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Government & Politics

Who's Up for Federalizing Police?

If you like the feds picking your insurance plan, you'll love its taking over your local PD.

Allyne Caan · May 7, 2015

If you like the federal government picking your insurance plan, targeting your free speech via the IRS, feeling you up at the airport and planning your kids’ lunch menu, you’ll love its taking over your local police department.

The “Reverend” Al Sharpton recently called for such a takeover, saying in reference to the Baltimore riots, “We need the Justice Department to step in and take over policing in this country. In the 20th century, they had to fight states’ rights to get the right to vote. We’re going to have to fight states’ rights in terms of closing down police cases. Police must be held accountable. I don’t think all police are bad; I don’t even think most are bad. But those that are need to be held accountable.”

And, naturally, Sharpton thinks the best way to “hold accountable” the small minority of police who abuse power is to federalize all police. The federal government has already been arming local PDs with decommissioned military equipment, so why not finish the job?

Sharpton’s idea, as frightening as it is, is hardly original. Back in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama, who was spouting out campaign promises faster than Hillary Clinton can wipe her hard drive, floated an idea for a national civilian police force, saying, “We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded.”

He eventually seemed to drop the idea, but maybe he just had to wait for a more opportune crisis.

And what better way to push a federal police force than to capitalize on Baltimore, Ferguson and New York as justification for Big Brother to step in and save the day? Indeed, less than a month after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the Justice Department announced an investigation of the Ferguson PD. In December, the DOJ announced an investigation into the death of Eric Garner in New York. And Wednesday, Baltimore Democrat Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake asked the Justice Department to launch a civil rights investigation into her city’s police department following the death of Freddie Gray — a request the Department is “actively considering” and no doubt will jump on.

The guise may be accountability, but the solution is laughable. As University of Tennessee Law Professor Glenn Reynolds points out, federal agencies hardly have a stellar record when it comes to law enforcement. There’s the Secret Service engaging in extracurricular entertainment of the whorish sort; the Drug Enforcement Agency allegedly attending sex parties — with prostitutes funded by drug cartels, no less; and the Capitol Police leaving loaded firearms unattended, including one in a bathroom found by a child. And remember that little scandal called Fast and Furious? Imagine if your local police force smuggled firearms to known drug rings in town. Yeah, that would go over well.

Yet this is just the kind of oversight and “accountability” that federalizing police would bring. Oh, and there’s the minor detail that it’s unconstitutional. The Tenth Amendment clearly states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” A federal police force is not one of the delegated powers. And we doubt this was an oversight on the part of our Founders. Of course, given Obama’s view of the Constitution as little more than an inconvenient pamphlet, this would hardly deter him.

Be prepared for the Left to issue more calls for a police takeover, using anything from isolated incidents to larger terror threats to justify it. But unless America wants its police force attaining the same stellar reputation for accountability and justice as the IRS, the NSA and the VA, we’d better be prepared to reject any attempts at a federal takeover.

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