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Friday, September 2, 2011

Liquidate Your Local Police: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

by William Norman Grigg

Mary Lee Cook, an 84-year-old resident of Oak Hill, Florida, didn't seem like the kind of person who would secretly cultivate marijuana behind her home. Yet on June 6, deputies assigned to the East Volusia County Narcotics Task Force materialized on her doorstep.

Diane Young, Chief of the Oak Hill Police Department, supposedly responding to an anonymous tip, had already visited the scene. Without notifying Cook or presenting a search warrant, Young had climbed a fence and taken photographs of the offending plants.

The deputies searched Cook's backyard and found a half-dozen dessicated pot plants. Although under what is advertised as the "law," this was sufficient evidence to justify arresting the octogenarian and seizing her property. In this case, however, the deputies destroyed the plants and dropped the charges.

It was her considerable good fortune that Cook was the mayor of Oak Hill, a town of about 1,500 people. She had inherited that position just a few weeks earlier when her immediate predecessor, Darla Lauer, resigned in disgust and frustration. The proximate cause of Lauer's dismay was Chief Young -- the same officer who had supposedly received the "tip" about Cook's secret marijuana garden, and had used illegal means to take photographs of the contraband.

Young was appointed Oak Hill Police Chief in 2010 by a 3-2 vote by the Town Commission; Cook (at the time a Commissioner) and then-Mayor Darla Lauer cast the two negative votes. Prior to being selected as chief, Young was the city's code enforcement officer -- that is, she was a uniformed pest issuing petty extortion demands (also called "citations") against local property and business owners. Young discovered her vocation for law enforcement relatively late in life, getting an associate's degree in law enforcement and attending the academy at the age of 48.

In her application to the Oak Hill Police Force in 2002, Young admitted to an extensive history of drug use, which included marijuana, cocaine, and quaaludes. None of those substances should be prohibited, of course, and Young was never arrested or prosecuted for her drug use. She insists that she was not addicted to drugs or alcohol, but the scope of her admitted activity suggests otherwise. That behavior should have disqualified Young for a position on the force -- and certainly should have been a deal-breaker for her appointment as chief. However, three members of the Town Commission were close personal friends of Young and were willing to approve her candidacy -- and to misplace her personnel file.

Once ensconced as Chief, Young immediately vindicated her critics. She certified one newly hired officer, Brandy Sutherlin, as "fit for duty" -- even though he failed a drug test immediately before being sworn in. Shortly thereafter, Sutherlin -- who was off-duty at the time -- got involved in a "road rage" incident in which he pursued another motorist on I-95 at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour while firing several shots at the fleeing vehicle.

At the time, Sutherlin's three young children were in the car with him, a fact that prompted a 9-11 dispatcher to demand repeatedly that he stand down.

Young stubbornly defended Sutherlin's actions until Henry Frederick, an independent journalist who runs the blog, publicized the 9-11 recording. This prompted Sutherlin to resign -- and then-Mayor Lauer to start pressing for Young's resignation.

Last February, Young narrowly escaped being removed as Chief when a motion placed before the Town Commission resulted in a deadlock, with Lauer and Cook voting to remove the Chief. Describing herself as "fed up with the corruption under the command of an inept chief," Lauer resigned and prepared to relocate to Alaska, where her husband had found work as an air traffic controller. Cook succeeded Lauer as Oak Hill Mayor just as the police department split open at the seams like a bloated carcass.

In late June -- shortly after Young apparently tried to set up Cook for a phony drug arrest -- Sgt. Manny Perez filed an affidavit accusing Young of ticket-fixing, sexual and ethnic harassment (such as grabbing him in intimate fashion and referring to him by such demeaning nicknames as "Mexican jumping bean"), and official corruption. Perez also claimed that after he expressed misgivings about Young's performance to a member of the City Commission, the Chief "initiated two (2) Internal Affairs investigations" against him.

Perez was accused of stealing gasoline and suspended from the force. The charge was later dismissed as "unfounded." However, as a condition of being reinstated, he was compelled to sign a waiver promising not to pursue legal action against Young and the city government. In an interview with, Perez described Young as a Machiavellian operator who ?pits officer against officer and ? gets them to do her bidding.?

Young, Perez insists, should ?never have been promoted as chief or even hired as an officer in the first place since she has admitted to more than a hundred felonies? ? meaning one hundred separate instances of cocaine use. The Oak Hill PD was a ?sinking ship,? Perez lamented, with officers being driven out by a ?coke-snorting police chief.?

