When I read new Cop Block contributor VYPER’s blog titled “Why I am different from the rest of the LEO’s,” I was quite pleased to see that I am no longer the only current or former law enforcement officer who is a participant here seeking greater police oversight and accountability.
I would like to offer some thoughts on points he made about discretion and accountability. Essentially, I’m sure VYPER is in fact different, but I want you to understand that his personal difference only exists because he is either extremely discreet or whatever he does differently is tolerated by his superiors. A police officer or federal agent cannot simply just get hired and adhere to their own set of principles.
In support of this, I offer the following select quotes from VYPER’s blog with my responses:
Police Officers are tasked with enforcing the laws put in place by our elected officials. it’s easy to say that if we don’t like the laws we have then we need to change them but those that are elected to make such changes are often times elected because they ” Purchased” that position. That is a shame.
Police agents are in theory tasked with enforcing “the laws,” but this really isn’t what happens practically. Sure, you enforce the law… but you first and foremost follow orders and kiss the proverbial ring of those who are above you in the chain-of-command. If you enforce laws that your superiors do not want you to enforce, or if you don’t enforce laws that your superiors do want you to enforce, you are going to be quickly placed under the microscope by your administration.
That means you had better do everything perfect… or find a new job.
Is it legal to possess weed without a medical Marijuana card (if your state allows that)?. No it’s not legal. Is an arrestable offense? Yes it is. Is it MANDATORY to arrest someone in possession of weed? Well It depends, is it a joint or 500lbs. In the case of having a joint it’s not mandatory and is an Officer Discretion situation.
Lets guess for a minute that VYPER is a Federal Protective Service police officer (the federal uniformed police wing of the Department of Homeland Security). One day at work he receives a memorandum from his supervisor who received a memorandum from Washington that states the new policy of the agency is to have zero-tolerance policy for possession of marijuana. Discretion = gone. Just like that.
Sure, VYPER could find someone who has marijuana and let them go without arresting them contrary to his new marching orders… but if he gets caught he would stand to be disciplined which means a suspension, written warning, verbal warning, letter of concern, or termination. He also could face the possibility of being charged for destruction of or mishandling of evidence or not fulfilling the obligations of his office. That isn’t discretion… that is breaking an order and the law and hoping not to get caught.
Few, if any, law enforcement officers I know would take that risk. This all comes down to following orders or breaking them and risking one’s livelihood. It should be readily apparent to you why only a minuscule amount of individuals would take that risk: government pay-checks and benefits are pretty good.
Marginalizing your morality is easy when you are rewarded so well for it.
I believe that the Discretion is often times abused because it allows an officers personal emotions to be considered when making his or her decisions which I believe goes beyond the scope.
If VYPER believes himself to be “different” from other law enforcement officers, and I believe it to be true, I think it is reasonable to assume that he is different because of how he feels about the application of certain laws to certain people in certain situations. It is impossible for a law enforcement officer to do anything without human emotion playing a part.
I had a debate with two superior officers once about the enforcement of New Hampshire’s adultery law. The superior officers told me flatly that they would never enforce the law. I asked them what authority they had to completely disregard a law because they disagreed with it, and they didn’t have a response. A similar debate happened between myself and other officers over the gambling law here in New Hampshire. The gambling debate began because another officer got in hot water for hosting poker nights at his house for money, a crime. When I asked how is it okay to disregard some misdemeanors (like gambling) for some people (law enforcement agents) and not some misdemeanors (like possession of innocuous chemical substances) for other people (non-law enforcement agents) once again, I received no answer.
It all comes down to the whims of your chain-of-command when you work in a paramilitary law enforcement setting. They decide what laws get enforced and who gets to break them.
Now, I mention discretion for several reasons. It’s a small example if why I disagree when people say we are political robots that do what we are told whether we agree with it or not. That’s just not the case in my opinion.
If you don’t do what you are told, you will be screwed with and eventually will be fired. This is the case, and it isn’t an opinion.
When a Judge says ” Officer I order you to arrest Ademo Freeman because he called me an asshole in the parking lot”. it’s an order from a Judge but aside from the question of whether it’s a lawful order or not, I still have both a choice and discretion.
If a judge orders you to arrest someone you have no choice but to comply with the judges order. If you don’t, you’ll probably be guilty of direct or indirect criminal contempt and charged with a crime. The same superior officer who said to me that he would never enforce the adultry law said to me once that if a judge ordered him to give someone a few “licks” that he would comply with the order. I tried pointing out to him that a judge couldn’t order him to break the law. He responded by shaking his head.
This is the mentality in the police world. Do. As. Your. Told.
Saying you still have both a choice and discretion in this situation is like saying you don’t have to pay federal income taxes. Sure, you don’t have to do it… but you are going to face severe consequences. Police officers and federal agents blindly follow the whims of politically appointed lawyers who wear black robes.
This is a fact.
I can choose to KNOWINGLY violate Ademo’s Civil Rights by carrying out the order OR use my Discretion and say” Your Honor I am not permitted to violate civil rights and I don’t see a crime so I am refusing to carry out your order and expose myself to criminal and civil litigation” which would be my response if in that situation. Even though I am Police Officer I still have the choice of how and when to use the powers I have been granted.
On paper and in the press you’re not allowed to violate civil rights, but in practice you do as your told. The government courts have gone so far as to create the almost sadistic concept of “qualified immunity” to make sure individuals are never held accountable for things they do wrong. Essentially, if you act on good faith doing something (ie: a judge/superior officer ordering you to arrest someone), and even if you violate the person’s constitutional rights, any attempt to sue you will be dismissed because of the fact that you acted pursuant to orders. You cannot sue a maliciously acting judge either as they get even better protection called “absolute immunity.”
All-in-all no one is really ever held accountable for the abuse of peaceful people… and the system is cleverly designed to perpetuate a lack of accountability.
Actually, one person could be held accountable in all of this, VYPER himself, should he disobey the bad order given by a judge in the hypothetical situation of Ademo being arrested by him. He just wouldn’t be held accountable if he violated Ademo’s civil rights.
Back asswards, I know, but strict adherence to morality, statutory law, and the Constitution will get any police officer or federal agent fired. I’d love for someone to try and prove me wrong on that.
When I am driving to the grocery store and see a car speeding do I pull him over or call it in? The answer is neither. I speed too, not because I am a cop but because its nearly impossible to stay UNDER the limit at all times. COP doesn’t mean BETTER or Above the law.
Police officers routinely break the law and routinely get away with it. There are dozens of tickets that I didn’t write because someone identified themselves to me as a police officer. “Professional courtesy” is an open secret that the entire world is aware of.
I hope to have a good public debate with VYPER where we can shed some public light on the problems inherent in the system.
VYPER: Be Blunt is a post from Cop Block - Badges Don't Grant Extra Rights