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DF! Masthead

Unsubscribing from the Police and Courts

Thomas Spooner

Anyone wishing to reduce or eliminate her reliance on government has a fight ahead of her. Government is, of course, coercive in nature; it won't want to turn you loose. Many people probably see this fact best illustrated in taxation. But that is only a part of the story. Government can tax you because it already holds you in thrall. Machiavelli wrote that gold might not always get you good soldiers, but good soldiers could always get you gold. Such is the role of the police and courts in America. So if you plan to unsubscribe from government, these two intertwined functions are a good starting point.

First, you simply don't call the cops, and you don't seek action from the courts. Easily said, less easily done. But not impossible. Still, I'm not advising you to implement any particular procedure. I'm merely showing you possibilities that you might wish to consider. Talk to your attorney about these things.


Inasmuch as the police might actually serve you in any manner, their role is to provide security and/or defense. One obvious problem with this is that the police aren't around you 24 hours a day. There aren't enough cops to provide constant personal protection for every individual; frankly, the idea of having that many police officers scares the heck out of me. But there is someone who is there all the time: You.

Forget the old saying; the best defense is self defense. Start by protecting yourself. You could do this by fortifying your home and never coming out. But even with my hermitic tendencies, that's a bit extreme for me. Besides, that isn't really defense; it's surrendering the world to the few real bad guys.

Instead, consider what you need to face the world, and to deal with the occasional inevitable goblin. Realistically consider the risks you might face. Then evaluate yourself: What forms of defense are you capable of, both mentally and physically? Some folks have suggested carrying small amounts of disposable money to be surrendered to a robber so he'll go away. Personally, I see that as rather like feeding the bears in the woods: Seems harmless enough, but the bears get into the habit of shaking you down. Better to discourage them.

And nothing discourages a would-be goblin like the knowledge that his intended victim is armed. Speaking as an ex-cop, I've heard it straight from assorted felons: 10 out of 10 muggers prefer unarmed targets.

If you opt for this route, decide what level of force you can be comfortable with, and arm yourself accordingly. If you know you can't kill, consider pepper (OC: oleoresin capsicum) spray. One person I know prefers to have a variety of options for different threats; he has been known to equip himself with OC spray, a knife, a stun gun, and a firearm. And he has a ballistic vest. Different strokes for different folks. Decide what suits you. Whatever you decide on, learn to use it properly. Practice regularly.

Once you've got yourself covered, protect your home. More than likely, you don't need to turn your home into a post-apocalypse fortress. Again, consider the threats you might face, and devise appropriate counters. I once lived in a small town where it wasn't even necessary to close the windows and lock the door when going out. Pleasant place. But where I currently live, I lock the door when I go to check my mailbox.

Look at your neighborhood, crime rates, and what you want to protect (yourself and your possessions). Decide what it's going to take to protect your home adequately. Exterior lighting. Locks. Alarms. Whatever. If you find yourself seriously considering a remotely monitored alarm system, reinforced shutters, steel door and frames, dog... seriously consider moving instead. If you need all that to feel safe, you're either paranoid, living in a war zone, or you're a politician.

Or you can go to the next level.

If your neighborhood is bad enough that you really need to fortify your home, your neighbors have likely noted that fact independently. So rather than spending all that money fixing up your house, talk to your neighbors about fixing up the neighborhood. This can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.

Neighborhood Watch: You wouldn't know it from my mother's neighborhood, but this can actually work. If you work at it. Posting silly signs isn't enough. You have to get out and get to know your neighbors. You have to coordinate with them, because watching through the windows of your house doesn't hack it. People need to be outside, actively noting what's happening. Would-be burglars really hate it when they think they're being watched.

Of course, watching is only half the game. What happens when you do spot suspicious activity? Surely you aren't going to call the cops? (Or why are you even reading this?) Judgment call time. If you've seen a stranger walking around, taking a strong interest in houses, let him know you're aware of him; it can be as simple as saying hello, maybe even striking up a conversation. If he's a burglar casing the block, you'll probably convince him to try some place with fewer eyes. But who knows; he might just be a nice guy admiring the architecture and your landscaping. Maybe you'll make a new friend.

