Friday, April 23, 2021

No One is Above the Law

My most recent post drew some comments from a trusted friend, so I want to clarify a few things. Everyone must be held accountable for their actions. No one is above the law; not even those in law enforcement. I was reminded of the phrase, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." I wasn't certain of its origin so I looked it up.

Lord Acton writes to Bishop Creighton in a series of letters concerning the moral problem of writing history about the Inquisition. Acton believes that the same moral standards should be applied to all men, political and religious leaders included, especially since, in his famous phrase, “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”:

I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which the negation of Catholicism and the negation of Liberalism meet and keep high festival, and the end learns to justify the means. You would hang a man of no position, like Ravaillac; but if what one hears is true, then Elizabeth asked the gaoler to murder Mary, and William III ordered his Scots minister to extirpate a clan. Here are the greater names coupled with the greater crimes. You would spare these criminals, for some mysterious reason. I would hang them, higher than Haman, for reasons of quite obvious justice; still more, still higher, for the sake of historical science.

I understand the tendencies in people. I realize there are those who wear a badge as a member of law enforcement that begin to think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. They begin to act as though the very law they are sworn to uphold does not apply to them. Based on my experience, that number is small. Perhaps I am naive to think that my statistical sample represents the majority.

Even if I am wrong, it does not justify open season on killing police officers. I understand there have been several trials of officers accused of violating the law, or even a person's human rights, that have been found "not guilty". You rarely hear of those that were charged and found guilty, even though it does happen. Many times, as with many cases in the criminal justice system, there are plea deals made out of court.

The major caveat when dealing with law enforcement is when deadly force is used. Except for states that empower citizens to "stand your ground," police are the only ones justified in using deadly force to stop criminal activity; hence, "absolute power." Clearly, they must be held to a higher standard. Otherwise, this "absolute power" will "corrupt absolutely."

In my opinion, the police are held to a higher standard. I realize in this day and age I am in the minority with this view. I have made this statement often to friends and family: "If an officer is going to risk being investigated or prosecuted every time they remove their gun from its holster, then take away the guns." At least then the officers would know exactly what they could or couldn't do.

It is never ok for an officer to harm another individual unless warranted by the circumstances. It is never ok for an officer to use deadly force unless they perceive an imminent threat to themselves or others. However, I also believe it is very difficult, even with "video evidence," to understand the full ramifications and dynamics at play in any given circumstance. 

Should they be investigated? Absolutely! Should they be given the presumption of innocence until proven guilty? Absolutely! Should they face the penalties for crimes committed? Absolutely! Should they be allowed to do their jobs without fear of being hunted down and killed like ferrel swine? Absolutely!

Doctors are found libel for malpractice, yet I still see doctors for medical care. The reason? Not all are derelict in their practice. People are poisoned by food eaten at restaurants, yet I still eat out. Why? Because this level of neglect is rare. Police officers are found guilty of crimes. Are they all guilty? They are not.

I doubt I will write on this again. I usually avoid topics which are seen as political. For me, however, this is not a political issue. It is personal. I understand why some disagree with me and that's ok. I welcome all comments and questions. I want to learn. I want to understand.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Due Process - Even for the Police

 It is much easier to confirm a predetermined outcome because you are only looking for things that agree with your hypothesis. Any true scientist will tell you, it is only when you try to disprove your theory that you actually find the truth.

Even this does not guarantee you have "proven" your original idea. Once papers are published on the research they have conducted, other minds, without the predisposition that it is true, can either validate or disprove the stated theory.

When an agency of the State announce they are going to investigate to see if there is a "pattern" of behavior it signals trouble, because they will look past the "elephant in the room" of a history which refutes the "pattern."

I admit that I am bent toward supporting the police instead of finding fault. If you know me, you understand why. For those of you who do not know me, my father died on active duty as a police officer. He was killed while trying to apprehend two suspects in a robbery. I do not agree with the current politically-correct posture of hating the police. I support them in every way.

I am also not naive enough to think there are no bad people in uniform. However, I know first hand that the VAST majority of those wearing the badge that I have known have a love and respect for people to the point that they are willing to risk their lives every time they pin it on.

You may, or may not, be aware that each police department has an internal affairs department which oversee the activities of each officer. Every stop, every arrest, every complaint, every issue, is investigated to determine whether they followed the law, the procedures, and the code of conduct, which is expected of every officer, every day. They are also scrutinized by state and federal authorities. And indeed, they should be.

I had a good friend who served alongside my dad, and continued to serve after my dad died. He probably spent at least 30 years on the force. He told me once, after being assigned to Internal Affairs, "It's the only job as an officer that he ever hated."

Not only do police have to answer to their ranking officer, they also answer to I.A., plus the 24/7 news cycle that is waiting to catch them doing something wrong. That is tremendous pressure, added on top of the fact that the job they are trying to carry out has risks of its own, including being killed.

I picture it like this: riding a unicycle on a tight rope, with no net, juggling double edged knives, blindfolded, with someone shaking the rope the whole time you are on it. Yet, these men and women still are willing to pin on the badge, kiss their loved ones goodbye, and show up to do it all again.

Just in case you are wondering, this is not about the Chauvin verdict. I did not see the trial. I did see some of the video when the event happened. What I saw was troubling. I also know the camera lens is not a very reliable witness. I'm glad the case is resolved, pending appeal, and hopefully the people of Minneapolis can move forward.

But just like all the days before the verdict, and all the days after, the police continue to show up for work, ready to mount the unicycle with wounds bandaged from yesterday's cuts and bruises, and once again protect the rights of everyone that want to see them gone. I, for one, tip my hat to them. I take every opportunity I have to buy them a meal at a restaurant. I speak encouragement to everyone I see. I let them know that, regardless of what the media has to say, there are still those of us who are supporting them.