Government and Politics07 Jan 2015 02:03 pm

To Protect and To Serve is the motto of the LAPD which has been adopted by many police departments throughout the US. It’s popularity is due to the fact that it succinctly states the goal, purpose and ideal of law enforcement officers. Wikipedia states the following version, “A police force is a constituted body of persons empowered by the state to enforce the law, protect property, and limit civil disorder”.

The power given to the police is generally to assist in their ability to protect the public from personal harm and loss of one’s possessions by criminal means. The police are given weapons and jurisdictions to make sure we are protected as are our civil rights by aiding their ability to enforce the law.

Yet, recent events call into question if the role and purpose of the police has been forgotten, lost or completely altered. Lately the ideas of serving their bosses and enforcing the law have gone through some pretty startling changes.

The recent confrontations between the public and police officers has centered around the feeling that some police officers at times use their power to abuse, kill and terrorize citizens. Statistics regarding race and economic status strongly suggest that there are those in our society who are not only profiled, but actually targeted by law enforcement. Likewise, the escalating numbers of those in the US imprisoned seems to suggest that our legal system is highly motivated to fill jail cells. The rise of for profit prisons which need, get subsidized and assisted in maintaining a 90% occupancy rate seems to testify to an economic and political need to arrest and convict a steady stream of citizens.

Corruption is a part of almost any body or workers or professionals. Almost every professional body, company and agency has means of finding and punishing internal corruption and malfeasance. Public ire often escalates when frequent reports of abuse and malfeasance regarding the behavior of a professional group surface and are not accompanied by substantial punishment, reform or convictions. This has been the case whether the perpetrators have been clergy, politicians, bankers, physicians, lawyers, teachers or police officers. The recent lack of some very high profile cases even being brought to trial let alone resulting in a conviction has made a growing percentage of the populace highly suspicious if not all out angry at the lack of “justice” or an effort to even admit a problem exists.

History has shown that power often corrupts, and that those in power often abuse their power.  Yet, the staunch blanket defense of the integrity of all police officers by their supervisors, watchdog groups and public officials flies in the face of reason and people’s general experience.

Recently our leaders have become intolerant and unappreciative of people of conscience and “whistle blowers” treating them as terrorists and enemies of the state rather than as courageous heroes or even well intentioned caring people. Our leaders repeatedly labeling police officers as heroes and patriots who put their lives on the line each and every day while true in many cases, seems to deny the reality of the relationship between power and corruption and the need for law enforcement law enforcement.

The increased militarization of our police force, through swat teams, free military hardware such as tanks, and high tech weaponry seems to call for more scrutiny and management not blanket immunity and protection. Stories routinely reported about the increased arming of governmental and quasi governmental agencies pepper our newspapers. Everything from the FBI, to homeland security and NGO’s, to bankers and the federal reserve are arming themselves with weapons and survival kits through government aid and taxpayer monies.

The recent staged reactions by the police detail assigned to NY mayor de Blasio to publicly and privately turn their backs on him when he speaks or passes by shows how far we have strayed from the motto “to protect and to serve”.

The mayor,  who as their boss is ultimately the person in charge of hiring and firing, is neither being protected nor served by his employees in blue. This is apparently due to “some of his remarks” construed by the functional leaders of the police department as “siding” with the public in their “unjustified” criticism of the police. Not only are these actions suggesting that the police are beyond corruption, conviction (the law) and improvement, but also beyond being questioned or criticized. This us versus them mentality is dangerous for people with power and weapons to have, and is a bad omen for all citizens who want justice to be based on anything other than might makes right.

The recent decision by the Supreme Court that states that the “Police Can Violate The 4th Amendment If They Are Ignorant Of The Law” just further tilts the playing field away from the rights and protections of citizens and towards the infliction of power on its own terms. In essence the decision means that law enforcement personnel can enforce their definition of law with no consequence as long as they profess ignorance of the law. The 4th amendment is not that difficult to understand and how knowledge of this amendment couldn’t be made a prerequisite to becoming a law enforcement officer is beyond defense. How can we trust our police to enforce the law, if they are not expected to know the laws they are enforcing?

It appears that many of those assigned by society to serve and protect are turning their backs on more than the mayor of NYC.

I truly believe that their are plenty of heroes in law enforcement, I just wish more of them had the courage to step forward and expose the corruption, practices and bad seed which are making a sham of the praise worthy ideals of to protect and to serve.

Jim Guido

 

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