What used to be called police departments staffed by police officers have now become law enforcement agencies staffed by law enforcement officers. Enforcing laws is not the same as policing. Police officers use discretion to try to deter people from breaking laws whereas law enforcement officers try to catch people in the act of breaking laws. A police officer will watch an intersection in a marked car that’s highly visible in order to keep people safe. A law enforcement officer will watch the same intersection in an unmarked vehicle hidden from view and will ambush someone that has violated a traffic. Though the use of quotas is denied it seems natural that someone who fills the coffers of a municipality would be very much appreciated by their municipal employer and who doesn’t want to be appreciated.
It’s very common to see a LEO violating the law themselves. How often can you see a (marked or unmarked) law enforcement vehicle breaking the law by traveling faster than the speed limit without warning lights or sirens. Too often I see emergency vehicles failing to use turn signals whether or not they are involved in a call. Speaking of calls, how often do you see a LEO using a cellphone while operating a motor vehicle in areas where it’s prohibited. Just as for the common citizen there are alternatives to holding a phone against the ear with one hand while trying to drive with the other. Of course they can’t use their turn signals.
The decline of men in blue from peace officers to police officers to law enforcement officers is probably the result of changes in procedures as a result of lawsuits. Unfortunately, incidents of the excessive use of force still go largely unpunished in the LEO community.
Consider the man that was dragged off a plane for refusing to give up his seat due to airline overbooking. The person had not broken any laws on the books anywhere. LEOs were called in as bouncers acting on behalf of the airline. The LEO(s) involved committed assault and battery since their involvement was not the result of any crime(s) or even bad behavior. One can’t just summon a LEO to go beat someone up because they didn’t do what was asked of them by the complainant. Apparently there isn’t a law specifically deterring it. That behavior would constitute a violation of civil rights and treated as a civil matter instead of a criminal matter subject to fines, incarceration, or any other criminal penalty.
A peace or police officer would never have let things get as far as they did in the airline case but a LEO seems to have a different objective. They use whatever means is necessary to see that the complainant is satisfied with the action taken without regard for civil rights. A trumped up charge can be used after the fact to justify the LEO’s actions to mitigate the possibility of a civil rights violation lawsuit. Law enforcement agencies deny that that ever happens but covering oneself is human nature when a mistake has been made.
Many of today’s LEOs are recruited from the armed services that have served in recent conflicts that involve terrorism as a tactic. The result of exposure to that form of war is one in which they don’t know who the enemy is so everyone is suspect. The threat or use of deadly force is often the first tool a soldier uses when confronting anyone that isn’t known to be on their side. They must dominate the situation. It becomes a survival instinct for them that manifests itself even though the soldier has been welcomed back into society and placed in a situation where it’s “us versus them.” It can be justified as the means for a LEO to go home safely after every shift.
LEOs often employ military combat tactics and gear to overwhelmingly dominate a situation that often doesn’t warrant it. As a result lawbreakers are sometimes judged and executed by the people that are supposed to apprehend them so they can be judged by a jury of their peers and the appropriate punishment can be determined in proportion to the crime if they are convicted. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.
I think the use of excessive force is all too common in these times of terrorism. It may in part be a reaction to the civil unrest of the citizenry brought on by poverty in the community and racial discrimination by the authorities. It becomes a cause and effect cycle that doesn’t seem to be addressed by either civilians acting through government agencies or by government agencies that actually work for civilians. Law enforcement needs to revert to keeping the peace instead of blindly enforcing sometimes arbitrary or poorly thought out laws on the civilians they are sworn to protect and serve.