The War on Cops as a Battle for Democracy

By Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D

It has been said that even the paranoid have real enemies. In an era where any theory that focuses on the loss of freedoms is labeled as a conspiracy theory, rational considerations in interpreting current events can be lost.

Let’s begin with the real views on differing theories of government. Regardless of labels of leftist v. right-wing, Democrats v. Republicans, there are those who believe that individual freedoms and self-improvement are inferior to government control of populations. I am convinced that the revolutionary thinking of our Founders lay in their investment in the individual. The clear statement of the Constitution is that our rights are God-given and not graciously extended by a benevolent government. The debates among the revolutionaries forging our Constitutional democratic republic were primarily about the balance of constraints on a national government and the rights of states that establish smaller divisions of government within it. One of the first of the ten amendments, without which the Constitution would never have been ratified, was number 10: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

From this essential principle state and local governments created independent law enforcement agencies, regulated by the states and required to abide by the Constitution under the 14th Amendment. The number of federal agencies, now numbering about 75, also grew. Now, local law enforcement is being painted as the enemy of freedom rather than its actual role as a guarantor of freedom.

In July of 2008, candidate Barack Obama said “We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.” Knowing that the vast military force cannot, by law, enforce civilian domestic law according to the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, the encroachment of federal law enforcement as the most powerful police agency, was envisioned to supplement (eventually to supplant) our locally controlled law enforcement.

At least that’s my theory. It is no surprise to me, that Biden’s Attorney General immediately began orchestrating civil rights investigations of dozens of police departments. No one wants agencies to engage in patterns of unfair police practices, but those alleged practices rarely get litigated. Police agencies under these accusations have little alternative than to submit to consent decrees – court orders without the benefit of a balanced judicial proceeding – that essentially turn local law enforcement into vassals of the federal government. This can last for years and cost millions of local dollars.

Accusations of racism as an epidemic within law enforcement practice are being leveraged against local control of policing. Agencies have been scrambling to evaluate the extent of bias in their enforcement efforts, making a good faith effort to examine the issue under the bright light of public scrutiny. Enemies of local policing have seized the opportunity to translate every possible event into a narrative that is intended to break down the well-established trust of communities’ law enforcement. As a diabolically generated result, advocates of defunding, supplanting, and impeding policing have caused myopic politicians to punish the police for being the police. Removal of sovereign immunity, appointing anti-police activists to police oversight groups, and removing access to tools for the protection of officers and response to violence is slowly eviscerating many police departments. These efforts are being touted as reform and pursuit of justice, while ordinary citizens suffer increasing victimization and fear.

A rational citizen must have anticipated the well-documented increase in violent crime that follows tearing away police from being able to prevent, respond to, and investigate crime.  So how can elected leaders ignore the obvious outcome of their campaigns? Missouri state representative Cori Bush is celebrating the defunding of the St. Louis police department, saying the “decision to defund the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is historic. It marks a new future for our city” is an example of the ludicrous rhetoric celebrated in the media.

Could it be that the politician’s fear is not that chaos will reign, but that it might not? Chaos creates fear and demands for action. If the public has already been brainwashed to believe the police are the problem, who will come to their rescue? Maybe the federal government can! No lesson from history is clearer than the license a weakened population will give to even the worst despot in return for safety.

Supporting the right of the governed to determine how they will be policed in a way that provides local accountability is a key ingredient to liberty. There is a reason that we have 18,000 local law enforcement agencies rather than one big one. We need to keep it that way.

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