The Strange Case Of The Libertarian Policeman

The Libertarian Horse of Troy

The Procession Of The Trojan Horse In Troy

We all know some version of the story. In Virgil’s Aeneid the Achaeans construct a giant wooden horse. The Achaeans place the horse outside the gates of Troy. The inhabitants of Troy are confused and ask the bearer of the horse, a boy named Sinon, just what exactly is going on. Sinon tells the Trojans that the Achaeans have left him behind and that the wooden horse is an offering to Minerva. The horse, Sinon says, will bring good fortune to the people of Troy if they bring it inside the gates. If they destroy the horse, however, Minerva will destroy Troy.

The Trojans bring the horse inside the gates. Then that evening, after dark, the Achaeans spill out of the belly of the wooden horse and start killing people.

The Trojan horse is an apt political metaphor. “Libertarian” politicians, too, are no exception. The crony capitalist Koch brothers may be the epitome of the Trojan horse, dangling the lure of free markets with one hand held out while rigging the corporatist state with the other hand behind their backs. Rand Paul, a GOP politician, also whispers words of liberty while simultaneously engaging in authoritarian party politics. But is a lesser known politician, a man named David Patterson, also a Trojan horse?

You see, David Patterson is a police officer in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. In 1995 Patterson finished a B.S. in Police Administration. Patterson has worked for six different police departments in Kentucky. And Patterson has specialized in apprehending people for victimless crimes: according to his own campaign website he has “multiple awards for impaired driving apprehension.”

The Campaign Platform
Officer David Patterson

Officer David Patterson

Patterson’s own platform, which you should read, is vague and nonspecific. Most political platforms are phrased in such a way that they espouse goals most people agree with. No bailouts and tax reform – issues now embraced by Republican and Democratic politicians alike. Immigration reform, similarly, is a bipartisan issue. And at this point allowing farmers to grow hemp is not a controversial position.

When I visited Patterson’s campaign website it felt like the empty, bland promises of a party politician. In short, it did little to inspire trust. If a politician says, “I would end the drug war,” for example, this can mean anything. Does he mean the full legalization of all drugs, or the gradual transition of “soft” drugs such as marijuana to a highly regulated and taxed market? Or does it mean keeping certain drugs illegal, yet simply ending the current policies of enforcement? Politicians have said they wanted to “end the drug war” before. Few have stuck by that position when pressed. Many mean something very different by that phrase. Ron Paul, to his credit, famously said that he would favor the legalization of vices such as heroin and prostitution. Rand Paul, despite having said he opposed the drug war in the past, backtracked and reassured evangelicals that he would not end the drug war.

The Facebook Platform

I decided to have a look at Patterson’s Facebook. I was surprised. I expected more intangible political obfuscations. That is, I expected it to resemble the heavily sanitized Facebook of party politicians or Patterson’s own campaign website. Instead, Patterson seemed to be fairly candid. And despite his long career as a police officer Patterson seemed to have a genuine anti-authoritarian streak.

Patterson’s Facebook was full of libertarian memes and images. Many had strong anti-state, even anarchist, implications. He was calling for the full abolition of the NSA. He said taxation is theft. He quoted Murray Rothbard. That alone put him outside of the Koch and Rand Paul category.

Patterson NSA Abolition

 

And then it hit me. Patterson was either lying, another political Trojan horse attempting to court anti-authoritarians, or the words he was reading meant something very different to him than they did to me. This was the only way I could reconcile his behavior — his career as a police enforcer — with his political sentiments.

For example, take this image that Patterson shared:

David Patterson Democracy Meme

I don’t know how Patterson interprets this, but, “if John told you that you had to obey him or he would violate you” describes the role of law enforcement. It is only through illegitimate threats of force that individuals are made to comply with unjust laws. And yet Patterson is one of the agents of enforcement. How, in his mind, does he reconcile his own career with this type of rhetoric? Does Patterson not see that he is John in this image? His choice of career makes him John every single day.

Patterson, however, is not unaware of this contradiction. If you’ve already asked yourself just how a libertarian can be a cop, well, he has an answer for you (sort of):

David Patterson on Being A Libertarian Cop

You may have noticed two things: he did not answer the question and he has only been a libertarian a very short period of time. Neither “I have been a ‘cop’ for almost eighteen years” nor his statement on the “many different duties” of a police officer get at the heart of the issue. This may be because it is impossible to reconcile a career that mandates acts of aggression with adherence to the nonaggression principle.

