police officers

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.

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Criminal Justice Corruption Roundup – March 6

In the land of law enforcement, Alvin Brook, a former Mukwonago, Wisconsin police officer, was fired in 2010 for falsifying field sobriety tests. He also committed a bank robbery in 2010 with his police department issued radio and firearm. Johnny Ray Bridges, a police officer from Detroit, was hit with an assortment of charges involving a dispute where he punched and kicked a woman, as well as fired his weapon into the air. Alec Eugene Taylor, a police officer from Baltimore, strangled his girlfriend’s puppy and sent her a picture of it. The dog defecated on the carpet and Taylor lost control. Narcotics officer Julio M. Cerpa, from Jacksonville, Florida, was arrested for shoplifting a supplement from a gym. And Reginald Wilson, an officer from Whitehouse, New York, was caught with a hidden camera committing a vehicle burglary. This goes to show that police officers are not beyond committing serious, petty and/or impulsive crimes.

In the land of evidence and forensics, Stephen Palmer, a crime lab employee from Anchorage, Alaska, was charged with six felonies including tampering with physical evidence. And Richard T. Callery, the Chief Medical Examiner of Delaware, was suspended due to missing drug evidence. Callery oversees the the state drug lab in Delaware. This should make you question physical evidence on trial. Even if the science is sound, it is susceptible to human corruption. Officer Jeremy Felder, who participated in an illegal search and falsification of paperwork, was also arrested in Lakewood, New Jersey.

In the land of authority and power, Lt. Col. Joseph Morse, a leading prosecutor for sexual assault crimes in the US Army, has been suspended due to allegations that he sexually assaulted a female attorney. This follows the recent sacking of almost 600 US soldiers after a sexual assault review. William Adams, the Texas judge previously suspended for lashing his own daughter, was rejected in the Republican primary. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair admitted guilt on three charges, but will still face further charges surrounding allegations that he forced a female captain to perform oral sex on him. Sinclair could be sentenced to life in prison. And the Michigan Supreme Court will decide if Circuit Judge Bruce Morrow will face discipline for various breaches of conduct.

Following up in the courts and other legal disputes, a former inmate in Warren, Michigan, reached a settlement in a case where her hair was forcibly cut off by a Warren police officer. The officer was fired as a result of the incident. John McClave, a former police officer who was fired for driving his patrol car while drunk, is suing to have his job returned. In his lawsuit he lists additional police corruption as a reason for why his job should be returned; an officer who killed his wife and an officer who sexually assaulted another undercover agent are both still receiving benefits, so he should be allowed to have his job back. Logic, eh? And 16 retired police officers have been arrested for benefits fraud in relation to the September 11 terrorist attacks. This is an additional 16; previously 30 other firefighters and police officers were arrested in a similar investigation.

And in the land of major corruption, seven police officers — including two police chiefs — were arrested in King City, California. At the small King City Police Department, a station of only 17 people, a criminal conspiracy was uncovered. Officers were impounding cars confiscated from poor Hispanics, illegal immigrants and individuals who spoke poor English. They would sell the vehicles for a profit. Chief Bruce Miller, former chief Baldiviez, officer Mario Mottu Sr., officer Jaime Andrade, Sgt. Bobby Carrillo, and Sgt. Mark Baker were among those arrested, along with the brother of Bruce Miller.

This is not even all. We’ve also got the Galveston PD accused of Mardi Gras beatings, Texas police officers stealing signs from the homeless, the drunk Detroit police officer who tried to flee the scene of a crash, and the former police detective now in jail for obstructing a tax fraud case.