Sgt. Patrick Hayes writes
RF recently sent me a link to an article entitled Is resistance futile? The Cost of Challenging the American Police State. The piece was written by attorney and author of (A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State) John W. Whitehead, posted in Huffington Post politics. Normally, I don’t trust anything Arianna Huffington’s inheritors publish; the writers never met a Big Government idea they didn’t like. This piece was different . . .
Mr Whitehead lists several startling, distrubing examples of police overreach. He paints a bleak picture of police contacts in this country. Like many observers in the post-Ferguson environment, where police “militarization” and race relations have come under fire, the author tries to say that the examples he cites represent the common, normal Police/citizen encounters. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There are tens of thousands of police/citizen encounters each day that are conducted properly and end well. Click here for [what I believe to be] a more common outcome, chronicled by TTAG reader Josh Grabow.
That said, anytime a police officer violates a citizen’s civil rights or acts outside his/her authority, we have a problem. Here’s another of Mr. Whitehead’s examples:
Police arrested Chaumtoli Huq because she failed to promptly comply when ordered to “move along” while waiting outside a Ruby Tuesday’s restaurant for her children, who were inside with their father, using the bathroom. NYPD officers grabbed Huq, a lawyer with the New York City Public Advocate’s office, flipped her around, pressed her against a wall, handcuffed her, searched her purse, arrested her, and told her to “shut up” when she cried out for help, before detaining her for nine hours. Huq was charged with obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
This case resulted in a lawsuit. The NYPD had no reason to accost Ms. Huq in the first place. She was not violating any law. She was minding her own business when a NYPD officer decided he wanted her to move. Why? Only he knows. One thing is clear. The officer acted outside his authority.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
This is the law. Law enforcement – from the cop on the beat to judge on the bench – must respect it. And if there is to be an error, and police are just as prone to errors as any other civilian, it needs to favor the rights of the citizen. And as this is a gun site, it must be said: those of us entrusted by society to enforce the law with firearms have a special obligation to live by the rule of law. To appreciate that the power to deploy deadly force was given to us by that law.
Simply put, the police are not, nor should be, a law unto ourselves.
Again, Whitehead’s examples are the exception, not the rule. Again, we, as law enforcement officers and leaders, have the responsibility to ensure that we do not violate our fellow citizens’ civil rights. We’ve taken an oath to uphold and defend the United State Constitution. Our actions must reflect our sworn commitment. It’s a simple concept.
The vast majority of American police officers do their jobs without violating anyone’s rights. It only takes a few bad apples to make the rest look bad. While I disagree with TTAG commentators who believe that all cops are thugs, I share their opinion that good cops have a responsibility to ensure that all police officers follow the laws they are sworn to uphold. Until that happens there can be no trust.
I also understand that internal and external police politics have eroded this trust in some places, and destroyed it in others. If we wait for a political solution, we may never restore public confidence in the police in those places where it’s been lost.
The good news: cell phone cameras, dashboard and body cameras are changing the “balance of power.” Now that we can see when police cross the line, we can name, shame and yes blame those officers who’ve betrayed their oath. My department is deploying body cams. I welcome them with open arms, as should anyone who respects the police’s proper role in society. Anyone who doesn’t is no friend of society, nor mine.