It all breaks down here. I do believe that Patterson believes some version of the things that he says. I believe that he agrees with his interpretation of the memes that make his Facebook look like Reddit’s /r/LibertarianMeme. He is not being intentionally dishonest. Patterson is stuck in the position of an individual who halfway knows that his behavior is wrong, but is not willing or able to change it. This is the precariously defensive position shared by both police officers and politicians. This position creates cognitive dissonance. And cognitive dissonance breeds rationalization.

Here’s a rationalization that may be familiar to anybody who has spent time with law enforcement:

David Patterson On CopBlock

This might have been a great opportunity for Patterson to distinguish himself from mainstream law enforcement and politicians. Instead of playing the “cop hate” card, oft used to by police officers to gloss over why people dislike the police, Patterson might have used his unique experience as a law enforcement officer to address the issue. The individuals who were the topic of this story, Jared and Amanda Miller, were both libertarians who had libertarian rationales for what they did. This makes the event a particularly relevant issue for a politician who is also a police officer, who also claims to be a libertarian, to address. And by address I mean explain with more than a hand-wave and dismissive utterance of “anti-cop” or “hate” to describe the thousands of people who commented on the CopBlock article in question.

Patterson also seems self-unaware in some moments. While he thanks Americans on Veterans Day he overlooks that this holiday is one form of American propaganda that perpetuates a culture of warrior worship and support for foreign intervention. Many libertarians are tired of such prostrations and see them as culturally harmful. Patterson’s campaign boast of awards in “impaired driving apprehension” seems a faux pas that ignores the the libertarian rejection of victimless crimes as well as Kentucky’s own draconian DUI policies, including mandatory minimum sentences, multi-year sentences, felony DUIs, and sobriety checkpoints.

Should You Vote For David Patterson?

Patterson wants you to vote. All politicians want you to vote for them. Patterson’s Facebook is full of testimonials by and anecdotes of people who say they will vote for him. One image macro calls non-voting “surrender” and another depicts the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant throwing feces at one another. There is no critical analysis of voting itself, which also adds to the sense of self-unawareness surrounding Patterson.

That said, if you live in Kentucky and you plan to vote then Patterson is as good as anyone. That is as far as I can endorse him, because that also means that he is as bad as anyone. The trimmings of the Libertarian Party don’t turn an individual who seeks an authoritarian position of power — particularly not one who is already in an authoritarian role using violence to enforce unjust laws — into a libertarian. Anyone who expects liberty to spring forth from a police officer elected to the United States Senate is more misled than the Trojans were when they accepted the Achaean offering inside the walls.

As a final thought, I leave you with this from Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience:

All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men.

We Need More Angry Grandpas (Justice for Eric Garner)

We need more people like Angry Grandpa. Most of us have heard the story of Eric Garner, the man who was choked to death by individuals in the New York Police Department after breaking up a fight. Maybe it’s time to start taking the Angry Grandpa approach in how we respond to acts of violence committed by the police.

Smash Pacifism Zine

warrior-thunderbird-logo

“The liberal is so preoccupied with stopping confrontation that he usually finds himself defending and calling for law and order, the law and order of the oppressor. Confrontation would disrupt the smooth functioning of the society and so the politics of the liberal leads him into a position where he finds himself politically aligned with the oppressor rather than with the oppressed.” Stokely Speaks, 170.

“Today, there are many well intentioned people who think they know the history of Gandhi and King. They assume that nonviolence won the struggle for Indian independence, and that Blacks in the US are equal citizens because of the nonviolent protests of the 1950s.

“Pacifist ideologues promote this version of history because it reinforces their ideology of nonviolence, and therefore their control over social movements, based on the alleged moral, political, and tactical superiority of nonviolence as a form of struggle.

“The state and ruling class promote this version of history because they prefer to see pacifist movements, which can be seen in the official celebrations of Gandhi (in India) and King (in the US). They prefer pacifist movements because they are reformist by nature, offer greater opportunities for collaboration and co-optation, and are more easily controlled.”

From the introduction of Smash Pacifism: A Critical Analysis of Gandhi and King, by Zig Zag from Warrior Publications.

Read the full thing in PDF:

Smash Pacifism: A Critical Analysis of Gandhi and King

Police Caught on Camera: “The only thing I’m going to do is shoot it. I do not like dogs.”

