Police operate under a variety of incentives—from courts, from their unions, from the law—but few of them are good.
First, police are law enforcement—their precise job description is to enforce the law. That would be fine if every law were just. But with laws on the books banning everything from raw milk to marijuana, many ordinary, decent citizens are labeled as law-breakers.
If a single mom is robbed, calls 911, and the officer shows up and finds marijuana in her house, he has a choice. He can let her go, realizing that throwing her in jail will serve neither her or her child, or he can charge her. Most decent people—and, to be fair, many law enforcement—would choose the first option.
But the law enforcement official’s job is to do the second. In many counties, issuing fewer arrests and tickets can get officers in trouble. That means that each officer has a strong incentive to crack down on "law-breakers," whether or not they’ve actually harmed anyone.
Second, police are routinely trained to view their communities as battlefields. They are told that they’re in constant danger and that violence against police is on the rise. Police trainer Glenn French, for instance, states that, “We trainers have spent the past decade trying to ingrain in our students the concept that the American police officer works a battlefield every day he patrols his sector”.
Unfortunately, French is not alone in his views. Police trainers across the country routinely tell officers that they’re in the same danger as soldiers occupying a hostile country.
The fear that such claims give officers a strong incentive to protect themselves. That in itself is a fine impulse. However, the problem comes when officers who use excessive force are not punished. Grand juries routinely refuse to indict officers who kill civilians, and police unions protect police who are clearly guilty.
This encourages in police a shoot-first policy: they are trained to see everyone as a possible police killer, and at the same time realize that if they engage ordinary civilians with force, they won’t be punished.
This isn’t to say that all police behave this way, by any stretch. But incentives matter, even if they aren’t the sole determinant of behavior. When police have an incentive to violence, we should expect to see the use of excessive force.
The third incentive that police face is one of power. An officer of the law has powers far above those of an ordinary citizen. He can detain people while they’re driving, and can often search their cars. If someone mouths off to him, he can beat them and probably get away with it. When dealing with a law-breaker, he can choose whether that person goes free or goes to jail.
Power corrupts, and more dangerously it’s magnetic to the corruptible. As long as police have the legal ability to bully their fellow man, the job will attract people who want to use that ability.
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Ideally, of course, police forces would screen these people out. Many probably try, and some even succeed. The problem is that too many fail.
Now, there’s one final incentive governing police: it’s an opportunity to act with heroism. To hunt down bad guys and make the world a safer place. This incentive attracts some exceptional individuals. And while some may not be comfortable with this incentive, we must acknowledge it lest we look at only one side of the equation.
But even factoring in that incentive, is it a surprise that our protection system is broken? Those in charge of protecting us too often have the wrong incentives to do so.
We need something new.
Luckily, there is something new. It's called Peacekeeper 2.0.
Peacekeeper is the world’s first alternative to 911. There are two sides to it.
First, when you download the app, you become a Peacekeeper. When someone has an emergency, they can just tap the app and an alert will go out to Peacekeepers in the area. That means that as a Peacekeeper, you can see emergencies happening around you in real time and intervene.
The other side of the equation is that if you’re in an emergency, help is as close as the nearest Peacekeeper. And Peacekeepers have the right incentives.
Peacekeepers are accountable to you, not to a bureaucracy of their union boss. Additionally, unlike police they have no incentive to be trigger-happy. As ordinary civilians, they have no special protections if they shoot a dog or another person. Instead, their incentive is to handle the emergency without violence or collateral damage.
Finally, Peacekeepers have no special power over ordinary citizens. They can’t throw you in jail or beat you without repercussions.
Instead, their incentive is to be heroes. Peacekeepers sign up to help their fellow human and only intervene in emergencies when they can aim to make the situation better.
Peacekeeper 2.0 is in active development. They’re building amazing features and creating a system that will change the world. To fund development, they’re running an Indiegogo campaign. If you’d like to see a protection system with the right incentives, contribute today.