The following appeared in The Pitt News in 1999.
Photograph of a wax facsimile of Wisconsin police officer,
Contrary to expectations, my plan to privatize the American police force has received mixed reviews. Because I have won so little legislative support, I think it’s clear that my idea has been poorly explained, so let me clarity.
Public police departments just aren’t the answer to urban crime. You call 911 and the police save you from danger, but then there’s a ton of paperwork to fill out—lawyers are called and everything turns into a big, complicated mess. Plus the average American has to fund each precinct with money from his own pocket, money that’s wasted unless he himself gets attacked and has to call the police. Why should I have to pay my hard-earned cash to save some screaming gunshot victim I don’t even know?
Privatized police departments are the key to a safe environment. Several investors could build the department, hire the best and brightest police officers, and appoint themselves honorary chiefs and sergeants. When a citizen is in trouble, he telephones his preferred department, and the cops are deployed. As soon as the situation is handled—e.g. the burglar is arrested, beaten or gunned down—the citizen pays the cops directly.
Several private police departments in a single neighborhood will naturally lead to healthy competition. Especially lucrative citizens could call a few departments at the same time, thus flooding a crime scene with top-notch, armed-to-the-teeth officers, every one of them eager to solve the problem before his rivals do.
Methods of payment could vary, but a credit card would be ideal. This way a department could mingle its interests with major banks and corporations, who are—as each will attest—consistent experts and guardians of the public’s best interests. This interactions between police chief/investors and civilian CEOs would encourage warm feelings and sustain the market flow in several sectors.
Microeconomic principles also apply: Aspiring managers/sergeants with limited assets could start smaller, Mom and Pop police departments. These officers, only slightly less trained, could wander the streets, waiting for someone to get mugged so they can rush in with a baton and save the day. Poorer neighborhoods could hire independent officers from the community, paying them a fixed income—or, in the lingo of the business, “protection money.”
Extraordinarily responsible citizens could also benefit from police privatization. Suppose Al suspects his neighbor of shifty black market activity. He could visit a department of his choice, and for a small fee be officially deputized, granting him temporary powers of arrest, search and seizure, and the license to carry a firearm. The whole family could get into the action—teenagers, for example, would serve as excellent narcs and undercover agents. This would naturally promote the safe handling of guns, whose extensive use is statistically proven to cut down on crime, pollution and the federal deficit.
Should this amendment work, and I see no economic reason why it shouldn’t, then I also propose restructuring the military in a like manner. Major conglomerates could purchase cohorts and appoint hand-picked corporate generals, so when the government decides to attack foreign nations, depose Third World dictators or train Turkish torturers in violation of International Law, the president could hire a private militia (e.g. the Microsoft Air Corps). We could even take the idea overseas, providing mine-laying and assassination services to “special interest” groups worldwide. Imagine the profits a shrewd investor could reap from just an occasional civil war. What are a few thousand human lives when billions of dollars can be made?
There is, of course, a price to every plan. Such reforms might lead to corruption, monopolization, and almost random incarceration and murder. But if we’re willing to privatize health plans—which keep people alive—and Social Security—which keeps them fed—why not take the extra step? Taking risks is good business, after all.