A Few Paragraphs on Liberty

By: 
Jim Gray

When I was a small child my parents continually drummed into my head: “Jimmy, if you get lost what will you do?” Answer: “I will find a policeman, he’s my friend.” Tragically that probably isn’t taught much anymore. Nevertheless, being a police officer is a noble calling – in fact, the police should be seen as the epitome of public servants.

But we should insist that, just as surgery is the last option for a medical doctor, an arrest should be the last option used by the police. Why? Because bringing someone into the criminal justice system is really easy, but getting them out is often truly difficult. And that involvement can leave lasting and often unnecessary damage to a person’s ability to get a job and otherwise lead to further involvement in crime. So we should have an environment in which we trust and partner with the police as they protect and serve us! In that atmosphere, the police will protect both our safety and our freedoms, and thus be pillars for Liberty.

But that is mostly not what we have today – and we should all work to change that! How has this tragedy evolved? Many reasons, like the War on Drugs, which has caused many minority communities to see the police as an “occupying force;” so-called Civil Asset Forfeiture laws, which are often known as “Policing for Profit;” and the traffic law system, which is used far too frequently as a government revenue-gathering resource instead of a means to keep us safe on our roads.

We as citizens and voters must stress that the most critical job of the police, just like with all prosecutors, is to do the right thing for the right reason – every time! Having a badge and a gun gives them enormous power over all of the rest of us. So they must be taught and mandated to stay within the law and reasonably use their discretion, and supported and appreciated when they do so. But they also should face consequences when they do not. Because we need the police to be pillars for our Liberty!

 

Gray (Ret.) 2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President

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Comments

Good observations! We were also brought up to believe that the system works something like this: someone commits a crime; police are called and investigate; a suspect is arrested; they receive a fair trial; then (if their guilt is obvious) they are convicted and sent to jail to serve out their sentence.

It rarely works at all in that manner. Police today has adopted a "little brown stamp" approach to law enforcement. Through plea bargaining, early release, and our general system of probation, police have leverage over a vast body of individuals within our society who have prior convictions that leave them at the mercy of law enforcement. Officers, I think, become accustomed to the routine use of threats and intimidation tactics, knowing that these individuals are vulnerable in that a revocation of their probation would send them back to jail.

Expedient though it may be, when police use these same tactics against law-abiding citizens, it is an illegal violation of their fundamental rights. Such abuse violates the oath taken by police to uphold the law, and especially the Constitution.

Any officer so intoxicated with power should be removed from it, but that rarely happens. This is why it is unwise today to teach young children that they can trust a police officer.

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