By Joshua D. Glawson | United States
Let it be clearly stated that this is not an anti-police essay. This is, however, a criticism of police and the problems arising from an overreaching government. Furthermore, the mere fact that I need to preface this work with these sentiments and the possible retaliation that may arise from writing this piece is a clear sign that our government is out of bounds.
The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), which is a labor union, began in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1915. In 1918, it became the national union for law enforcement officers. FOP produced the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR or LEOBoR) which provides extra protection for officers who are being investigated or may have committed crimes while on duty. This was accepted federally, and various states have added their own versions of this bill to add further protections and processes. Each state and local department may have various organizations and unions they are a part of, and most of them are under the umbrella of The National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), which is a coalition of the associations and unions across the US.
These unions, associations, state and local governments, as well as the federal government, are all protecting the police in order to carry out their laws. One significant issue with this is when there are unjust laws and unconstitutional laws being protected and enforced. Additionally, when officers commit crimes against people, these respective groups are protecting the officers no matter how heinous the crime. As dark and humorous as it is to point out, the fact is that police can often get away with an uncountable number crimes and the departments and unions will say something to the effect of, “We investigated ourselves, and found that we did nothing wrong.”
In many states, officers are forced to be dues-paying members to these unions. No matter the case, the unions have a stronghold over the police departments and have power in determining how the department functions through legal and social pressures. This is evident in the extreme benefits of being in a police union with additional legal resources and pay during time on suspension, etc. Social pressures of departments and unions are even more evident in cases of fellow officers whistleblowing.
The authority held by the police is granted by the people through the US Constitution via the 10th Amendment which gives each state the power to enforce their respective laws. It is on the Constitution that officers promise to protect and abide, yet continuously they infringe on it through civil asset forfeiture versus the 5th Amendment, the war on drugs versus the 9th Amendment and various others, search and seizures without warrant versus the 4th Amendment, infringing on various 1st Amendment rights, and various other 9th Amendment rights found in Natural Law which is what the Constitution was founded upon. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court continues to vote in favor of the police in their criminal acts against people, exasperating the problem of a growing cancer of a despot government.
Contentions with police officers are growing for good reason in the United States, but unlike what their unions say, there is not a war on police officers. As of 2016, according to the FBI, 63 officers were feloniously killed on duty in a nation with around 745,000 officers equaling around 0.0085% of the police population. Yet, the Blue Lives Matter organization has mobilized to get police officers into a protected class and to lobby for laws that will deem “crimes” against officers as hate crimes. Such laws as the Protect and Serve Act of 2018 has already passed the House and is currently going to Senate. The major issue here is that this is creating a stronger government against the people it is there to serve, as it is an overreach of government powers, and this is by definition becoming a despot government or “big government.” For Justice to stand, everyone must be equal under the law. No president, soldier, officer, or king should get any extra privileges under the law.
Obviously, as laws are continually added and changed, these so-called crimes become rather subjective, as in Positive Law Theory. This is the same when police harass and arrest people, then attempt to discredit their behavior by stating, “I’m just doing my job.” Not only does this go against the fundamental Natural Law Theory of the Constitution, but this also leads to serious consequences for the lives of those harmed by behaviors from such thinking as this puts everyone at risk due to arbitrary laws and people upholding such laws. Proponents for violence used by police will attempt to justify such actions as saying people should not resist arrest or that the law needs to be upheld no matter what. This is what is called the Nuremberg defense, or superior orders defense.
This ‘defense’ is named after the very same argument that was used by Nazi Germany when they changed their laws in order to follow them and make their actions “legal.” It is the same sort of bootlicking response used by those that supported the redcoats during the US Revolutionary War. It is the same argument used by Thomas Hobbes to support the removal of Liberty of individuals and grant Liberty only to a sovereign power. It is the same argument used by those that think ‘rights’ come from government and not God or Nature. It is the same argument used by Robert Filmer in which John Locke fundamentally, vehemently, and successfully argued against as seen in Locke’s Two Treatises of Government; it was Locke’s work that helped inspire the US Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. These arguments used by such groups as ‘Blue Lives Matter,’ ‘Protect the Thin Blue Line,’ etc. are fundamentally anti-American. They are against everything in which this country was founded on by their core philosophy.
For those on the political Right- when a government makes a law saying your guns, for example, will be removed, it is these same types of police that will use force to pry your guns away. As you say, they are “just doing their job.” For the political Left- if you want to give up your guns to people willing to commit atrocities and the government is willing to blindly protect them in cases of even gross misconduct, that should put some question of reasonable concern in your mind.
