I will readily admit that I am someone who really gives the industry of law enforcement a lot of grief and that sometimes I misdirect my contempt at them. This misdirection that many of us participate in is a product of the circumstances in which we encounter police and knowledge of the separation of powers doctrine in our United States Constitution. The separation of powers clause was something that everyone should have learned in their high school government class. Police do not make policy decisions. The job of the police (and executive branch) is completely administrative in nature. They only enforce laws that the legislature put on the books. Their job is merely supposed to be one of reaction directed by a system and operational policy that was put into place by a totally different branch of the government. The decisions and what laws are enacted are the product of the legislative bodies. Police do not make laws, the legislature does. So when one has a problem with the police enforcing the laws, write or contact your representative or senator about the issue. Taking your anger out on the police is pointless and could become dangerous. By this same logic, if you don’t like paying taxes don’t take it out on the IRS. The IRS has no control over taxes and how much you pay. The laws that decide how much in taxes that you pay were a product of Congress and they are but the administrative messenger just doing as they are told to do by the law. The only control that the police have over policy is their advocacy groups and mercenary lobbyists that every other special interest group has.
In many ways our country has taken the industry of law enforcement a little too far. Recently I visited my former college campus (to listen to the TED talks) and noticed many changes since I had been there last. One of which was a campus police force (where we had previously had a small token security guard personnel). This is typical of many college campuses (both public and private that have their own law enforcement agencies). That is just another layer of government that civilians have to submit to and more government that can charge you with a crime. Standing at the relatively peaceful campus of University of Houston Downtown for another example one is under the jurisdiction of the UHD Police Department, Houston METRO Police, Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff’s Department, Texas Department of Public Safety and the federal government. That list includes at least 6 different law enforcement agencies that can charge you with a crime. This industry of law enforcement has gotten out of hand as the legislature authorizes all the small communities to incorporate into cities and have their own city ordinances and police forces. Here in the Harris County (greater Houston metropolitan) area there are more than 100 different law enforcement agencies operating looking for people to charge with any violation of legal statutes.
As you ponder the fear of God that this puts into you, let us remember that our legislature let this happen.
The problems start with the many lines that the state continues to draw between citizens and the police that continue to make it look like we are being occupied by a foreign army. An example of this is the current statute on the death penalty and which murders qualify as a capital offense. The single crime of homicide against a barber, chef, engineer, teacher, physician, dentist, sailor, fishermen, priest or any number of other civilian jobs have the maximum punishment of a life sentence. However the homicide of a police officer (judge and prosecutor as well) must be punished by death (especially in Texas). The message that the current law sends is that some lives are worth more than others and not all human lives are equal. Some people are but mere pawns and others more important pieces. The message is that if you kill a police officer you will face the death penalty. However the murder of any other civilian (for example the barber, chef, engineer, teacher, physician, dentist, sailor, fishermen or priest) is more tolerable and the punishment is less.
This separation creates two separate classes determined by employment. The first class consisting of police (including judges and prosecutors) and the second class citizens being everyone else. With the state choosing what lives are of more value than others I would expect significant animosity to breed and occasional violence to erupt between the first class and the second class. Under the current logic of this part of the capital murder statutes we could probably create a third class or citizens based on employment including the homeless, drug dealers and prostitutes with the murder of these individuals punishable by maybe 10 years in prison. This follows the logic of the state that certain lives are worth more than others based on the occupation of the victim.
So much for all that crap about all life being precious and all men being created equal.
Another example of this kind of thinking as TX Representative Jason Villalba’s House Bill 2918 in bill that (thankfully failed in the legislature this past session) criminalized the filming of police absent certain distances.
The more distance that we put between the police and the public will be measured by a loss of transparency, accountability and trust.