On August 1, Mayor Cook finally obtained the long-pursued third vote to remove Young as Police Chief -- and as an added bonus, the Commission simply liquidated the town's entire six-member police force.

Even if we accept the unwarranted assumption that police help deter crime, we're still left with this question: Why did Oak Hill, a minuscule town in which violent crime is practically non-existent, have a police force?

While Manny Perez appears to be a conscientious individual who would make a good hire for a private security company, the department itself seemed to exist only to provide patronage jobs for the likes of Diane Young and "Gypsy Cops" such as Brandy Sutherlin -- who has been forced to leave three police departments since 2006 -- and Mike Inhken, who was hired by Oak Hill after being cashiered by the Volusia County Sheriff's Office amid charges of theft.

Almost exactly a year before Oak Hill disbanded its corruption-plagued police department, the municipal government of Maywood, California was dissolved after repeated lawsuits against its incurably thuggish police department bankrupted the city. Other small towns across the country -- such as Kilbruck, Pennsylvania; Columbus, New Mexico; Hoschton, Georgia; and Waukesha, Wisconsin -- have dismissed their police forces, usually as an austerity measure.

Police forces -- like practically everything else -- were extravagantly over-built during the late economic bubble. Liquidation is a vital part of every economic correction, and dismantling the local affiliate of the Homeland Security State is a splendid way to begin that process. This is why everyone blessed to live in a small town should take the opportunity to share the Oak Hill story with the city council, coupled with this admonition: Go ye, therefore, and do likewise.
William Norman Grigg [send him mail] publishes the Pro Libertate blog and hosts the Pro Libertate radio program.

Copyright ? 2011 William Norman Grigg

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The Traffic Guru
by Tom Vanderbilt

?When you treat people like idiots, they?ll behave like idiots.?

The idea that made Monderman, who died of cancer in January at the age of 62, most famous is that traditional traffic safety infrastructure?warning signs, traffic lights, metal railings, curbs, painted lines, speed bumps, and so on?is not only often unnecessary, but can endanger those it is meant to protect.

Monderman certainly changed the landscape in the provincial city of Drachten, with the project that, in 2001, made his name.

At the town center, in a crowded four-way intersection called the Laweiplein, Monderman removed not only the traffic lights but virtually every other traffic control.

Instead of a space cluttered with poles, lights, ?traffic islands,? and restrictive arrows, Monderman installed a radical kind of roundabout (a ?squareabout,? in his words, because it really seemed more a town square than a traditional roundabout), marked only by a raised circle of grass in the middle, several fountains, and some very discreet indicators of the direction of traffic, which were required by law.

As I watched the intricate social ballet that occurred as cars and bikes slowed to enter the circle (pedestrians were meant to cross at crosswalks placed a bit before the intersection), Monderman performed a favorite trick. He walked, backward and with eyes closed, into the Laweiplein. The traffic made its way around him.

No one honked, he wasn?t struck. Instead of a binary, mechanistic process?stop, go?the movement of traffic and pedestrians in the circle felt human and organic.

A year after the change, the results of this ?extreme makeover? were striking: Not only had congestion decreased in the intersection?buses spent less time waiting to get through, for example?but there were half as many accidents, even though total car traffic was up by a third.

Not surprisingly, these kinds of counterintuitive findings made news. But often, the reports reduced Monderman?s theories to a simple libertarian dislike for regulation of any kind.

Granted, he did occasionally hum this tune...

?When government takes over the responsibility from citizens, the citizens can?t develop their own values anymore,? he told me.

?So when you want people to develop their own values in how to cope with social interactions between people, you have to give them freedom.?


Decriminalizing Drugs in Portugal a Success, Says Report - TIME
Apr 26, 2009 ...

At the recommendation of a national commission charged with addressing Portugal's drug problem, jail time was replaced with the offer of therapy. The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is more expensive than treatment ? so why not give drug addicts health services instead?

Under Portugal's new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.
(See the world's most influential people in the 2009 TIME 100.)

The question is, does the new policy work? At the time, critics in the poor, socially conservative and largely Catholic nation said decriminalizing drug possession would open the country to "drug tourists" and exacerbate Portugal's drug problem; the country had some of the highest levels of hard-drug use in Europe.

But the recently released results of a report commissioned by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, suggest otherwise.

The paper, published by Cato in April, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

"Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success," says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. "It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does."

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