Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Concentrated power has always been the enemy of liberty.”     Ronald Reagan

May 21, 2009

What Does it Really Mean to Respect Law Enforcement?

by Stephen Littau

I know some who read my posts regarding police misconduct might not believe me when I say respect the police and the dangerous job they do. I believe that the police misconduct I write about generally are exceptions to the rule that most individuals in law enforcement do their jobs with the highest degree of integrity.

I respect those who are entrusted to “serve and protect” our communities from violent criminals but I also realize that they too are human which means they are capable of making bad choices or being corrupted as anyone else. At a minimum, the police should be held to the same standard as anyone else; I would argue that they should be held to an even higher standard than anyone else.*

What does it say about a respectful attitude toward law enforcement when seemingly a majority of people say that due to the “danger” surrounding such a hazardous occupation, that it’s okay to beat a surrendered, unarmed, or even unconscious person (see video below) senseless because of the “adrenaline” or “emotion” that comes with a dangerous pursuit? Does this show greater or lesser respect for the police?

I believe we should expect more not less than “how the average person would react under similar circumstances” from the police.

If I had a badge and gun, how would I have reacted if one of my friends was almost run over by a fleeing suspect?

The truth of the matter is I don’t know. I don’t know because I have never been confronted with a similar situation. I have not been trained on how to handle the kinds of situations police officers sometimes encounter.

The police, however, do not have this excuse. The officers who beat the unconscious person in Alabama were all veterans. Based on their training and experience, they should have known better.

The general consensus I’ve found on the message boards around the internet on this police chase is that because of the suspect’s actions, he “got what he deserved” and that these officers should not have lost their jobs, let alone be charged criminally.

Most seem to mistake criticism for the police as support for the suspect so let me say this one time: What the suspect did was stupid and put many lives in danger. The suspect should be charged for any and all crimes he committed and should be forced to pay restitution to anyone who was injured or damaged property as a result of his actions.**

The alleged crimes of the suspect and the police are two entirely separate matters which should be treated as two separate trials.

If the police are charged with the responsibility to enforce the law than it stands to reason that they cannot simultaneously violate the law and enforce the law with their actions. If ordinary citizens took it upon themselves to use unnecessary force to the point of brutality, we would call these people vigilantes or criminals. Why then do we make an exception when individuals who happen to wear uniforms do the same thing? We should not be defending these actions we should be condemning them as it is these individuals who disrespect the dignity, the professionalism, and honor of law enforcement as a whole!


*If I had my way, a police officer who broke the very laws s/he is charged to enforce would receive twice the penalty as the average person.

**Just a quick piece of advice to anyone who thinks they can run away from the police: Don’t do it. You will get caught and you will put yourself and others in grave danger. Surrender peacefully, reserve your right to remain silent (meaning keep your mouth shut when the police ask questions), and get a lawyer (and actually follow his or her advice).

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17 Comments

  1. A great piece. I agree.

    We (yes, I’m a police officer); SHOULD be held to a higher standard.

    We SHOULD NOT break the laws we are sworn to enfore.

    We SHOULD be challenged on what we do, the image we portray and the actions we take.

    While we are human, and do make mistakes, the same course of action when other humans make mistakes should be followed.

    I believe in the Thin Blue Line. The Thin Blue Line to me is the line that separates good from evil. Not a fictitious wall of silence when a police officer does wrong.

    I can not imagine what was going through those officer’s minds as this was going on.

    I, for one, appreciate your objectivity and subjectivity (offered at the same time) and value your opinion. it’s dead on.

    Comment by Scott — May 21, 2009 @ 11:35 am
  2. Scott, great response by the way. I’m curious to know from an officer’s stand point, what do you think of these latest videos? Do you believe they crossed that “Thin Blue Line”?

    Comment by Aimee — May 21, 2009 @ 12:23 pm
  3. I agree. Well written piece. When you interview for a position with the police you have to undergo psychological evaluation. I think departments should do this periodically throughout an officer’s career to ensure that the officer is still capable of restraint and right action under duress. I’ve been seeing too many cases where it’s either bravado, the good ol cops club, or this current debacle what looks like a gang initiation. When police officers reduce themselves to this they are no better than the people they apprehend.