Police officers David Jacquemain and Jeremy Moskwa of the St. Clair Shores Police Department, as well as Animal Control Officer Tom Massey, have been named in a lawsuit alleging that they shot a dog named Lexie fifteen times. Before even approaching the dog one of the police officers was caught on his own dash camera saying: “The only thing I’m going to do is shoot it. I do not like dogs. I don’t do snares. I don’t do dogs. I’ll shoot the <expletive> thing” and “I’m gonna shoot it anyway.”

Jacquemain and Moskwa also told a neighbor that they planned to shoot the dog: “Hey, here is what I’m gonna tell you, if this isn’t your dog, then you don’t care if I shoot it because I’m about to. I’m very close to killing this dog, do you understand what I’m telling you right now? I will kill this dog. So if this is your damn dog, bring it in the house.”

Below in the first video is the dash camera footage. At 2:45 you can hear the officer state, “I don’t do snares, I don’t do dogs. I’ll shoot the fucking thing.” At 5:50 the police contact a neighbor and threaten to shoot the dog.

In the second video, taken by a neighbor, the dog is dragged away by Animal Control after being shot.

You might think that this dog had some type of history, but that is not the case. The police were called because the dog was barking:

Preston’s attorney, Chris Olson, said, “Police responded to a barking dog complaint saying that they were just going to shoot it anyway. Minutes later, they did exactly what they said they would do – they repeatedly shot Lexie in front of my client’s grandfather. Police claim that Lexie charged them. My client’s grandfather immediately refuted the police’s claim. Police then continued their efforts to kill Lexie by shooting her again as she hid in the bushes posing no threat to them. Lexie was alive when she then walked to the animal control van. The necropsy shows that Lexie was shot several more times after she was put into the animal control van. It looks like someone used her for target practice while she was in animal control custody.

Yet another reason to never call the police.

The Elephant In The Room: Why Do People Hate The Police?

The police car Lawrence Campbell opened fire on. Campbell and one police officer were killed.

The police car Lawrence Campbell opened fire on. Campbell and one police officer were killed.

The Question Never Asked

The question of motives is one unasked to the point that its very absence is conspicuous. This is most evident in crimes involving law enforcement. When an individual attacks the police our first instinct should be to ask what their problem with the police was. This is the approach we take with all other crimes. If an individual kills his or her family, for example, we don’t hesitate to explore the motives. The exploration of motives typically includes the relationship the victimizer had with his or her victims. There is no hesitation in laying out family issues such as domestic abuse, infidelity, financial problems, mental illness or any other factors however remotely related they may be. The motives are not taken to justify, but to explain.

Yet, when it is the police who are targets the exploration of motives is simply not there. If a motive is sought it often sidesteps the critical question: why the police? Any attempt to raise this question is not met with impartiality, balance or a journalistic desire to explore the full story. Instead, it is quickly dismissed as “offensive.” In some cases to even raise the specter of this question is to incur the ire of police unions.

Below are three cases from this July. John Huggins is accused of planning to assassinate police officers and blow up a police station, Major Davis Jr. shot a police officer in what seems to be a state of agitation and Lawrence Campbell allegedly stole a firearm and ambushed the responders. The cases all share in common the fact that police officers were the targets. They also share in common the fact that an exploration of why police officers were the targets is either absent or deliberately obfuscated.

Huggins, Davis Jr. & Campbell

In Utah a man named John Huggins was arrested for plotting to assassinate police officers and blow up a police station. His plan was thwarted by an anonymous tip, a confidential information and an undercover FBI agent. The narrative cycled throughout the mainstream media has been shallow: Huggins built an explosive device and wanted to spark an anti-government uprising. Aside from that little has been said of his motives, beliefs, goals or ideology.

The Desert News, a Utah-based news service that interviewed Huggins’ ex-wife, made an exceptional nod toward addressing Huggins’ motives. Instead of examining the rationale or political beliefs of Huggins, however, it focused on his past military career and his “fascination” with explosives. The Desert News fell short of asking why Huggins targeted police officers.

A second recent event is the shooting of Officer Perry Renn of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Renn responded to a call of shots fired. When Renn and Davis Jr. encountered one another near a Renn family cookout they got into a gunfight. Renn was killed and Davis Jr. was wounded.

Davis Jr. had a history of nonviolent crime. Davis Jr.’s father, Major Davis Sr., had died while in police custody. A controversial article from WISH-TV hit social media. WISH-TV had dared to interview Davis Jr.’s family. Davis Jr.’s mother, Pamela Moornan, said that Davis Jr. had been scarred for life both by past treatment at the hands of the IMPD and the death of his father in IMPD custody.

