In a six-part BBC documentary Law and Disorder in Philadelphia, Louis Theroux attempts to discover why there is so much drug-related violence in certain Philadelphia neighborhoods. He rides around with police for most of the 60-minute video but near the end spends some time speaking with a police-fingered “drug lord” (without the cops around, for once).
Philly’s Finest: Questionable Policing at Best
We see Philly’s Finest running down young men just because they are armed or because they look suspicious. Open carry of firearms is legal in Pennsylvania and only requires a concealed-carry permit in Philadelphia (which requirement is of dubious legality).
“Get off the Corner”
One cop insists they can tell the difference between a law-abiding person and someone who is engaging in crime just by looking at them. We see cops violating people’s right to free assembly by insisting they “get off the corner”.
“And it just Keeps Going on and on and on”
The piece ends poignantly when Mr Theroux asks an older officer if the police are making any difference. He skirts the question, saying the police can make a difference if all levels of government work together. In other words, the officer calls for even more government presence and control over people’s lives in these troubled neighborhoods. When asked to predict the future, the officer says:
I’ll be gone, somebody will fill my shoes. You know, just like these people on the corners that are selling the drugs. They go, somebody fills their shoes. I retire, somebody will fill my shoes. And it just keeps going on and on and on.
Look into the Mindset of the Cops
While the documentary is egregiously one-sided, it does offer valuable insight into what the cops are thinking. Perhaps I should say what they’re not thinking because the piece leaves a big question mark where there is an easy and obvious explanation for the violence revolving around the illegal drugs business. Because that business is illegal! Does no one study history anymore? We need only look back to the Prohibition on Alcohol of the 1920’s to see the exact same phenomenon.
Keep it Legal Stupid (KILS)
It’s time to end the Prohibition on (Some) Drugs. No, not because we think they’re ok or condone their use. Instead, we should do it in order to rid ourselves of this endless violence in our midst.