Is Contempt for Law Enforcement Justified?
I was recently provided an article titled “Why Americans Should Reconsider Their Contempt for Today’s Police,” written by “Anonymous Cop.” This article was provided to me by a law enforcement officer I hold in high regard. He is an officer known for his Constitutional enforcement, strength, intellect, and much more. He provided the article with a question on my thoughts. I took the link, opened it up, and read it with an open mind, not entirely sure what the setup was. What follows is the rebuttal to the article itself.
NOTE: There is so much in that article that I could talk about and quite a few rebuttals I could make. However, given the spirit of the question and the article, I am forced to hit the finer points. That said, please understand that these are not meant to be blanket statements and are not directed at all LEOs. Popular vernacular is often used to make the point, and sticking with the spirit of the conversation is appreciated.
To my surprise, there were some excellent points in that article but also some highly biased points. For instance, the article starts with the position that law enforcement is “one of the most misunderstood professions in the world.” I am sure that no study can back this radical claim. Furthermore, in my opinion, if it is misunderstood, it is based on what roles law enforcement officers can take, and this misunderstanding occurs on both sides of the civilian/LEO fence. To clarify, citizens misunderstand that law enforcement officers do not have the power many think they have. At the same time, law enforcement officers seem to misunderstand the power the citizen is supposed to have.
While I agree that the topic may be complex, it is rather presumptuous (and arrogant) to say that it is the “most misunderstood.” I concede to the fact that we live in a nation where only 4% of people believe they have “under-average intelligence.” Obviously, MANY things are misunderstood. But we are also talking about an industry that officially disqualifies high-scoring applicants and prefers that their ranks are comprised of those with an average IQ. This practice has been going on for over a decade since the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld a lower court’s decision to disqualify someone from service because they were too smart. So let’s get real here. There is plenty of room for misunderstandings all the way around, and the badge does not equate to a brain.
That said, I commend the author for his semi-public claim that he gets into “many arguments with fellow officers over our enforcement of stupid laws, our inability to control crime, and especially the police unions.” More of that is needed. I also commend his semi-public claim that he supports gun rights and has saved “quite a few men from being charged with gun crimes or violent crimes when they are acting in self-defense.” Never mind the admission of selective enforcement of erroneous laws; this is where the problem starts for me.
The author goes on to say that “this may seem like common sense to most, but in the police world, liability and politics often force officers to make the simplest decisions that will require no defense on their part, often at the peril of innocent people’s freedom.”
Common sense that it happens? Sure. And while this illustrates the misunderstanding on behalf of law enforcement and reiterates the average IQ problem at hand, I could not disagree more. Sir, you have sworn an oath and uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. Just because the liability and political aspects exist does not mean it “forces” officers to do anything. Stepping on or infringing on a Constitutional Right of someone you serve remains a choice, just like your selective enforcement of the law. Are we to understand that you have just semi-publicly said that you are willing to turn your back on your oath to reduce liability or political clouds?
This officer also said that “no officer is directly trained to be a bully.” Perhaps not; I mean, I doubt there is an SOP on “How to Be a Jerk,” but Police department policies generally grant broad powers that are relatively “jerkish” and “antagonistic.” To deny this would be silly, as even the most integrity-driven cops can concede. For example, an excellent place to start might be the ability of officers to shoot animals if the officer feels that they are in “imminent danger.” In imminent danger of what exactly?
Well, I’m guessing there must be some pandemic because while no government agency keeps a national database on the number of pets killed by police, according to animal-abuse activists’ statistics, a pet is killed by law enforcement every 98 minutes in America. And let’s say that is only half right; that is crazy high. Is that not being a bully? A little jerkish? A bit antagonistic?
Let’s put it into perspective. I am reminded of a case where a certain Anton McCreary, who killed the K-9 dog “Fargo” a couple of years ago, was sentenced to 35 years in jail. Or how about how the man who killed an Edmonton police dog had been sentenced to 26 months? Now I wonder how many police officers have been convicted so harshly for the murder of these pets. Are cop dogs that much more special than regular pets? And are there that many pets that are such a threat? If so, we should focus on pets instead of terrorism, effective immediately.
Look, I am not saying that all cops are bad… or dumb, for that matter. What I am saying is that this article is extremely biased and highly flawed. I also understand that it’s because a cop wrote it. That fact is not lost on me. Sure, the author makes some valid points, but they are not entirely thought through, in my opinion. A couple more examples: The author speaks of considerations being made for officers if they acted in “good faith” or “reasonably,” and the “totality of the circumstances” is weighed. This is commonplace when it comes to law enforcement, but this same courtesy is often not provided to the citizenry, and we all know it. Can you find cases when such courtesy is offered to citizens? Sure you can! But can you find a ton more when it is not? Yup!
