What is choice or autonomy without options?

Lots of pathologies limit alternatives.  Certainly, abusive situations can do this when, for example, an abused women finds herself caught in a relationship since leaving may involve real risks to her and her children’s lives.  Some people use their anger to stop things, leaving others without reasonable alternaitives. (Thanks to KW for a recent reference that describes this dance.)  And there’s the tragic situation of borderline personality disorder sufferers, whose behavior is particularly apt to bring about the abandonment they so fear.  

We might think of violence in a neighborhood as not very analogous to individual pathologies or pathological acts, but it can have very similar effects.  If bullets whiz around your neighborhood, you really should want to go out less.  So what is the solution?  How about bringing in the armed police?  Well, see what you think of what doing that looks like in practice:

HELENA-WEST HELENA, Arkansas (AP) – Officers armed with military rifles have been stopping and questioning passers-by in a U.S. neighborhood plagued by violence that’s been under a 24-hour curfew for a week.

On Tuesday, the Helena-West Helena City Council voted 9-0 to allow police to expand that program into any area of the city, despite a warning from a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas that the police stops were unconstitutional.

Police Chief Fred Fielder said the patrols have netted 32 arrests since they began last week in a 10-block neighborhood in this small town on the banks of the Mississippi River long troubled by poverty.

The council said those living in the city want the random shootings and drug-fueled violence to stop, no matter what the cost.

“Now if somebody wants to sue us, they have an option to sue, but I’m fairly certain that a judge will see it the way the way the citizens see it here,” Mayor James Valley said. “The citizens deserve peace, that some infringement on constitutional rights is OK and we have not violated anything as far as the Constitution.”

However, such stops likely violate residents’ constitutional rights to freely assemble and protections against unreasonable police searches, said Holly Dickson, a lawyer for the ACLU of Arkansas who addressed the council at its packed Tuesday meeting. Because of that, Dickson said any convictions coming from the arrests likely would be overturned.

There is a curfew in effect, one that all evening service workers, for example, will run afowl of.

There are multiple levels at which alternatives have been lost. Removing the police would restore some, but is that a good alternative? What do you think?

(Many thanks to NG for the story.)

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