In 2014, Eric Garner was assaulted by police for selling single cigarettes and consequently died due to a stranglehold. These chokes were already considered “illegal” by New York law for officers, yet the case was dismissed and the officer was pardoned. Adding to the frustration of this case, the officer lied about strangling Mr. Garner, and only because of a cell phone recording and an autopsy was it shown that the officer lied. A whistleblowing officer who also leaked the information contrary to the lie was forced to leave his job. Nevertheless, police unions and government came to the aid and defense of the officers responsible for Mr. Garner’s death. Their justification is that it is still “illegal” to sell individual cigarettes without a license and other taxes in NY. So much for tea and whiskey taxes.
Extra protection has been growing especially since 1967’s case ‘Pierson v. Ray,’ granting “qualified immunity” in cases brought against them. This is outside of the Constitution as it is providing extralegal protections for government employees and executive branch members. The court’s reasoning is that police need to do their jobs effectively in order to serve and protect the community as being on the frontlines of stopping and arresting criminals who break the law. Understandably, there needs to be a balance between the laws and the means of executing the laws. So, it is imperative to end unjust laws and to correct police officers’ responses to those who are breaking the Just laws. Equally, there needs to be a stronger ability to reprimand officers who are acting outside of the law, unreasonably, and unconstitutionally. When the government is providing itself extra protections, they are acting to protect their own interests and not the people or the Constitution in which they swore to protect and uphold.
Some extra protections for society have been made against police, such as body cameras on cops. However, the issue has been not only malfunctions and poor quality recordings but also in many areas police are allowed to turn them on and off at their discretion. There have been numerous cases where police officers have been seen planting drugs on a scene in order to get a charge against a civilian, but thankfully in a few cases, the camera recorded the officers planting the drugs. Nevertheless, there were no punishments against the officers other than paid suspensions. The government has no problem fighting an unjust war, i.e. the “war on drugs,” planting drugs on people and being recorded doing so, in order to extort money and property from people, completely destroying these citizens’ lives. They do all of this through the already atrocious protections granted to the police by states and the federal government, with added protections by their departments and unions. If a citizen were to do the same against an officer, the citizen would face serious consequences and lengthy prison time with added penalties because it was against an officer. Even if a citizen did such to another citizen, there would be consequences. Yet, when it comes to police against the citizen, little-to-nothing is done. The police culture perpetuates the problem by helping cover up crimes for one another such as waiving traffic tickets or even more serious crimes.
Police labor unions are only there to protect their jobs and not the community or taxpayers. In the place of government labor unions, who are being brought together in ‘union?’ Government employees should have no ‘right’ to a union, as they are there to serve the community in which they are employed, not to be ‘guaranteed’ a job and protected for committing egregious acts against that community. Not only do labor unions for government employees protect bad employees by not firing them when they are bad employees, but they also falsely inflate costs on the public who is funding them. This creates higher taxes and higher expenses for a community, state, or federal level government. This adds to inflation and to a larger government. These unions also use some of their funding to support political parties and candidates, where some in the union might not want their money going. Furthermore, if and when cases are brought against the police departments or states, it is taxpayers who are ultimately paying for the crimes and mistakes of officers, not the offers or the department itself. This is all the more reason to consider other options such as more private police, or insurance purchased by the individual public officers.
As for some possibly good news in the right direction towards dismantling government labor unions, ‘Janus v American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees’ is to be looked at by the Supreme Court. This case is to make it optional to join government unions if approved, whereas currently states require people to join unions if their state has declared it mandatory. Any business relationship should be voluntary, in as much that one should not be forced to join a union in which they do not believe in, and they should not be forced to pay dues.
Overall, police are getting far too powerful and committing crimes against people by not only upholding unjust laws, but also by intentionally committing acts of violence, extortion, scandal, and lies against people. They are doing so with impunity and the backing of all levels of government and labor unions. The militarization of police is a serious issue noted by many scholars and critics. The police, as they are a government entity, do not need extra protections from citizens. There is no war against police, but the police are in fact acting in aggression towards the citizenry. The best steps to take now (in no particular order as this article would be even longer) are ending the war on drugs, erasing convictions related to nonviolent drug-related crimes, purging our legal system of unjust laws, holding police and other government officials accountable for serious crimes against others, ending government unions especially those of police unions, and retraining how to handle situations with civilians as to prevent harming the innocent. We need to be in pursuit of peace, not in pursuit of who to demonize and convict.
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