to Enforce Laws
Sends Wrong Message
Police and Law Enforcement News
In recent months we have seen various law
enforcement leaders become involved in the national debate over the
Second Amendment. Some have expressed support for enhanced gun control
measures while some have expressed opposition.
But there's a third group: chiefs and
sheriffs who have outright declared that they will not enforce any gun
control measure that they deem unconstitutional.
It is very easy to find admiration for a
leader who is willing to put principle over politics. In a world of
self agenda, it is refreshing to see someone stand for something
especially when done at risk to themselves and, potentially, their
But this is an extremely dangerous slope.
Whether appointed or elected, police
chiefs and sheriffs do not have the power to decide what is and what is
This power is reserved for the courts,
period. It has to be this way. Deciding the constitutionality of any
issue involves a lot more than one's opinion. Despite an undergraduate
degree, a law degree, clerking, years battling in a courtroom, years
refereeing in a courtroom, and teaching at universities, our Supreme
Court justices seldom reach unanimous agreement on any issue.
And, then, where does it end?
What about the next chief who feels that
the drug laws are unconstitutional? What about the sheriff who decides
he doesn't agree with the state or federal law on gay marriage? What
about the police commissioner whose interpretation of the First
Amendment is different than that of our courts?
May these leaders prohibit searches, ban
gay marriage and imprison reporters?
If we were to allow this, we would be
empowering law enforcement not only with the authority of enforcing the law,
but with the capacity of writing the law. This privilege is
reserved for the people via their right to vote into office those with
views and opinions similar to that of their own.
This also raises another question: Which
other sworn personnel have the power to establish policy based on their
determinations of constitutionality?
Patrol officers and sergeants are also
bound by an oath to uphold the Constitution. If a road sergeant feels
warrantless searches are not in line with what the founding fathers
envisioned, does he or she have the right to ban officers from
conducting such searches?
The Miranda Warning is not even in the
Constitution, yet we are told to read it to suspects prior to custodial
interrogation. What happens if a patrol officer feels it goes beyond
constitutional intention and decides the warning is no longer necessary,
and what is the difference between how the road officer should be handled vs. the
chief or sheriff?
And does it stop at law enforcement?
What about military leaders, legislators and even staffers? Are they bound by rules and
laws they feel are unconstitutional? What about citizens?
A chief or sheriff refusing to enforce a
law does more than complicate an issue: it degrades our entire system of
We all swear to uphold the Constitution, however, there
is a fine line between upholding it and perverting it.
There is a process for objection and protest. There
is a chain of command. There are a variety of venues from which to
seek clarification and opinion on a particular issue from people who are
qualified and credentialed. Refusing to
enforce laws passed by the United States Congress or a state legislature
purely on one's opinion is not part of this process.
Law Enforcement leaders need to reassess
the prudence of publicly announcing which laws they will and will not
They also need to consider the confusing
example it sets for our citizens.
We ensure that the Second Amendment
carries on by electing the right people into office, not by becoming
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