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Police and Law Enforcement Home    >    Editorials    >    Threatening not to Enforce Laws Sends Wrong Message


Police and
Law Enforcement News




Threatening not
to Enforce Laws
Sends Wrong Message
Police and Law Enforcement News
Monday, April 8, 2013  12:01 a.m.


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 careers.

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 not constitutional.

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 government.

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 follow.

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 lawless ourselves.

Use the text box below to share your opinion.









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