But if you've spied someone furtively prying at your next door neighbor's side window, be careful. A shouted inquiry from the street might be enough to scare him off. Or you might feel more direct action is called for. Be careful: Interrupting a criminal at work can be hazardous to your health. Cops know this. That's why they prefer to arrive well after any crime has been committed. In one southern US city, a call to the police with any reference to a firearm or shots fired was guaranteed to delay the law's arrival by a minimum of 30 minutes. If they showed at all.

Folks on watch patrol should work in pairs. If you encounter a crime in progress, inform your neighbors (this can be accomplished through a pre-planned notification tree). Brace the culprit in strength. Present him with a situation in which it is clearly in his best interest not to react violently.

Security Guards: If a basic neighborhood watch program isn't quite good enough, or if you and your neighbors can afford it (hey, several of you were considering spending thousands of FRNs each fortifying your houses, right?), consider hiring a security guard or two to supplement your watch. Perhaps you even have a neighbor with such training who would be interested in doing it as a part time, paid job. I've done such work myself, on occasion, and probably will again.

Whether you hire individual guards yourselves, or contract with a company such as Pinkertons, keep a few things in mind. You aren't protecting a military base or bank. This neighborhood is your home. You want it to be a pleasant place. So...

Okay. You, your neighborhood watch, or your security guard has caught someone up to no good. Now what? Do you turn him over to the police?

Why encourage 'em? The cops aren't the injured party; leave them out of it. Besides, these days, the cops are liable to confiscate your property themselves as "evidence", or even arrest you for having defended yourself. Sad days indeed. But let's look at some options. The whole point of protecting yourself should be to avoid loss, to be compensated for any loss that does occur, and to keep it from happening again. I can't see any practical reason why that should be a police monopoly. In fact, at best, government authorities only address the last item, by locking up convicted criminals. Compensation is a civil matter. So why not streamline the process by treating it all as a civil matter?

You've caught a burglar. Photograph him. Take pictures of his tools, the crime scene, and anything else that strikes your fancy. Gather evidence. Shake him down for ID. Get his fingerprints. Take any weapons and money he might have as bond (you'll see).

Now, offer him binding arbitration (I'll discuss this later). Point out that he can agree to this out-of-court civil procedure (advantages: he doesn't get a record and doesn't go to prison), or you turn him and all evidence over to the cops. I suspect he'll agree.

Whazzat? Someone says I'm being rather naive; that he'll never actually show up for an arbitration hearing? Quite possibly not. But a good many suspects released on bail never bother with their "official" court dates either. And unlike the old fashioned method in which the cops and courts hold all the evidence, you can do something about it.

The obvious answer would be to hand everything over to the cops, of course; but that sort of defeats the purpose of everything up to this point. Instead, scan a picture of your absent burglar into your computer and make up a "wanted" poster. You needn't post a reward for his capture; that isn't really the point. ID him, state his crime, and point out that he failed to appear at a mutually agreed to arbitration hearing. Wonder in print if people would really want to trust this guy. Now take the flyer to your local print shop and run off a few hundred copies. Pay a couple of neighborhood kids to plaster the town with them. You might even consider renting a billboard. And far be it from me to suggest spamming people's e-mail accounts with the data...

Sounds expensive? Doesn't have to be. And consider the thousands you didn't have to spend on the reinforced concrete walls for your house. Perhaps you and some of your neighbors pooled some of that cash in a community fund just for such occasions. If you take bond from him, that should certainly go into such a pool.

It's possible that you might have injured your uninvited guest slightly in the process of spoiling his redistribution scheme. Basically, you would handle this in the same manner as above, with a little extra. If he's conscious enough to agree to arbitration, all you need to add is calling the ambulance. Call a transport service directly, not 911. If they need a name, give the perp's; he's the one in need of help, not you. Let him get the bill.

If he's unconscious, arrange transport per above. Have papers laying out the arbitration/cops&court options delivered to him at the hospital. Proceed as before.

Note: Particularly if the burglar was shot, the hospital is likely to notify the police. If they want to talk to you, don't. Look at them blankly and keep your mouth shut. Don't even give your name. Nothing. Nada. If they arrest you, continue this policy of silence ("You have the to right to remain silent. Anything you say will be used against you..."). When you can, call your lawyer (who should already be familiar with your way of dealing with criminals).

But what if you've killed the guy? So far as I know, in all US jurisdictions, it is a crime not to report a death. Killing someone, even in self defense, is often treated as a crime. Think real hard about what you should do in such an instance. Talk to your attorney in advance, too.

