A while back, I was providing security for a large group of anti-war protesters marching through the campus. The group was very vocal about their position on the war and was encouraging the various officers, including myself, to talk about how we felt. I am always willing to talk to people and discuss why I choose to do the job that I do. However, one friendly, outgoing young man felt that it would be great if, instead of just escorting the protesters, the officers could march along with them and show their opposition to the war. I appreciated his openness and desire to include people in his cause, especially considering the natural inclination toward animosity between law enforcement and protesters, but I don’t think he considered just how frightening of a concept that was.
Officer, you know the war is a bad thing. Wouldn’t it be great to have officers in uniform marching along with us and showing their support?’
This question was asked a few years ago when protestors marched across campus and had a short sit-down on Highway 217. This question has always hung around in the back of my mind as a scary warning about the power that we hold as law enforcement and the importance of maintaining the trust of the people we are responsible to protect.
As a general rule, cops tend to be conservative. Yet like any other group of people, we have representations of all ideas, values, personalities, etc. spread throughout our profession. Behind closed doors, we debate politics and argue over sports or even boxers versus briefs. We’re no different than any other group of people. That said, once the uniform is on and we are doing our job, our personal beliefs and politics must be put on hold. We are responsible for enforcing the laws put forth by the representatives of the people. Sometimes we agree with them; sometimes we don’t. But it doesn’t matter. If we are going to pick and choose the laws to enforce, then we become the de facto government, overriding the will of the people.
I tried to explain to the young man that it may seem awesome to him to have the police showing support for his cause, but what if the cause was abortion rights? Or the KKK? Or animal rights? Or the Tea Party movement? Or any other topic you can think of that you might disagree with? Disagreement and counter-protest is a hallmark of what makes our republic so great. Woody Allen has the right to believe and say that President Obama should be a dictator. But how chilling would it be to see a large group of armed police or military marching through your town in support of that? The police and military must remain beholden to the people and the law. And that means all of the people, whether we agree or disagree with their ideas or politics.
I thought the noise ordinance started at midnight on Saturdays. Why did the cops shut down our band/party at 10 p.m?
I’m going on the assumption that the band was really good and the choice of a Lawrence Welk speed-metal cover band had nothing to do with the neighbors complaining. But for whatever reason, someone didn’t appreciate the party or the music you had. You are correct about the noise ordinance starting at midnight on the weekends (and 10 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday); however anyone can complain about the noise level at anytime of the day or night. If they complain to the police and are willing to sign a citizen’s arrest for P.C. 415 — Disturbing the Peace, we will respond and let you know of the complaint. Hopefully, we can work out a compromise and make everyone happy, but if the person insists on signing the complaint, we are required to make the arrest on their behalf. You then have the right to go to court against the person who signed the complaint and a judge will decide if Zamfir’s Punk Flute was reasonable for that afternoon.
This is going to be the last article for the year, and I wanted to say thanks to everyone for all the fun. I really enjoyed talking to so many of you and I am looking forward to starting over again next year. For those of you graduating, I hope you will look back at this time as some of the best memories of your life. Wherever you end up and whatever you do, I hope that you always will appreciate the road that got you there. Take care and don’t ever forget to stop and take the time to “Question Authority.”