by Paul Hein
by Paul Hein
Big news in St. Louis: suspension of eight police officers, with seven additional policemen facing unspecified disciplinary action. The police chief had considered firing the offenders, but in view of their generally good records, had softened his stance. Still, he termed their actions "intolerable," and reduced them in rank.
This situation arose as a result of arrests made by the officers during the World Series games in St. Louis last fall. Those arrested were charged with — maybe you'd better ask the children to leave the room — selling World Series tickets for more than they paid for them! In other words, scalping. These criminals foolishly thought that, in the case of baseball tickets, they could sell property that they had lawfully acquired, for a profit, to someone who freely and willingly entered into the exchange. It is more than a little frightening to think that such men walk the streets with impunity.
Anyway, the rascals were arrested, and the tickets seized as evidence. Now the plot thickens: the approximately thirty tickets that were seized were used by the police, or their cronies, to attend the World Series! The magnitude of the offense sets the mind reeling.
Modern technology made it possible. Notice the photo of a ticket that I used to attend a ball game last year. It is entirely intact. No longer is a portion of the ticket torn off, or the ticket itself kept by the ticket-taker. The bar code at the bottom does it all: registers that the ticket has been used, and stores that information. Thus, the police could use the tickets, and then place them in safekeeping as evidence, except that one of the individuals arrested for scalping evidently found out what the cops were doing, and ratted on them. And the bar code showed that the ticket had been used. Busted!
The circuit attorney is considering whether or not to file criminal charges against the suspended policemen. The crime would consist of stealing, or destroying, evidence. Except, as she herself has admitted, nothing was destroyed or stolen, which certainly would seem to make criminal charges unlikely, if not downright preposterous. The cops didn't even "tamper" with the evidence, unless you consider handing a ticket to a ticket-taker and then receiving it back, tampering.
The question could be asked: who was injured? Who was hurt? The only wounded parties would be the scalpers, for committing a "crime" that was a crime only by purely arbitrary designation.
So typical of government! We have laws, statutes, ordinances, etc., up to our eyeballs. A large portion of them benefits society in no obvious or important way, although they do provide revenue for the enforcers. The enforcers themselves operate under numerous regulations, which carry more weight in some circumstances than others. For instance, if the police seized a gun used in a killing, and then used it themselves, that would be a vastly more serious matter than using tickets taken from a scalper. But when caught violating a rule, even if the consequences are nil, there must be a great deal of breast-beating and official outrage, lest anyone assert that the cops don't follow their own rules.
If the police are like the rest of us, they surely realize that some rules are more important than others, and more important some times than others. Obey every jot and tittle of every rule at all times — and, perhaps, get nothing done. But this obvious fact must never be acknowledged, lest some of the people wake up and realize that much of what government does, through its varies agencies, is mere ritual, and of little importance — even if profitable.
No, every rule is important (even if it isn't) and every law must be enforced (even though it's foolish). Was this government at its worst? Not by a long shot. That would be Afghanistan, Iraq, and, soon, Iran. But bad enough. (Government at its best? There is no such thing.)
Much ado about nothing.
April 16, 2007
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