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Police Chief Rejects Zero-Tolerance Approach

Should law-enforcement departments take a zero tolerance policy toward civil disobedience?

Should any and every form of protest be stopped with force to maintain law and order?

Nashville Tennessee Police Chief Steve Anderson says no.

As a matter of fact, the response of his department to recent protests was based on safety, containment, and goodwill. Scott Shackford in Reason.com has a fine report on the story.

An Angry Complaint

Shackford mentions the Chief’s response to a letter from an angry citizen who complained about the lack of force used by the police.

Note how the chief paints a broader picture and explains to what extent his department enforces the letter of the law versus giving people a second chance. The ratio is surprisingly tilted towards leniency:

In the year 2013, our officers made over four hundred thousand vehicle stops, mostly for traffic violations. A citation was issued in only about one in six of those stops. Five of the six received warnings. This is the police exercising discretion for minor violations of the law. Few, if any, persons would argue that the police should have no discretion.

Justice and Mercy

Shouldn’t this principle be true in all of life?

How much should Justice prevail, as opposed to Mercy?

Isn’t it true that if Justice was always the first option, most of us would be dead in our boots at the first infraction?

Don’t we need a number of times to get it right?

Then again, many of us unfortunately never get it right, and make misdeeds a way of life. We stay on a path of destruction in many forms.

At that point, the long arm of the law, or some other form of cosmic or divine justice comes our way – and we cannot complain. We get what we deserve.

Merciful Underwriting

This type of moral judgment is very common in life insurance underwriting.

For example, how can an underwriter be confident that an alcoholic will stay on the wagon? From a strict point of view, someone with a history of binge drinking, ill health, and infractions of the law could be brushed off as a bad risk.

But perhaps there are factors at play that reduce the possibility of a relapse.

A healthy lifestyle, a cohesive family unit, communal involvement, and a strong support group are among the many considerations that might lead an underwriter to give an alcoholic a chance at coverage.

A zero-tolerance approach in this case might very well be the wrong approach.