    Comment by Red — May 21, 2009 @ 1:44 pm
  4. I’m surprised the camera didn’t “malfunction” during the time these events occurred.

    Comment by Raymond — May 21, 2009 @ 3:50 pm
  5. After the 1992 LA riots there was a push for the public to “understand” the violence and to excuse the actions of the individuals for reasons of a mob mentality. The reality is that what they did was wrong regardless of how caught up in the moment they might have been. During the trial of the two officers for beating Rodney King the question was raised whether an unconscious man still posed a threat. Well we’re 17 years out and here is an example of just that. Each of us, regardless whether we’ve taken an oath to “protect and defend” or whatever other tag lines is written on the squad car, has a responsibility of consciousness and reason where our actions are concerned. Passion, adrenaline, dangerous occupations and the like are no excuse. Requiring this of law enforcement officers does not show disrespect to them.

    Comment by Raymond — May 21, 2009 @ 4:01 pm
  6. Many people confuse respect with fear. Sadly, there are some in law enforcement who seem to prefer that people fear them rather than respect them, or perhaps they themselves do not understand the difference.

    As far as the “protect and serve”, most officers will tell you that isn’t really their job, that’s what private security is for. The officer’s job is to apprehend the law breaker after the fact.

    I too believe that our law enforcement should be held to a higher standard than the average citizen. They are given a great deal of power, and with that should come an even greater responsibility.

    Comment by John222 — May 21, 2009 @ 5:17 pm
  7. Aimee – Based only on the video, with no investigative insight. Yes. They crossed the line. The investigation may prove otherwise but I doubt it.

    John222 – you are absolutely right. As a police officer the LAST thing in the world I want is people to FEAR me. People who are afraid, in fear, will do everything they can to minimise contact. That is counter-productive to police work.

    I would prefer folks respect me for my integrity, for my steadfast zeal at fact finding. For my ability to talk and most importantly for my ability to listen.

    I was interviewed by a college newspaper. The reporter asked me what was the most important tool I carried on my belt. My response was, my most valuable tool is not on my belt. It’s my ears and mouth and in that order.

    I want folks to treat me like they treat their next door neighbours. Wave. Say hi. Share a cup of coffee. If they get caught speeding, they should share the “Oh crap!” too.

    But rest assured. I will not break a law to enforce a law. ANd most importantly, my job is a FACT FINDER. Not punisher. I find facts. Protect people when needed and to the extent needed. And protect myself. Some in my profession feel they are the punisher as well. That is not our place. That is the place of the Judge and Jury.

    Some people fear a police state. I do too. I don’t want to be viewed as a jack-booted thug asking you for your papers. I will talk, chat, eat a burger or anything else we find to do. If you break the law I will also arrest you. But you are still Sir or M’am. And I still say please and thank you.

    It costs me nothing to be professional and gains a LOT of “street cred” when dealing with people. Even bad guys know who they can trust to treat ‘em fair. ANd being fair is not weak.

    I could go on for HOURS (and in fact do, I teach several courses on this very subjt).

    Comment by Scott — May 21, 2009 @ 6:31 pm
  8. I rather thought that much of police training had to do with acting properly while under the influence of adrenaline…?

    Comment by tfr — May 22, 2009 @ 6:16 am
  9. Scott, kudos to you, you are a breath of fresh air after this seemingly never ending stream of videos catching cops going too far. You seem very level headed and take your job seriously (the right way).

    What is really scary is how much more of this is going on that isn’t being caught on tape.

    Comment by Aimee — May 22, 2009 @ 8:29 am
  10. When people of a free country are being subjected as subordinates and/or handled with a “cattle prod” mentality by the very people they are supposed to trust with their safety in time of need, you have changed the nature of the relationship of the society you live in.

    This is what has happened in this country.

