It’s fine to talk theory – what would be ideal. But while working toward that, what about practical changes that don’t require a sea change evolution in consciousness? For example, what can be done – in practical terms – about law enforcement?
That there is a problem is as obvious as Caitlyn Jenner’s Adam’s apple. The big problem – tyrannical laws based on the tyrannical idea that it’s legitimate to order people around and abuse them for not causing any harm to anyone – isn’t going to be solved absent a sea-change evolution in consciousness.
But there are some obvious fixes that would make things a lot better right now – and it’s hard to imagine anyone objecting:
Law enforcers should be required to know the law – and be fired when they are caught making up law …
If the frau at the DMV gets it wrong, you can argue with her without fearing for your life; she isn’t armed and the worst that she can do is not give you your stickers or whatever it is you came to get. You are always free to go.
Law enforcers have guns.
Citizens who carry guns operate under extremely strict rules and are warned that they had better not operate outside the law, even by a little bit. Repercussions for doing so are severe.
And so, they rarely operate outside the law.
Shouldn’t the same standard apply to armed law enforcers? That they at least know what the law is? And be sanctioned just as severely if they step outside the bounds of the law?
Keep in mind that everything a law enforcer does – no matter how “friendly” he may seem – is backed up by a gun. You know it, he knows it. This makes every encounter between a citizen and a law enforcer inherently threatening – to the citizen.
Which is why it so important that law enforcers restrict their enforcement to the actual law – and nothing beyond the law. Put another way, no citizen should ever have to worry about law enforcement unless he has violated a law or – as the courts style it – given law enforcement some specific reason to suspect he has or may be about to violate the law.
And yet, citizens are routinely accosted by armed law enforcement ignorant of the law – or simply contemptuous of it. Examples are many but include belligerently confronting citizens legally taking pictures or video in public, where there is no expectation of privacy and the courts have repeatedly stated that no permit or permission is needed to photograph or video record anything that is plainly visible from a sidewalk or other public right-of-way.
This includes law enforcement nests, courts, jail facilities and so on.
Law enforcers often regard such photography/video-taking as an affront to their authority – but it is not illegal, no matter how much they are affronted. If they do not know this and accost citizens anyhow, they are derelict in their duty. If they do know this and accost citizens, they are simply thugs. Either should be cause for immediate dismissal – if not a criminal prosecution – as would absolutely happen if a mere citizen accosted someone lawfully going about his business.
Demanding ID when there is no legal authority to do so is another example of the abuse of law by those given authority to enforce it.
And, of course, the use of excessive force.
Any illegal act performed by a person given life or death power over others ought to be treated at least as seriously as the same action would be treated if performed by an ordinary citizen, lacking life or death power over others.
Law enforcement is “trained” in all kinds of things peripheral to knowledge of the law: e.g., how to suss out arbitrarily illegal drugs or perform a “visual estimate” of vehicle speed, admissible as evidence in court. Why not require that law enforcers demonstrate competent working knowledge of the law – and weed out those who demonstrate that they do not possess it?
The right to defend oneself against an abusive law enforcer
If someone enters your home illegally, attempts to take something of yours or threatens you with physical violence, you have a legal (as well as moral) right to defend yourself. If you get the better of your assailant – or simply get away from him – you won’t be charged with a crime.
They will be.
Few question the rightness of this.
Why shouldn’t the same standard apply when a citizen is abused by law enforcement? Why should a government-issued costume grant what amounts to a license to abuse people by making such abuse, in effect, a legally protected act – since the citizen isn’t permitted to defend himself against such?
Shouldn’t a citizen be free to ignore a palpably unlawful command (e.g., to stop taking video in public, which is absolutely legal) and walk away – without legal repercussions? And – if legally justified – defend himself physically against an abusive law enforcer?
As it stands, not only does a citizen face repercussions for ignoring unlawful orders, for defending himself against abuse of authority – the abusive law enforcer is treated far more gently for his abusive actions than the citizen is for defending his legal rights.
Most of us are held personally responsible – civilly as well as criminally – for any reckless/criminal conduct we commit that results in harm to others or damage to their property. The family of OJ Simpson’s victims, for instance, won’t get their damages out of the hides of taxpayers who didn’t kill Ron and Nicole.
OJ will pay.
Ordinary citizens – even OJ – cannot foist the bill for the damage they cause in the course of their work onto the backs of taxpayers, as law enforcement routinely does.
A contractor usually has liability insurance that will pay out for any damages arising from his actions. The fact that he must pay the premiums and can be held personally liable above and beyond whatever the insurance coverage provides inclines him to conduct himself responsibly rather than recklessly.
Law enforcing is the only job that encourages reckless – not infrequently, criminal – action by limiting personal/civil liability for such action. This is outrageous, an affront to the idea of equal treatment by the law – and (worse) an incentive to act irresponsibly because the abusive enforcer knows will not be personally bankrupted, his house taken from him, his family dispossessed – even if he is found criminally guilty of egregious abuse of lawful authority.
Requiring all law enforcers to carry liability insurance – the premiums paid out of their salaries, just as contractors and everyone else is forced to do – and ending the noxious policy of immunizing them from personally having to pay their victims – would go a long way toward curbing their enthusiasm.
Aggressive prosecution of law enforcers who do not enforce the law against abusive fellow enforcers –
An ordinary citizen who fails to report a crime or helps to cover up a crime committed by another citizen is subject to criminal prosecution for such acts. It is called “aiding and abetting.”
A law enforcer who stands by and does nothing when a fellow enforcer violates the law is arguably much worse than an ordinary citizen who aids and abets criminal activity because the law enforcer’s duty is to know and enforce the law – without exception – and because a law enforcer has far more power than an ordinary citizen to intervene.
It is important to note that law enforcers are considered officers of the court – and (like lawyers and judges, who are also officers of the court) ought to be bound by an even stricter ethical code than ordinary citizens precisely because they are officers of the court.
In exactly the same way that professional journalists are held to a higher standard when it comes to plagiarism and doctors to medical malpractice.
A law enforcement black list
Abusive law enforcers are treated much the same way as pedophile priests. If fired here, they simply relocate there – the people of there having no idea who is now “on duty” among them.
Until the abuse repeats.
This is particularly shameful for the same reason that the musical pedophile priests thing was shameful. It’s a tragedy when a priest – or a law enforcer – abuses someone. But it is an outrage when a known abusive priest or law enforcer is given a “second chance,” particularly when – as is often the case – the new victim pool has no clue about the background of the known offender.
There are multiple federal databases that store and correlate date about citizens who’ve been convicted of some offense or other. These are used to prevent convicted felons from legally buying guns and to keep convicted sex abusers properly sequestered and known to the public.
Is there any reason why a similar roster shouldn’t exist for known abusive law enforcers?
Shouldn’t abusive conduct egregious enough to result in a law enforcer being fired in one jurisdiction automatically disqualify that individual from ever being entrusted with state-sanctioned life or death power a second time?
Whatever else might be done, it’d be a start.
. . .
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