What's the role of law enforcement?

What's the role of law enforcement?

This is a discussion on What's the role of law enforcement? within the Law Enforcement, Military & Homeland Security Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; With all the (sometimes heated) discussions about how citizens are expected to respond to law enforcement instructions, it got me thinking about just what function ...

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  1. #1
    Member Array Rivers's Avatar
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    What's the role of law enforcement?

    With all the (sometimes heated) discussions about how citizens are expected to respond to law enforcement instructions, it got me thinking about just what function and empowerment the citizens have given to LE.

    My feeling is that society has adopted laws to govern all its citizens (OK, illegals too...) Law enforcement personnel are citizens like everyone else, with the added responsibility of enforcing those laws enacted by the elected government.

    I find LEO statements like "I am the law" to be offensive and totally off-base. Any LEO who maintains the belief "I am the law" is an accident waiting to happen. LEO have the responsibility to their employers (AKA "The Public") to protect the public's rights and well being. To that end, my compliments and gratitude to all LEO who spend their lives working to keep the public safe because "that's the right thing to do" and not through of the color of authority.


  2. #2
    Senior Member Array dcb188's Avatar
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    Context is king. What is the context in which the LEO makes that statement?
    And it is very correct to say that citizens are not only expected to comply with lawful commands, but they are required by law to do so. This is where the balking against duly constituted authority comes into play.
    If the LEO is in an argument with a person and has the legal authority to issue a lawful command to a motorist, say, and the motorist starts arguing and not complying, then a LEOs statement like that is correct. He or she IS the law right there on the side of the highway, i.e. the lawful and duly constituted representative of the law. He or she can do whatever the "law" could do were it a person and able to so.
    And while the public is the public, I doubt if the word employer would apply that much. We are not in the strictest sense the employer of the officer. As a motorist stopped on a highway, it is not accurate to say that you are his or her boss, not in the sense in which I think you mean it, i.e. he or she is personally responsible to you for what they are about to do.
    They keep the public safe because it is the right thing to do, because they have sworn to uphold the law, and because of the authority they have. Without the authority given to them by us, the people, they could not do their job.
    If a LEO is just saying I AM THE LAW as in I Am DA MAN!, that is different.
    There are a lot of reasons why LEOS keep the public safe. Number one is it is their sworn duty, not because it is the right thing to do. They joined, most of them, because they wanted to do the right thing, to make a difference in the world.
    Keep in mind that for every GG they come across who is just as cooperative as can be, they come across ten folks who are way way above any law known to man. They are truly a law unto themselves, and this is the kind of thing the LEO has to deal with every day. I would not contend for a moment that those kinds of folks are the employers of the LEO. Only in a very very vague way and so vague as to be almost meaningless.
    This is why I laugh when I see a motorist on Tv who just got a ticket exclaiming I PAY YOUR SALARY. YOU WORK FOR ME. That is most untrue. Certainly untrue in the sense that the motorist means it. i.e. that the LEO must answer to the motorist for any actions taken. I doubt that the motorist has a chunk of change taken out of his salary that is specifically earmarked for the PD. So as a member of millions of people called The Public, yes, but in a personal sense, the way the motorist would LIKE it to be, nope.
    On another note, it is absolutely astounding how restrained LEOS are with the very large lawless segment of the public. I have seen instances where they actually had authority to shoot but witheld fire, so they would not have to kill someone, even though they thereby exposed themselves to risk of being killed.
    They don't get enough credit. We don't like them but we pick up the phone and hit 911, not 411.
    Keep in mind that there are a lot of people who are their own law. They do not recognize our laws. They have within themselves their very own House of Representatives, Senate, judiciary, executive branches, all in their heads, and they are the ones who decide what they will do and when. There is a very significant number of these people walking around as we speak. LEOS do not know who is who among the public.
    When they say they are the law, it depends completely on how they mean that statement. In one sense they are correct, in the other, they are abusing authority.
    Last edited by dcb188; May 21st, 2008 at 05:14 PM. Reason: 3 typos, as usual. Sorry.
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  3. #3
    Member Array Rivers's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dcb188 View Post
    And while the public is the public, I doubt if the word employer would apply that much. We are not in the strictest sense the employer of the officer. As a motorist stopped on a highway, it is not accurate to say that you are his or her boss, not in the sense in which I think you mean it, i.e. he or she is personally responsible to you for what they are about to do.
    The suggestion that the LEO, or any other state employee including the President, is an employee of each citizen was meant in concept. One of the most resonant lines I remember was from the movie "Dave" during the "ending speech to Congress, "Dave" says "he forgot that it was only a temp job for the people." (OK, very not verbatim but close enough for this thread.)

    Quote Originally Posted by dcb188 View Post
    This is why I laugh when I see a motorist on Tv who just got a ticket exclaiming I AM YOUR BOSS. YOU WORK FOR ME. That is most untrue. Certainly untrue in the sense that the motorist means it. i.e. that the LEO must answer to the motorist for any actions taken.
    I'm in complete agreement with you here. As individuals, we are not the employers of any public servant. As legitimate members of the entity that empowers all public servants, we each are entitled to speak and act lawfully to affect the policy that determines who gets what authority, under which all citizens are expected to live.

    This thread arose from the other thread (Back in America...Arrested) that discussed the rogue cop who had no reluctance to "make up law" as he pleased.