The short interview with Davis Jr.’s mother quickly became one of WISH-TV’s most viewed and most controversial articles. Steve Bray, News Director for WISH-TV, did damage control. Bray amended the interview with an introduction that seems to be a mixture between a disclaimer and an apology. In the amendment prayers are extended to Renn’s family, Renn is called a hero, the “Thin Blue Line” is thanked, and Bray noted that the “vast majority” of WISH-TV’s coverage of the incident still “honors the fallen officer for his service.” A link was posted to a second article allowing the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief, Rick Hite, and the Public Safety Director, Troy Riggs, to respond to the interview with Davis Jr.’s family.

A Jersey City memorial placed by the community for Lawrence Campbell

A Jersey City memorial placed by the community for Lawrence Campbell

The final event is the shooting of Officer Melvin Santiago of New Jersey. Lawrence Campbell stole a firearm from a security guard, apologized to a witness, then waited for police officers to respond. Campbell shot and killed Santiago on arrival. Campbell was also killed in the shootout.

This story quickly attracted additional attention. Angelique Campbell, the wife of Lawrence Campbell, said that she wished Lawrence had killed more cops. Angelique also said she still loved Lawrence regardless of the shooting. And Angelique questioned why an ambulance was called for the wounded officer but not for her husband, Lawrence, who was on the ground for five hours. Campbell’s neighborhood in Jersey City erected a shrine memorializing the late Campbell.

The mayor of Jersey City, Steve Fulop, called Angelique Campbell “maniacal and crazy.” Fulop ordered that the memorial be removed. The police also removed a second memorial dedicated to an unrelated man who was shot by police, Lavon King. The city’s two police unions hired a PR firm to release a statement condemning both the memorial and Angelique’s statements. Angelique was eventually compelled to issue an apology under media pressure.

A memorial placed for Lavon King, an unrelated man who was also shot by the police in jersey City.

A memorial placed for Lavon King, an unrelated man who was also shot by the police in jersey City.

An Exploration Of Motives

In revisiting the case of John Huggins we still do not know why he wanted to assassinate police officers and blow up a police station. All we know is that he wanted to spark a revolution. Yet this could apply to any number of groups. The goal of “revolution” does not mean the same thing across the board. Was he a white supremacist, a member of a far-right “Patriot” group, or a left-wing anarchist? His political motives are largely unknown.

It is an indictment of the existing media coverage that we don’t know what Huggins’ political motives were. This is because his plot was explicitly political. To fixate on his personality, as the Desert News did in its interview with his ex-wife, is nonsensical. We don’t fixate on the personality traits of Islamic extremists. Instead, we explore their political beliefs and motives regardless of if we agree with them.

We are even able to realize at this point that terrorism is caused in part by foreign military intervention. Terrorism is not solely rooted in extremist belief, but also fostered by a sense that extremist attacks are a direct response to a war that the West has declared. Regardless of the validity of this belief, that is a real motive in the minds of extremists. Why, then, would we not expect the exact same behavior domestically from individuals who feel they have been abused by the police?

The family of Major Davis Jr. gave us an insight into what may have been going through his head. Davis Jr. was himself a victim of the drug war. His father died while in police custody. Is that not enough to explain why he might decide to shoot a cop instead of submitting? No one has to agree with or approve of his motive. But to ignore the motive, to pussyfoot around it, is intellectually dishonest.

When an entire community rallies around a man who killed a police officer, as in the case of Lawrence Campbell, we have to start asking why. When Campbell’s wife says she wished that Campbell had killed more police she is not speaking alone. She is expressing a sentiment that many people in her community share. It is hard to seriously dismiss an entire neighborhood as “insane” as we do with the individual. The tactic used to marginalize the individual doesn’t work to marginalize an entire community.

Perhaps we should state the reality. Many people within the most impoverished communities in the United States of America have been the repeat victims of police officers. Almost all of these individuals have been, or know someone who has been, victimized by the police. Most victimizations involve drug crimes. And some of these victims cheer in their hearts, if not out loud, when they see a police officer get killed. They feel they are in the midst of a war. Decades of drug war rhetoric further validates this belief. We can’t be surprised, then, if they react to a dead police officer the way some Americans react to a dead insurgent in Iraq: celebration.

We don’t have to agree with how they feel, but it is intentional blindness to ignore how they feel. We don’t have to like it, but that’s the real motive.