Unbundle the police?

Yes, unbundle the police! I am interrupting Week 5 of my business law survey course to share this thought-provoking blog post titled “Why are the police in charge of road safety?” by my colleague, friend, and fellow libertarian scholar Alex Tabarrok. I, too, have always wondered why the police often act as roadside tax collectors (or worse) instead of devoting their valuable time and efforts to fighting crime. Here are some excerpts from Professor Tabarrok’s excellent post (link in the original):

It’s an unacknowledged peculiarity that police are in charge of road safety. Why should the arm of the state that investigates murder, rape, and robbery also give out traffic tickets? Traffic stops are the most common reason for contact with the police…. But why do we need armed men (mostly) to issue a traffic citation?

Don’t use a hammer if you don’t need to pound a nail. Road safety does not require a hammer. The responsibility for handing out speeding tickets and citations should be handled by a unarmed agency. Put the safety patrol in bright yellow cars and have them carry a bit of extra gasoline and jumper cables to help stranded motorists as part of their job–make road safety nice….

Defunding the police, whatever that means, is a political non-starter. But we can unbundle the police.


About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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2 Responses to Unbundle the police?

  1. Interesting points. I personally am skeptical of most safety regulations. If I am getting a ticket for going 5 mph over the speed limit is anyone really any safer? Giving credence to the assertion that traffic stops operate more as a mechanism for generating revenue than maintaining public safety.

    Hopefully delegating “road safety” functions to a separate department would realign incentives. However, what is your take on instead of government agency performing this function, contracting it to private firms? With each state having a contract with their preferred firm.

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