So you've got a dead burglar oozing O-positive into your living room carpet. Now what? This could be the real acid test of your dedication to Unsubscribing from the police. If you decide to call the police, and give them all the evidence you gathered, I'm not going to blame you.

But nor would I blame you if you donned latex gloves, stripped the body of any ID, wrapped it up in Hefty bags, and dumped it in a river somewhere. If you go that route, I hope you'll remember to destroy any physical evidence, but keep electronic copies of everything... thoroughly encrypted. You do have PGP, right?

Or you may wish to try a more civilized option. You could call an ambulance for transport, just as you might for an injured burglar. Even a goblin burglar could have a mother who might worry for years if her son simply vanished. But be prepared for the same (but intensified) difficulties with the cops.

This would be a damned tough call. I've never had to make it myself. Naturally, I rather hope that I never have to. If you are gulching, the complete unsubscribing path is already open to you. If you live in the suburbs, and banded together with your neighbors in a watch... Know your neighbors. If you choose not to involve the police, you have to trust your neighbors to abide by that choice. And they have to trust you in the same way, should they ever be faced with that dead burglar in their own homes.

If the cops come looking for you

Of course, all this assumes situations in which you have the option of calling the police. But what happens when someone else calls the cops on you, or the uniformed minions otherwise choose to impose upon you?

In general, the same tip offered above still applies: Don't talk to the cops. Also, don't invite them into your home, and don't allow them to invite themselves. Even if you weren't unsubscribing, police have no right to enter your home without a warrant; although the courts have allowed warrantless entry to prevent an eminent, serious crime (never mind the BATF; we're talking about cops, not organized crime thugs). But once you've allowed an officer into your home, anything that he spots which he doesn't like becomes admissible evidence against you. Avoid this hassle from the start.

If the police have shown up regarding a civil matter, perhaps a disturbing the peace complaint or are serving papers, shut up, let them do their business, and let them leave. Then take up the matter with the complainant (or whoever is suing you, etc.) directly. Offer arbitration. In short, ignore the cops and settle the matter privately.

Or perhaps you've been pulled over for speeding. Shut up. Don't argue. Don't plead. Too many cops working traffic like it for the power trip they experience during a stop. Don't play to their fantasy. When he gives you the ticket, take it. If you're told to sign anything, read the damned thing first. In some jurisdictions, signing the ticket is an admission of guilt. Other areas have different signature lines; one for admitting guilt, one for simply acknowledging receipt of the ticket. Then take the ticket home and use it to start your woodstove.

Traffic tickets have nothing to do with protection, except in the sense of a protection racket. If your driving was creating an actual danger, the cop could have pulled you in on a felony. A simple ticket says you merely met a specious threshold rendering you subject to an additional tax. It's a government-approved shakedown.

If the police are going arrest you, see above. Shut up. As for resisting arrest: Consider carefully. Quite a few cops have no qualms about using deadly force against resistors (or even when the arrestee isn't resisting; remember the young woman in Riverside, California? Or the more recent Diallo case? Yes, I know the cops got off; don't get me started.). Is it worth it? And is it worth risking your family? And if it is worth the risk, can it be accomplished?

Even small towns often have police departments with a dozen or two officers. On your own, you are outnumbered. And in a large city, you could be up against a veritable army. For all of us, there must come a time to make a stand; but ask yourself if this is really that time. Depending why you are being arrested, it may be better to wait for bail.

If you decide that it is time to take a stand, brace yourself. In such a situation, you will, as likely as not, have some advance notice. Arrange for lots of witnesses. Videotape the encounter. Heck, set up a webcam and broadcast it. And make sure the cops know to smile for the camera.

If it's worth the stand, hopefully your neighbors will know it, too. And will support you. Again, it's extremely important that you and your neighbors know where you stand with each other.


I said that the first step in unsubscribing from the courts was to simply not seek action from them. Instead, use arbitration.

Arbitration should be fairly familiar to most of us. If you're in a union, there's a good chance you've seen or participated in arbitration in a labor dispute. If you've ever argued with one friend, then turned to another and said, "Joe, would you settle this for us?" you've participated in arbitration. In short, arbitration is merely a neutral party (or parties), mutually agreed to by the disputing parties, who evaluates the merits of each position and decides how to settle the issue. Arbitration may be binding or nonbinding. If binding, then all disputing parties agree in advance to abide by the arbitrator's decision. In nonbinding arbitration, the decision is advisory in nature.

