For a number of years when I have taught students about the Rule of Law, I shared with them my story about sitting at the traffic light in Oakhurst at 3 a.m., having driven from Los Angeles and waiting for the red light to change to green. When students asked why I did not just run the light since “There weren’t any cops around,” I shared that I couldn’t, simply because of my belief in the Rule of Law. Most of you would have sat, as I did, waiting for the light to change because we follow the rules consistently and not situationally.
Our nation has changed over the past five decades and a great deal over the past few years. We have many in our nation that resent any authority over them. I understand that we want the freedom to do what we want but we have agreed to have certain rules to govern our lives so we do not result in anarchy and chaos. As Jefferson said, “ … to secure these Rights governments are instituted among men…” There simply need to be laws and the laws need to be enforced.
We hire brave people to stand up to those who violate our laws and threaten our safety. The men and women who dedicate their lives to a career in law enforcement go to work every day knowing that they have to deal with “the bad guys.”
Most of our law enforcement deal with traffic violations, vandalism, burglaries, and drunk and disorderlies on a daily basis. Sometimes their work requires that they confront people who are threatening to us and even to them. When the weapons are drawn each officer now must control their own fears, solve the problem, and work the situation to resolve it as peacefully as they can. In the vast majority of those situations, the incident is resolved without gunfire and an arrest is made. A trial takes place and justice is served.
Other times the bullets start to fly and the incident goes awry very quickly. Our nation has witnessed a number of “officer involved shootings” in the past few years that have caused some to question the tactics of the police. We have seen protests in the streets about the actions of those officers involved.
Given the 24/7 coverage available because of cable news and the internet, information is readily at hand. On the other hand, because of 24/7 cable news and the internet misinformation is readily at hand as well. An unreliable witness tells the reporter the victim had his hands up and was walking away, and for months this nation hears about the unfair actions of the officer involved. When the facts and evidence come out later they exonerate the cop but many still want to hate the police anyway.
Last week two black men were killed in separate incidents in different states and the Black Lives Matter crowd and others have taken to the streets to protest the actions by the police.
Nobody knows what happened to cause the shootings but the protestors are showing disdain and distrust of our law enforcement agencies across this country. Now Dallas. A man bent on killing white cops ambushed officers killing five and wounding seven. Another officer was ambushed following a routine traffic stop. We are seeing that the acceptance of authority is waning. People question the concept of the Rule of Law and that is dangerous for all of us.
When government officials don’t show support for the police, the citizens begin to question their authority. When people see that politicians ignore basic laws as outlined in the Constitution, the people question the concept of the Rule of Law. When people see that politically-connected people can ignore the rules, violate the laws, and those people are not arrested, indicted and forced to face a jury, then people question the Rule of Law.
The protests and the violence will continue and the violence will get worse before it gets better. Fortunately for us, the basic DNA in law enforcement seems to compel them to run toward the danger to protect us. They won’t abandon us, which is a gift they provide.
However, the leaders of this nation and this state need to show by their actions that they respect the Rule of Law. They need to show that nobody is too big to indict and a police officer will know when he or she makes that split-second decision, we will understand mistakes may happen and the officer won’t face prison.
I saw in Dallas protestors who were peacefully demonstrating against the cops, as is their First Amendment Right, hypocrisy as soon as the first shots were fired by the assailant because the protestors ran to the cops for protection.
This week let’s be sure to thank the cops. God Bless them all.