    The people of this country still believe the job of what’s referred to as “Law Enforcement” in modern day terminology, still means what it did in the past days of Peace Officers. To most of the people, we are all equal in society, and the police are but one of us, social as any, living under the constitution and enjoying our liberty’s and it’s pursuits. They have a public service job, with responsibility to public safety and to represent the “civil” part of society in their actions. A person special to the law, and being knowledgeable of the law, should be an example of what is expected or desirable for all law abiding citizens. Police swear an oath to uphold and defend our constitution and it’s bill of rights first and foremost, from any enemy domestic or foreign. (To help promote an atmosphere conducive to the Pursuit of Life, Liberty, and Happiness; common sense tells me this must have been at least one purpose.) This is what I was taught a police officer was supposed to be, and I think many of us were. Are we all who we used to be to each other ?

    With the fall of the Republic from what it was created under the constitution to be, to the current century long trend of consistent federal expansion of government, the military industrial complex, and the private central bank of the Federal Reserve system, the idea of Peace Officer was at sometime changed to Law Enforcement of today’s standard. Now instead of the police officer representing peacekeeping and protection of the people as the primary function, the job has changed to persecutor for law, and representing the government system of justice, its authorities and procedure first and foremost. Many act as if they should be Judge Dredd. Modern Police training is very para-military in nature, from the environment they train under to the mentalities involved. Police of today aren’t trained for peacekeeping as it applies to the people, for the people, they are trained to be aggressive agents of enforcement and authority representing the government employing them, forgetting that the government is itself representative of the people and not the public officials in bureaucracy.(something even the public officials themselves forget) Peace keeping is for police, but to a soldier, all combat risk related subjects are treated the same under enforcement. (and that comes after personal safety of the soldier.) In this way the roles have changed between us. Police are no longer extensions of the local communities in which they live, but representative of the authority over us by which we must “submit”. They no longer execute their jobs directly FOR us, but over us. We are no longer the purpose for their work, we are the subject of their work. Isn’t diversity great!

    What you are seeing today is police behaving as soldiers in a hostile environment at a time of war. Their training has in a sense, turned them against the public they were created to support and defend from real criminals. I think many people in law enforcement don’t realize what has happened to their profession. This is just another by product of a corrupted federalized system of government and its struggle to gain more and more control over its citizens who are becoming more dysfunctional rather than criminal inside the failing social scheme they live in. Now in recent times, American soldiers can be seen being used in service with police forces of different states, working together in operations at road blocks and traffic stops, as federal intelligence agencies pass documents to police forces instructing them to consider people who are liberty and constitutionally minded as threats to national security. If you actually exercise your constitutional right to bear arms and buy a gun… you might be a right wing extremist. If you carry a pocket constitution… you might be a right wing extremist. Are they kidding ?? I don’t think so…

    (google MIAC report and/or http://www.tdbimg.com/files/2009/04/30/-hsra-domestic-extremism-lexicon_165213935473.pdf)

    (The Posse Comitatus Act abolished the use of the U.S. military against our own citizens and eliminated the ability of the U.S. government to eliminate the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights by declaring Martial Law.
    In early 2006 Congress passed bill H.R.5122 granting the President the right to commandeer Federal and State National Guard Troops for use against citizens.)

    note: (Recent swine flu alert was raised to level 5, of which level 6 is martial law, and with this means you have NO rights anymore as a citizen.. speech.. to bear arms… NONE !!)

    Family and communities as a whole have been broken apart and each person profiled into their own social “cast” based on the premise that “diversity” is good for us under some fabricated pretense of national pride as Americans and pushed by the two political parties and the corporate media for peer pressure conformity. That a society that means everything is ok, really means it can’t stand for any one thing at all. (you might offend somebody!)

    No longer are we a nation, united, we are mass of chaos, confusion, and fear, with the sensitivity of pubescent teens when it comes to personal opinions. To concentrate on diversity means to concentrate on whats different in everyone and everything around you. A concentration of diversity as being outside or more important than a whole promotes a mentality of separatism.. a diverse people are a DIVIDED people unless united and being described or included as one group. The only kind of diversity that seems frowned upon in this country today are ideas or concepts contrary from the mainstream geo-political indoctrinations fed by corporate media. Without the constitution and the freedoms it provides, somebody else will decide the diversity of your life.