He goes on to say, “Police kick in the wrong door? Stupid mistake, but it wasn’t malicious. Their paperwork was wrong and they thought they had the right address. Police shoot an unarmed man? Hell, if any person shoots an unarmed man but can reasonably explain why it happened and there is no evidence that it was malicious, then no charges will be filed.”
Fantasy land!!! This is (as you know) entirely inaccurate. For citizens, most of these deaths are usually charged (anymore) as manslaughter or homicide by misadventure. Cops often get away with this, though (as stated by the cop) as part of the job. And let me say that MAYBE the citizen will not be brought up on criminal charges, but they will more than likely have to contend with civil ones. And then, who pays for the defense? Well, the citizenry pays for the defense of the cop, and the citizen pays for the defense of himself. Not entirely fair there.
The author provides an extreme case of someone wanted for armed robbery, exiting the car with a silver item (his phone) in his hand, attempting to get away… in an attempt to justify the man being shot by police. But even here, I have to disagree based on the information provided. While extreme, the man was trying to get away, not have a standoff. So he was not an imminent threat. Second, he is innocent until proven guilty, warrant or not. But this extreme case aside, let’s look at the plethora of beatings and deaths based on mistaken identity, happenstance, or the officer simply wanting to get some aggression out. To say that law enforcement does not have an “over-zealous” problem is a lesson in denial, as this is highly documented, even within the law enforcement community. What makes it worse is the blatant disregard for the militarization of law enforcement and its psychological effect on the population. They pretend to be shocked that citizens have such an attitude when it comes to cops NOT enforcing Constitutional law but still holding the citizenry accountable. Cops must stop the justification if they want citizen support. It’s that simple.
The article’s author is an officer, obviously not a researcher or a lawyer. However, his article proves to me, yet again, the importance of knowing the law for yourself and being willing to enforce your rights. Understand that there are even laws on the books that allow the citizenry to protect themselves against law enforcement up to and including taking the officer’s life for situations as simple as unlawful arrest, which by the way, have been upheld by the Supreme Court. These exist because cops are human. This article merely demonstrated the author’s lack of knowledge surrounding the topic, his poor opinion of the supposedly ignorant people he “serves,” the justifications made for infringements on Constitutional Rights, and his chosen blindness to his industry’s tactics.
While I agree with the spirit of his debate, in that people should not look at all cops as horrible people, I cannot, in good faith, support the severe lack of logic demonstrated within the article in such a blanket fashion. Not a single cop has ever been touched by an angel and somehow become immune to the evils of man. Case after case of officers doing bad things can be found daily. Not a single cop is somehow above the law or the Constitution. No matter how they would like to justify their positions and actions to the contrary, we must remember that these are merely men and women (primarily of average IQ and little Constitutional training or reading) who have chosen a job. They could have just as easily taken a job as a construction worker or cable technician.
Now, I don’t want to downplay the job’s importance, complexity, or even difficulty. Like teachers, those in the more critical roles are often not appreciated enough. And I’m not saying officers should not be appreciated, either. I am saying that officers need to understand that just like it is hard to appreciate a teacher who molests a student or appreciate the administration that knew about it, it is pretty damn hard to appreciate any officer or department who justifies Constitutional infringements. And nothing is worse than an officer whose arrogance exceeds the limits of the position. They are not “your” roads, and it is not “your” town, etc.
On a similar note, the author seems to believe that the lack of police will be the downfall of society. I beg to differ. Using history as a guide, the citizenry will get tired of waiting, being a victim, and tired of the nonsense that comes with asking for help in the first place, and eventually help themselves. That is, provided they have the right tools at their disposal (like firearms).
If anyone wants to volunteer to patrol the streets, it is best if you understand what you are doing and why you are doing it and have some level of integrity, compassion, and Constitutional knowledge. As for me, I judge the officer by the conduct in which they operate. The cops I admire are Constitutional and operate with integrity, no matter how hard that might be to do at times. I admire anyone who seeks true equality, cooperation, and equal justice. After all, if I have to follow the law, so should everyone else. Finally, I admire those cops who understand that if it’s illegal without a badge, it’s also illegal with a badge. It should also be said that those officers I admire do not work for departments that I consider “the average departments,” probably because the smart ones tend to gravitate towards departments that embrace higher IQ and integrity. They are out there.
For the citizens. I don’t think you are off the hook here. The same rules apply to you. You are responsible for your actions; just because a cop catches you breaking the law doesn’t mean the officer is terrible. Don’t be a hypocrite. Collectively, we allow laws. If the laws are unjust, change them. If they are unfair, I’m sure some officers do not like to enforce them. Come together. Work on it. Change it.
If officers and the citizenry work together, and mutual trust and respect are fostered, the ideas of law enforcement will change. Until that time, don’t feel bad about having your guard up. And officers, don’t be surprised that people keep their guard up until that time. When we see ourselves as equals, we treat each other accordingly.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also like “Unlawful Detainment or Arrest.”