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    Senior Member Array dcb188's Avatar
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    Oh yeah, I saw that, and advised Duisburg accordingly, so he can do something and pay under five bucks.
    That was bad. Real bad. He was arrested and cuffed not for speeding but for asking questions. It is not that often that someone driving down the highway is cuffed like that. Now in THAT context, that was a LEO saying I AM DA MAN and you are the prisoner. You should have said that in the first place, Rivers. You and I have had some great threads going, remember the one you began which drew about a thousand posts? That was great. Now I typed all that for nothing because you are talking about the case where a LEO is just acting like the Arkansas incident......We are on the same side. I will wait for you to bring up another controversial issue then jump in as we always do......what was that thread you began before that was so good it went into overtime here???? I forget now.
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    VIP Member Array dukalmighty's Avatar
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    An LEO has to look at the situation from both perspectives ,try to gather witness testimony and then decide if any Laws have been broken,if so by whom and if it warrants an arrest or just a ticket or notice to appear,there may be something the leo wasn't aware of or overlooked that in court the defendant is found not guilty as charged or after the arrest there is an element that comes out and the charges are modified.
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    Senior Member Array dcb188's Avatar
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    dukalmighty what do you think of the Arkansas incident that Duisburg came on with, the thread was Back in the US and arrested or something like that. I don't want to go to the thread because we are talkiing now about the officer only, not that whole thread material
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  7. #7
    Member Array Rivers's Avatar
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    This is all about whether the LEO considers him or herself as "the Law" or a citizen who is authorized to enforce "the Law." There's a point where the two interpretations of law enforcement cross over, where maybe being legal isn't as effective as being ideologically lawful.

    Consider the North Hollywood Bank of America armed robbery in the 1990s. At the end of the whole episode, there's the last robber, shot numerous times, bleeding out in the street. The officers are standing around, "securing the area from any unknown accomplices" and not allowing medical personnel to enter the area to render aid to the robber. (I lived in the area at the time of the robbery so I saw the coverage locally.) The outcry from many citizens was that the LAPD was essentially executing this guy by refusing him medical aid.

    Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying that the end result wasn't what he deserved. Unfortunately, a 12 gauge didn't simply take his head off. The BG instead lingered for a long enough time to make this an issue among those who thought that LAPD "executed" the BG after he was, in effect, in custody. Did LAPD, at that moment, cross over into becoming "judge, jury, executioner" or did LAPD exercise maximum caution to protect public safety (the EMTs) at the expense of the life of the BG? Were they (making) "the Law," protecting the public's interests and safety, or both?

    Note that this was after the Rodney King riots and the city council had seriously gutted the LAPD and endangered the patrol officers. The patrol cars had minimal weapons and were totally outgunned against these two robbers.

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    Senior Member Array PaulJ's Avatar
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    in my opinion: follow instructions first, ask questions later. As with any confrontations, your first goal in a confrontation with law enforcement should be to de-escalate. Later, you can file a complaint against the officer. But while you encounter a (rogue?) LEO, its best to follow instructions, at least while they are half-way reasonable. Arguing with an officer who isn't friendly in the first place will get you nowhere.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Array Sergeant Mac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulJ View Post
    Arguing with an officer who isn't friendly in the first place will get you nowhere.
    Oh, it'll probably get you SOMEwhere.....just nowhere you WANT TO BE....

    Quite a few of the people I've arrested over the years found their way to jail while arguing with me about the TICKET I was trying to issue them for an offense I could ALREADY have arrested them for.

    Last time I checked, I don't wear a black robe to work. Save the "defense" for court if you find yourself in that situation.

    One major problem, as far as I'm concerned, is that the role of police has evolved from simply protecting people from others, to "protecting" people from their own bad decisions, which harm no one but themselves.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Array dcb188's Avatar
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    That is true. They are often their own worst enemy.
    Going back to the BOA bad guy, I am trying to work up some sympathy for the BG and may just have something here.....nope, nothing. I guess he just put too many lives in danger....cannot work up much for him, although trying to.
    The reality of the world is this. Criminals who cannot abide by the consequences of things they themselves start, have no business complaining later on....
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    Senior Member Array PaulJ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sergeant Mac View Post
    One major problem, as far as I'm concerned, is that the role of police has evolved from simply protecting people from others, to "protecting" people from their own bad decisions, which harm no one but themselves.
    And what about the role of police officers as "educators". E.g. calls to pull fighting children apart (6 year olds... not 16 year olds).

    I find there are two "kinds" of police officers. I categorize them by the setting, but you find either in rural/city environments:

    City cops: They just want to get back in their car and move on to the next call. The more you help them accomplish that goal, the better for you.

    Rural County Sheriff: "I am the law around here". If I don't know you, or in particular if you have an out of state license plate, you are a suspect. Nothing interesting has happened here in a while, and nothing is supposed to happen. Respect them, and you will be fine.

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    Senior Member Array dcb188's Avatar
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    Those two kinds of police officers, I think there are about a hundred kinds or more.
    Surrounded and outnumbered, Marine Col Lewis Puller: "Good! We finally got 'em where we want 'em!" (Korea, 1950)
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  15. #15
    Senior Member Array Sergeant Mac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulJ View Post
    And what about the role of police officers as "educators". E.g. calls to pull fighting children apart (6 year olds... not 16 year olds).
    Yeah, I get some of those.

    Funny, that's what I thought PARENTS were for....

    ....and I won't hesitate to remind ANYONE of what THEIR responsibilities are. (Note: this does NOT make one popular with Police Chiefs, Sheriffs, Prosecutors, Judges, etc.)

    As for your two characterizations of cops, while I have seen examples from both categories, I know that my approach/mindset is different from either.

    I basically try to figure out what people NEED. Sometimes, it's just reassurance. Sometimes, it's education. Sometimes, it's a smack on the pee-pee.

    Sometimes, it's removal from decent society.

    Then, I compare their NEEDS with my options under the LAW, and where those lines intersect......there ya go!

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