    It would seem everyone has indeed set themselves apart, and it isn’t as being American. It’s the police, the politicians, the laborers, the corporate Financial Elite, political party’s, and immigrants of many sorts .. every nationality of every country.. And now socialists, communists, fascists, and everything in between that stood to tear this country apart in its entire history has been allowed to come into our midst by means of “political correctness” which is determined itself by these “sects” of diversity for all of society. Somehow, it is now more politically acceptable to be part fascist/socialist than it is classic American patriot. So forgotten is our roots that in the face of adversity we would give our away our constitution and freedom for the sake of physical and economical “safety”? Ignorance of liberty and freedom have allowed the thieves to steal from in front of our faces. The constitution is being stolen from us one executive order at a time, one liberty at a time. This society is failing – NOT because of America or American’s, it because federalized central bank government systems don’t work !!! (not for a free society) THE MOST IMPORTANT thing Americans have in common is the constitution and that we are free as Americans, because without our unity in freedom, we are nothing more than diverse slaves.

    Everyone please, find the patriot in you, no matter where you find yourself in this mess. Educate yourself about our heritage. Be proud to call yourself American as it stands on its own, and think about what your fellow Americans and you have in common! Is it not for our common good that we are in effort to live in a society ? A free society for ALL men as equals, not just for a few “special” people? Educate yourself about your constitution, and it’s bill of rights. Political finance laws have left corruption free to infect the very processes we have come to trust as Americans, and as a constitutionally abiding nation that is lead by the will of the people. Your representatives can’t represent you if they work for someone else! STOP TRUSTING YOUR GOVERNMENT TO POLICE THEMSELVES. We the people must unite for our common good as free men, to preserve the gift of freedom we have taken for granted, and return this country its roots of liberty. It is the duty of the people to keep a watchful eye that their government is truly representing them, and their duty to do something about it if they are not. Do you think abiding by the constitution was meant to be an open option for the government? Right now, this minute, it is. Feel safer yet ?

    Comment by Sarge — May 23, 2009 @ 7:07 am
  11. Excellent points Sarge.

    Comment by Akston — May 23, 2009 @ 8:11 am
  12. I want to join Aimee in appreciating Scott. I sometimes forget to salute those who assume the responsibility of an actual peace officer.

    Part of the eternal vigilance we pay for freedom is to refuse to tolerate abuses by out-of-control thugs like those exposed above. Another part of that vigilance is to reward actual Peace Officers with respect.

    Comment by Akston — May 23, 2009 @ 8:36 am
  13. Police work is not particularly dangerous compared to many other occupations, such as truck drivers and loggers.

    There are laws increasing the punishment against non-police merely because the police officer is a victim of our crime against the officer. It seems the police should be held to higher standards (they usually aren’t) than non-police because they are trained, and sworn, to uphold the law.

    Comment by Daniel Quackenbush — May 23, 2009 @ 10:12 pm
  14. There have been warnng signs for quite sometime now. LE in America is broken and reform is sorely needed and long overdue. Remember, it took a year for the complete video of happened to be brought to light. In the original video, the tape was edited by a detective to show only the part where the officer was hit by the fleeing vehicle.

    Coverups in LE, as many of us have personally learned, often go from the bottom all the way to the top. That top would include not only the chief, but also sometimes the D.A. and even judges. Especially when the officer is well liked or have connections within the local judicial system.

    Comment by reminders — May 24, 2009 @ 9:50 am
  15. Err, ahh, WHO phase 6 has nothing to do with martial law. The World Health Organization has no authority to do anything that dramatic. However, governments might (or might not) see it as a perfect excuse to declare yet another emergency under which rights need to be restricted for our own good.

    WHO’s website:
    “Phase 6, the pandemic phase, is characterized by community level outbreaks in at least one other country in a different WHO region in addition to the criteria defined in Phase 5. Designation of this phase will indicate that a global pandemic is under way.”

    Comment by tfr — May 26, 2009 @ 8:08 am
  16. Did no one notice the beginning of the clip when the guy tried to run the cop over? He tried to murder a police officer. Maybe that’s why the other police officers were upset. Just a guess.

    Comment by pat — June 1, 2009 @ 1:46 am
  17. [...] What Does it Really Mean to Respect Law Enforcement? If I had a badge and gun, how would I have reacted if one of my friends was almost run over by a fleeing suspect? [...]

    Pingback by Two Stories, Same Problem. — June 2, 2009 @ 8:15 pm

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