Your Georgia Desk
From Bob Barr
The Real Tragedy of Eric Garner’s Death, and Where the Debate Should be Focused
“I’m minding my business, officer,” pleads the man on the video. “Please just leave me alone.” Minutes later the man, confronted by police for allegedly selling “loose” cigarettes, would be placed in a chokehold and wrestled to the ground, eventually dying from injuries sustained by the restraint.
The video recording of Eric Garner’s death is deeply disturbing, and has once again stoked protests and fiery debates about police tactics and racial biases. However, focusing the anger and debate on racial bias or specific actions by individual police officers, misses the broader and far more important public policy issues raised by this case: the over-criminalization of our society, and the use of the law enforcement power of the state to regulate commercial actions and raise government revenues.
Make no mistake — whether Garner was targeted because of his race and whether the officers who confronted him employed excessive or improper force, are important issues. And both should be debated and addressed within the context of civil and criminal laws and procedures.
But neither of these questions addresses the far more important issue of why we as a society have clothed police with the authority to consider it within their power to arrest someone for engaging in such a trivial act. Ultimately, it is not so much the police officers who should be the focus of this debate and of our concern; it is ourselves.
If left unanswered, the questions about over-criminalization and abuses of police power to regulate commercial activity and raise revenue, threaten to overwhelm the fundamental principle on which our nation was founded — that government exists to protect Liberty. Unfortunately, what the Garner and so many other cases have come to reflect is the warped principle that the police power of the state exists to protect government.Continue Reading..