorted, and tracked as if they were breeding livestock or government property. Understandably, there is no provision whatever for these activities in the Constitution. Fingerprint records and other kinds of identification systems presently maintained by government or by government-chartered corporations must be destroyed and practices such as fingerprinting, voiceprinting, and retinal photography strictly forbidden.

It was a grave mistake to grant such privileges to government in the first place. Accordingly, for the foreseeable future, the Fourth Amendment must be read as if the word "unreasonable" did not appear in it.

A Personal Message

To individual members of the police and military, I say that the time for denial is over. If any of these proposed measures angers you, remember that Bill Clinton did it to you. Janet Reno did it to you. Louis Freeh did it to you. Larry Potts did it to you. Lon Horiuchi did it to you. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their minions did it to you.

And you let them do it.

Until you prove the contrary to the people you swore to protect and serve, you're no different than they are. You're the same as those who:

Firebombed and burned a neighborhood out of existence when a group of residents was accused of nothing more serious than disturbing the peace;

Assassinated a harmless old man simply to steal his valuable real estate;

Shot a little boy and his dog to death, then blew his mother's head off with a scope-sighted rifle even as she held her baby in her arms;

Illegally confined, terrorized, gassed, and machinegunned dozens of innocent men, women, and children, in the church that was their home;

Tortured, intimidated, and attempted to dispose of prisoners by denying them lawfully prescribed medication and proper medical assistance;

Threatened and confiscated evidence from independent investigators when they questioned the cover-up of an airliner crash that killed hundreds;

Viciously stomped helpless kittens to death underfoot to frighten the innocent victims of a narcotics raid carried out at the wrong address;

Kidnapped, illegally imprisoned, and tortured individuals not properly proven in a court of law to represent any kind of threat to anyone;

And committed any of the hundreds of thousands of other brutal, illegal, and unconstitutional travesties that have inexorably transformed a once free and noble civilization into a horror-filled dictatorship.

Time to Stand Down

The Cold War is over. The immensely destructive "War on Drugs" was intended from the beginning to destroy the very Constitution that you swore to uphold and defend. When it failed to produce enough of the desired results, it was replaced with the equally phony "War on Terror".

Don't let a gang of socialists, elected by the mass media and a noisy minority, use your body and mind as tools to force illegal, immoral, and alien ideas on an unwilling populace. Your one duty, your only goal must be to enforce the highest law of the land, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. Indeed, that's the only possible justification for the existence of government itself.

Don't let desk-bound, overpaid "superiors" tell you what the Bill of Rights means. It wasn't written to be obscure. Remember your oath. Don't let judges and lawyers—who only stand to benefit from the destruction of the Bill of Rights—tell you what it means, either. Do what most Americans haven't tried to do for a century: think for yourself.

Ask yourself this question: if you were one of America's Founders, and you'd just surprised the world (and yourself) by winning a war of secession against the most powerful and heavy-handed government on the planet, and the last thing in the world you wanted for yourself, for your children, or for your grandchildren was to fall beneath the heels of its jackboots again, what would you want the Bill of Rights to mean?

And if the first act, under martial law, of that powerful, heavy- handed government had been to try to take your guns away at Lexington and Concord, would you have written a Second Amendment to guarantee its "right" to own and carry weapons? Would you have written a Second Amendment that was subject to whatever government claims is "reasonable regulation"? Or would you have written the Second Amendment to forbid government from having anything to do with your guns?

Anything whatever.

I say again, it's time to end the War on Drugs. Think back: every dime ever spent on it has only made the problem worse, not better. Many decent individuals have come to believe that, from the outset, it was never meant as anything but a war against the people of the United States of America and their freedom. It's time to end it, to abolish the DEA, FBI, ATF, and every other federal agency not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, and which is for that reason alone, illegal.

Likewise, it's time to end the War on Terror and abolish those agencies—each and every one of them illegal—charged with waging it.

All hiring for these illegal agencies must cease immediately, and those individual officers who survive legal scrutiny of their past activities should be transferred to the US Marshals Service, given a new assignment—Bill of Rights enforcement—and be turned loose on politicians, bureaucrats, and judges, rather than on the American people.

In the long run, provided sufficient care is taken to avoid the election of unapologetic fascist bullies like Maricopa County Arizona's Joe Arpaio, municipal police forces and their multiple layers of bureaucratic protection should be abolished, in favor of a local sheriff's office directly accessible by and accountable to the people.

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas was recently completed and is presently looking for a literary home.

Neil is presently working on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Roswell, Texas, with Rex F. "Baloo" May.

The stunning 185-page full-color graphic-novelized version of The Probability Broach, which features the art of Scott Bieser and was published by BigHead Press has recently won a Special Prometheus Award. It may be had through the publisher, or at


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