Preface: This is written in the midst of George Floyd protests. In this moment I sense a tremendous energy for change. As somebody who has always put thought into what a better system might look like, but never had any influence, I thought I might propose some ideas now.
To my mind, the basis of all corruption is the ability for bad actors not to get punished. Fixing corruption requires minimizing situations where illegal and immoral acts can be performed by those in power without consequence. This much should be obvious, but I find it helpful to start from the basics.
I’d further break this down into two core opportunities. An opportunity to increase visibility of the behavior of those in power (e.g. body cams, reports on all rounds discharged, bystanders with cell phones, public record/count of all misconduct reports). And secondly an opportunity to ensure that such information is acted upon (after all, these protests are very much motivated by the reluctance to prosecute).
One of the challenges of oversight (e.g. internal affairs) is how neutral and objective will the third party be? Can they be bought-off? It seems there is something deep in our nature to pick a tribe and focus on its well-being. This urge is incompatible with being a servant of the people.
- Create an environment where colluding is unsafe. More on this soon.
- Foster a mentality that a public-servant’s tribe is the community they serve. This can be an annual oath, a pledge of allegiance, or what have you.
- Routinely create opportunities to discover illegal behaviors
Suppose every time a police officer was asked to do an illegal favor they had to register it (via a hotline) upon force of being fired. I imagine most police would still never call this hotline. Such a system isn’t adequate. But now suppose a confederate came in and proposed an illegal activity (e.g. suppose an outsider offered a bribe to an officer). Suddenly the officer is put in a situation where (s)he must either report the behavior, or risk being fired. In theory, even a willing station chief could suss out immoral recruits this way.
Or suppose a situation is manufactured where a lone officer is asked to investigate a suspicious individual with $1,000 on his person. Does it get reported?
I tried to stay abstract, as such policies apply generally to political actors as well. There are sufficient tools to root out the dishonest, if we exercise our creativity.