Theoretically, in civil suits, the courts (particularly the judges) act as arbitrators in binding arbitration. There are problems with the system though. Government is commonly one party to a civil suit. So a judge, a representative of government, can hardly be neutral. Nor does a private individual have much (if any) choice over the selection of his judge. Worse yet, people who aren't even party to the dispute have to pay for the whole process.

Given these facts, it's clear that arbitration is a more effective, efficient way to settle disputes than the courts: You have a say in the selection of your judge, you only pay for a hearing when you want a hearing for yourself, and given the usual clogged court docket, you can get a much faster hearing. Why would anyone ever want to sue someone else in court?

So be smart; don't.

Unfortunately, other people might not see it that way. You might face a lawsuit in court. It might even be the government suing you. What to do...

You've been served with papers. Someone is suing you, probably frivolously for big bucks. So don't go to court. Instead, make a public offer to settle out of court through binding arbitration. Point out all the advantages arbitration holds over the court system. Mention that you'll be saving taxpayers money.

If the other person accepts, publicly thank him. If he refuses arbitration... Remember what you did to the theoretical burglar who didn't show up for arbitration? Publicize. Handbills, billboards, spam, radio ads, whatever. Have fun. Ridicule his choice. Make people wonder why an offer of arbitration was unacceptable. Does he already have the judge in his pocket (likely, if it's the government suing you)? Does he expect to win on a irrelevant technicality rather than actual merits? Does he fear that you'll select an arbitrator with training in the field in which the dispute lays, rather than a judge who wouldn't know a microchip from a microscope, whom he could baffle with bullshit?

Make people wonder why they should trust this guy. Make them wonder if they really want to buy anything from, or sell anything to, a guy who'd rather waste their tax dollars on an expensive lawsuit over a private matter than pay for a private, efficient arbitration. Make them doubt his motives, in the suit and in anything else he does.

All sounds rather radical, doesn't it? Sort of thing that'll never fly. Except that it already has. None of this do-it-yourself defense and dispute settling is new. During the westward expansion of the US in the 19th century, the pioneers were, pretty much by definition (and often by intention), moving ahead of government. Whole towns sprang up before before "Territories" were declared by the federal government. In the intervening time, the settlers did for themselves when it came to defense and law. Before federal marshals moved into a region (and after, as well), a "sheriff" was typically hired by a "concerned citizens" group to police their town. They picked a man themselves, and paid him. They didn't bother waiting for the dubious protection and blessing of a nonexistent-at-that-time state. Nor did they hold disputes in limbo for years, waiting for the feds to get around to appointing a circuit court judge.

If it worked for those pioneers, it can work for us today. We've only recently fallen into a habit of letting government take over roles we once handled well enough ourselves.

Once we've rid ourselves of the habit of unnecessary government, I expect that the process will evolve. We can already hire private security officers, private detectives, and private arbitrators. I envision that trend continuing to the point at which entire miniature free-enterprise "justice systems" come into being. The seeds exist in today's bailbond companies. Eventually, they may well find it more profitable to arrange the meting of swift justice via arbitration than to forfeit a bond when someone jumps bail to avoid prison.

Civil rights groups might also get into the act, to ensure that everyone, including flat broke accused suspects, get a fair hearing. They might well resemble L. Neil Smith's Personal Rights Protection Group (from The Nagasaki Vector): "sort of an ACLU with guns."

There are free enterprise alternatives to every valid function performed by the police and courts. Self defense equipment and training for individuals, home security systems, private security firms, private investigators, commercial forensics labs, bailbond companies, and independent arbitrators all can meet any honest requirement for protection and "justice" without the need for a system that attracts thugs and corrupt political appointees, and runs on monies coerced from otherwise uninvolved taxpayers.

Individuals taking responsibility for their own protection, and groups of people voluntarily organizing and funding watches and security guards fill the protective niche officially monopolized by the police. Arbitration paid for only by those who need it can replace the courts. Modern technology and private investigators cover the investigative role of the police. Modern communications and bond help assure that an accused party will participate in the process. Clearly, there is no need of police or courts for their supposed roles of protecting the people. This would seem to leave only their other purpose: enforcers of government edicts.

(c) 2000


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