Conservatives have traditionally been supportive of law enforcement. That's been a little harder to do in recent years, as it appears as though law enforcement has become a threat to, rather than a protector of, our liberties. How has this happened? Mark Fitzgibbons writes that politicians and the courts are a big part of the problem:
Police risk their lives each day to keep us safe by enforcing laws under sometimes dangerous circumstances. They deserve our respect and thanks, and our prayers for their safety.
The constitution">constitution">Constitution and its Bill of Rights is our “supreme” law governing government. Failures by politicians and the courts to honor this law over government have helped create unrest in some communities, and uneasiness among those who are natural allies of frontline law enforcement officials.
He cites a specific instance where government and the perverse incentives it has created for law enforcement to subvert the rule of law has made matters worse for officers on the beat:
Witness efforts of some in the virginia">Virginia legislature earlier this year to place constitutional constraints on seizures of assets by police. A bill was introduced to require that assets of private individuals stopped by police may not be forfeited without a trial. Currently, police departments may seize assets, and the burden is on the citizens to prove innocence to reclaim their cash, cars or other property seized.
The bill would have simply required following the Fifth Amendment’s legal guarantee that “life, liberty and property” may not be taken without due process of law, meaning a trial before a neutral judge. The Sixth Amendment also guarantees trials by jury.
The notion that police do not have the power of judges dates back 800 years to the Magna Carta. Law professor and historian Philip Hamburger points out that asset seizure even was a basis of one clause in the Declaration of Independence (“depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury”).
The Virginia bill supported by conservatives and liberals was killed after opposition by the Republican majority whip, a prospective candidate for attorney general, and certain law enforcement lobbyists on grounds that this form of illegal asset seizure helps finance local police departments. Illegal asset seizure violates the law of the land. Those who have a special obligation to enforce our laws are not exempted.
It's also worth noting in the Virginia example that long-time ally and bag man for the Clintons -- Gov. Terry McAuliffe -- played a key role in stopping asset seizure reform.
How do we get out of this mess?
Good law enforcement begins with law enforcement officials following the law themselves. When politicians and courts ignore the law over law enforcement, that breeds contempt among citizens. Our police deserve the respect that comes from the rule of law.
It will take time, effort, and not a little courage, to change the situation we are in now. Law enforcement is crucial to society. But enforcement that does not respect and adhere to the fundamental law, and the restrictions intentionally placed upon state power, is not law enforcement at all.
It is lawlessness. And it hurts the many good cops who risk their lives to protect us from legitimate harm.