General Question

beautifulbobby193's avatar

Vigilantes: are they needed and can they ever be accepted?

Asked by beautifulbobby193 (1699points) December 4th, 2009 from iPhone

Do you have faith in the legal system and do you feel that law enforcement officers do enough?

Vigilantes are regularly romanticized in books, comics, movies & TV. From Batman to Dexter, these characters are often portrayed as heroes or idols.

Without dwelling too much on superheroes with superpowers, do you believe there is a place in society today for a person or group to take the law into their own hands to make the streets a safer place?

Or are such people nothing more than power trippers and thugs trying to justify a life of violence? Is it too often used as a mask for acts of terrorism?

These groups operate across the world and include freedom fighters such as the IRA (or as least the old IRA were), the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (active against whaling and fishing vessels), and many more underground groups.

Would you feel safer if the number of vigilante groups/people increased?

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13 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Vigilantes think they are above the law and they act accordingly. As soon as they violate the law (injuring, killing, deprivation of liberty, trespassing) they become criminals themselves.
While my trust in the judicial system is not absolute (false convictions, inhumane treament of suspects/prisoners), I distrust vigilantes as much as criminals .

missingbite's avatar

What we need are more part time volunteer law enforcement officers. I know a lot of great people that would volunteer their time but can’t take the time to go through the police academy. Communities should have a program to get citizens through a reduced program to help the police in minor issues so the cops can focus on more important issues.

oratio's avatar

@missingbite I had no idea of the existence of Reserve Police Officers. Most intriguing, and very american. The american phenomena of volunteer work is just so awe inspiring. As far as I know, we don’t have much of that in Europe.

missingbite's avatar

My soon to be father in law is a Reserve Police Officer. He is retired and volunteers to patrol on holidays and weekends for younger officers with children. He is a full Sheriff Deputy so he can arrest, ticket, carries a side arm and all. He loves it.

galileogirl's avatar

Vigilantes No, neighborhood watch yes. What we need most are witnesses.

beautifulbobby193's avatar

In London there are always advertisements for voluntary Community Service Officers. It’s not just America.

“A Community Service Officer (CSO), provides support in crime prevention, investigation, and response where full police powers are unnecessary and assists police officers in upholding law and order”.

This helps, but a common complaint from CSOs is that they have very little power and so are extremely limited in what they can do. Most of the time as soon as they spot trouble or have an incident reported they have to call in the actual police, without being able to do anything about it themselves.

Personally I am in favour of some types of Vigilante activity. There is far too much scum on the streets and too often the law cannot do enough to deter them.

ubersiren's avatar

I think a better checks-and-balances system is greatly needed. The law makers and law enforcers are often just as corrupt as the criminals. Without getting into it too much, I’m not exactly a fan of government, so I would be in favor of a certain vigilante influence.

I think it’s hilarious that vigilance is so revered on screen, yet so offending in real life. Yes, it’s romanticized on screen, but movie-goers love it. Who wouldn’t love to know that the red-blue blur was out there watching our backs? For FREE?

oratio's avatar

@beautifulbobby193 Community Service Officers Interesting. Not really the same though, but a good initiative.

What I referred to about the volunteer work in America is more than that. There seems to be a whole other culture of volunteer work there, and organisations like Up with People and Power of Hope along side with what all the charity work does. I find it totally amazing.

I would love to have some good hearted strong vigilantes out there, but the problem is control and accountability. It’s similar to the “Good Dictator” aspect. In the manner of what @ragingloli said. They would become indistinguishable from criminals.

marinelife's avatar

Vigilantism is not the answer to anything.

I don’t think that vigilantes must be either “heroes or idols” or “power trippers and thugs trying to justify a life of violence”. There are a lot o other possible characterizations in between and not all vigilantes have the same motivations or characters.

Human beings are flawed. Just as fame or wealth often skew people’s view of themselves and destroy their value systems, power can do the same.

A police force is a necessity for a society. Even trained, sworn police officers are human and can become twisted after viewing the seamier side of life as a steady diet. The system has checks and balances in place to deal with abuses of power by law enforcement officials.

Vigilantes, on the other hand, have no uniform code of conduct, do not hold themselves accountable to the society but only to themselves, and have no checks and balances within. Once they break a law, they are crominals themselves. Motivation does not matter.

Supporting vigilantism is giving away our power as citizens to be free from coercion be other individuals.

Who wants that? Not this individual.

belakyre's avatar

Batman scares me. Good answer, no?

CMaz's avatar

Necessary evil.

J0E's avatar

If a vigilante can be even half as cool as Batman, sure. Otherwise, stay at home dude.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I suppose it would depend on the circumstances. I would vote more for activism.
But you might conclude that during the civil rights era there was some necessary vigilantism to keep safety among communities of color. Perhaps not but it seems likely.

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