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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

So what do I believe about law enforcement?

Earlier today I received an e-mail from a fella named John, who is a law enforcement officer in a major metropolitan area. John has been a supporter of the Transformers score (out today!) but he mainly wrote to share some concerns he had with things I've written here lately about law officers abusing their power.

It was a very good letter that he wrote me. And I absolutely listened to him and took his words to heart. And it made me realize that maybe I haven't adequately shared my beliefs regarding law enforcement. So I wrote back to him, explaining more about my position. And I thought that maybe it would be well if I shared those thoughts here, also.

So here's my reply to John:

Please understand that at no time have I wanted to imply that I have "something against" law officers, because I don't. There are several who are very good friends of mine. Are family, even. I've never known any of them to have anything but a sober mind toward their profession. In that respect this entire county has been blessed: we really do seem to have the kind of police and sheriff's office personnel who hearken back to Andy and Barney of Mayberry: "peace officers", not "law enforcement officers", in that they try to create peace rather than impose it.

The stance that I write from is based on a long study of human history in general and human nature in particular. The biggest observation I have made is that given power and the authority to use it, all of us - absent the humility that comes with a never-ceasing seeking and chasing after God and fully understanding our place before Him - *will* abuse that power. I do believe we need law officers in our society. But just as they stand to counter the people being overwhelmed by a sense of power, so too do they require a counter... as does everything regarding our government.

It's a very delicate balance between too much power given individuals, and too much power given the government. One way leads to utter chaos, the other leads to imposed order. Anarchy or a statist government. I'd rather we not have either.

So a measure of constant vigilance is called for on the part of all individuals in a society: citizens and government alike.

This goes back to something that you referenced: Romans 13. Yes, we are to respect the authority of government. But here's the question: WHO exactly is in authority in America? Because we have two documents written by the Founding Fathers - the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution - which clearly delineate that all government and authority in the United States derive from the people. It is not government for sake of government, but government of the people, by the people and for the people. If we believe that government is an authority unto itself and that dictates that authority and wields power on its own terms, then we have already become something far different than what the Founders envisioned and intended.

By the way, here's an interesting historical note: "the sword" that Paul writes about in verse 4 of that chapter was not something that Roman soldiers used in the line of duty like a pistol or a taser. It was actually a fairly small sword that all soldiers charged with keeping the peace were issued as a visible indication of their job: more like a badge than a serious weapon. These were rarely, if ever, actually used. But from these came the tradition that eventually gave you the badge that you wear in the line of duty.

Where do law officers fit in all of this?

If the people cannot live in the understanding that there is something above them (as with your beliefs, I hold that this is God) then it does fall to government to establish that, however inadequately it can do so. But that's still better than doing nothing at all. Law officers are a material, tangible reminder of something higher than man and if need be, they work to actively establish that fact. Along with not only the rest of our judicial system but everything of government that we have in our society, from the voting booth on up to the White House.

I think that at their best, law officers do remind is that this is still a government of our own making, and that each of us has a role in that, whether paid or unpaid. Police and sheriff's deputies have taken this a step further: it's not just a matter of personal responsibility but something that they have chosen to make a full-time profession of, and this is quite admirable. In a perfect society, every citizen would be just as serious about upholding the rule of law.

It's the rule of man that worries me though. And I've read too much of history to know what happens when man becomes too inebriated with power and authority.

John, I must run for now but I do thank you for taking the time to write to me about your concerns. Please know that I *have* taken what you have written to heart. And please know that at no time have I meant to encourage harm or anything other than respect to your and your fellows in your profession. I'm just trying to do right by *everyone* - law officers and citizens alike - per the big picture... 'cuz I'd rather like to have a country still worth passing down to my own children someday.

Remember folks: this government doesn't belong to itself. It belongs to you. And this country is what you choose to make of it, whether by your action or your apathy. I'd rather we take that responsibility seriously, so that good men and women like John who do serve in law enforcement (or as "peace officers" as I prefer to call them) won't have to shoulder that burden any more than they really should have to.


Omnifrog said...

Are you sure you want to take a break from blogging?

Chris Knight said...

Yeah, I need it. To re-focus myself and work on a few other things. I'm thinking that after next week is when I'll take off. But I hope to fill the time in between now and then with some good stuff :-)