Keene Police Lieutenant Advocates Mask Civil Disobedience

Originally published at: Keene Police Lieutenant Advocates Mask Civil Disobedience | Free Keene

Jason Short Dodges DEA Questions

Jason Short, in 2014 outside Phat Stuff DEA raid.

In the most pleasantly surprising news of the year, the Keene Sentinel has broken a story about Keene Police lieutenant Jason Short advocating mass civil disobedience regarding the city’s recently passed mask mandate. Though the Sentinel piece appears to want to shock readers with Short’s opinions, those of us who have engaged with him over more than a decade of peaceful civil disobedience activism are proud to see his evolution.

The Sentinel reveals that Short posted the following to his facebook account:

“Remember the bad guys in movies don’t know they are bad, they think they are doing the ‘right thing’ for the benefit of society. It is only when the ‘good guy’ stands up to them that they realize they are wrong. Citizens need to stand up and stop simply complying to this nonsense mandates.”

The rest of the Sentinel piece is designed to gin up outrage that a police officer dared to openly speak against the city gang’s precious mask ordinance. However, surprisingly, Keene Police chief Steven Russo actually covered for Short rather than throwing him under the bus, explaining to the reporter that it’s Short’s right to express himself as Short doesn’t lose the right to free speech just because he works for the state. Russo claims, “Lt. Short will enforce the Ordinance consistent with my guidance and in the same spirit as all of our Officers regardless of his personal feelings”, but doesn’t say what his “guidance” is. There is a good chance Russo’s “guidance” is to encourage Keene police to use discretion regarding enforcing the ordinance.

Many people, including those railing against Short online for expressing independent thoughts, simply do not understand that all police officers have discretion. Discretion is the ability for each officer to decide whether to enforce any given statute or ordinance, with few exceptions. As I understand it, generally, police officers are only obligated to enforce certain violent felonies. So, even if Russo tells Short to enforce the mask mandate, Short can still use his discretion and the worst than can be done to him is he’d likely get a stern talking-to or perhaps reassigned to the night shift.

Keene Police Officer Jason Short

Keene Police Officer Jason Short, Civil Disobedience Advocate

City mob boss Elizabeth Dragon was even approached by Sentinel reporter Caleb Symons for comment on whether Short could be disciplined, but she wisely refused to return his calls, as she probably doesn’t want to admit there’s nothing the city council can do if the police refuse to enforce their ordinance. From what I understand, Short isn’t the only police officer who feels as he does.

A decade ago, Short was the antagonist during Derrick J Freeman’s “Victimless Crime Spree“, arresting Free Keene blogger Derrick J in Central Square for open possession of cannabis. In 2014, as the DEA was raiding then-Main Street business Phat Stuff, Keene police were running cover for them and I confronted Short outside the business about his role in the situation. During the conversation, I asked him how he feels about a productive downtown business being destroyed by the DEA, and he told me, “what I feel don’t matter”. I responded that it does matter, which is why I asked him for his opinion.

Now, more than half a decade later, Short appears to have changed his tune, and for the better. He’s not only expressing his opinion about bad law publicly, he’s also taking the correct position – that the mask mandate is evil and needs to be disobeyed. That’s because good people disobey bad laws and good cops refuse to enforce them.

If Jason Short can go from bad guy to good guy, maybe there is hope. Whether or not activists like Derrick J have had a positive influence on Short over the years, kudos to Short for taking a stand.


Great news!

We need more like this!


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This is a possible example of how seeds that you plant as an activist may blossom years later, although in most cases you’ll never know for sure. People’s minds work in obscure ways. But it’s good to keep in mind that even aggressive agents of the State are not the real enemies; even if they oppose freedom in one instance today, they may support it in another tomorrow. The real enemy is authoritarianism. To my knowledge I’ve never met anyone who’s 100% authoritarian (or 100% libertarian, for that matter). We’re all fallible and human, and have the potential to change.

I think it’s good to encourage police officers, prosecutors, and others to be aware of their powers of discretion; that how they feel as individuals does matter, and they don’t just have to blindly obey orders – even if this discretion can be and sometimes is abused, getting them to see themselves as in some sense free agents is a positive step.


I read that if a police officer does not follow his academy training, he can be decertified. (Frequently Asked Questions | New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council) What constraints does that put on them? Towns with fewer than 3000 people aren’t required to have a police department from what I understand in the RSAs. If they disband, jurisdiction goes to state police which can’t cover everyone. If the goal is to have cops enforcing and obeying the NAP, is private security the best way to go, can we change police departments through voting, or do we need to change state law?

Erica Chenowith says its about capturing the “enemy’s” support… thus removing the pillars from under the govt.

I don’t have the answers, but those are great questions. I do have a few thoughts on one of them – I don’t think private security (hired by and working for specific individuals or businesses) is necessarily the best solution, but non-government public security might be.

Governments have wrongfully colonized the word “public”; something can be public in the sense of not representing any private or special interest and aiming to serve everyone equally, without operating under the aegis of a body acting as a government (making laws, etc.).

Maybe this could be something like an independent militia, with a few members of a larger body “on duty” at any given time and more or less fulfilling the role of active police, with the ability to call up their comrades from the larger militia in case of emergency. (Government military reservists, by way of example, are typically on duty one weekend a month.)

Having a larger number of people basically serving as the police force, but each of them only doing so in an active capacity on an occasional or part-time basis, could effectively decentralize power and reduce abuse. The people serving as “cops” would be used to being civilians most of the time, and that person toward whom such an occasional officer of the peace might be tempted to behave arrogantly or abusively, might be the cop next week when they themselves are a civilian, or their buddy might be!

On another point, if what you say about towns with fewer than 3000 people not being required to have police departments is correct, getting that population threshold raised, and/or allowing non-government security to take the place of government police in at least certain cases, could be worthy short- or medium-term legislative goals.


One important feature of calling the police is which cops get called. If there are abusive cops and I call 911 to my property, I am rolling the dice I will get a good result. Whereas if I can decide as a customer who serves me, that will make a big difference. To address the problem of partiality to the wealthy, paying for police insurance and having a no bribery or even no donations policy can level the playing field.

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The problems with government police are qualified immunity and other biases towards police, laws allowing aggression, laws requiring aggression, and payment by forced taxation and fines.


Recognizing that there are different types of problems or potential problems with police seems important, because some of them must be addressed in different ways than others. Here are the four you mentioned:

• laws requiring aggression
• laws allowing aggression
• payment by forced taxation and fines (this might also be termed “funding by aggression”)
• qualified immunity and other biases toward police

I would also suggest one more:

• the corrupting nature of power itself

Without addressing this fifth point, I think we could have good safeguards on all the other four yet still fail to achieve just policing. I refer readers to Davi Barker’s excellent work on authoritarian sociopathy:

Davi Barker - Authoritarian Sociopathy - Libertopia 2013 - YouTube (52 minute video clip of him speaking at Libertopia in 2013) (link with a description of his book and links to buy it)

So true and good reason why coming together with explicit agreement to live free from these oppressions is so vital, ethical communities is necessary and why so many of us Shire Society Voluntaryists are establishing such safe spaces.