NLPD: Non-Libertarian Police Department

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On March 31, The New Yorker published an item in its humor vertical, Shouts & Murmurs, titled "L.P.D.: Libertarian Police Department." At least 31,000 people liked it.

I can laugh along with parodies of libertarian ideology. But shouldn't a reductio ad absurdum start with a belief that the target of the satire actually holds? Tom O'Donnell proceeds as if libertarians object to the state enforcing property rights—that is to say, one of the very few state actions that virtually all libertarians find legitimate! If America's sheriffs were all summarily replaced by Libertarian Party officials selected at random, I'm sure some ridiculous things would happen. Just not any of the particular things that were described. 

That isn't to say that there weren't parts of the article that made me laugh. It got me thinking too. If the non-libertarian approach to policing* was the target instead, would you need hyperbole or reductio ad absurdum? Or could you just write down what actually happens under the officials elected by non-libertariansIt is, of course, hard to make it funny when all the horrific examples are true.

* * *

I was just finishing up my shift by having sex with a prostitute when I got a call about an opportunity for overtime. A no-knock raid was going down across town. 

"You're trying to have your salary spike this year to game the pension system, right?" my buddy told me. "Well, we're raiding a house where an informant says there's marijuana, and it's going to be awesome—we've got a $283,ooo military-grade armored SWAT truck and the kind of flash grenades that literally scared that one guy to death."

"Don't start without me," I told him. "I just have to stop by this pawn shop. It's run by some friends of mine from ATF. They paid this mentally disabled teenager $150 dollars to get a neck tattoo of a giant squid smoking a joint. Those guys are hilarious."

But when I got to the shop the guys weren't in any mood to joke around—something about having lost their guns again. That meant I had extra time to get to the raid. En route, I headed through a black and Latino neighborhood, and who did I see on the street? A teenage male who made what I would describe as a furtive movement

So I threw him against a wall and frisked him. Then I realized I'd frisked the same kid a half-dozen times before. Never found anything. About 17 years old. Looked like he was mixed race. "What am I being arrested for?" he asked me. "For being a fucking mutt," I told him. "I am going to break your fuckin' arm off right now. Then I'm going to punch you in the face." I know stop-and-frisk is controversial, but it's like Ray Kelly said: "I go to communities of color. People want more." It meant a lot to us police officers when President Obama praised him.

By the time I arrived at the site of the raid it was after dark. Inside, there were the suspects, their kids, and the family dogs. We don't like to wait for suspects of nonviolent drug crimes to leave the house, or call on the phone and ask them to come out, or knock, because what if they flush the drugs we suspect them of having down the toilet? How would we ever win the War on Drugs if we let that happen?

So we go in with overwhelming force and firepower. Kick down the door and all that. Zealousness pays off, too. Just try to find me a free country where they arrest more people

What happened at the raid? 

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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