Warrantless searches. Unjust arrests. The taking of private property. Is it reasonable for local police departments to aggressively pursue arrests solely to enrich the local government?
Are such things actually happening in America today? Yes.
What is the principle of all governments? Where do you find it? Look to the first sentence of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
From my personal experiences and observations, I have come to classify police officers as Peace Officers and Law Enforcement Officers.
First, the Peace Officer. This person is fully aware of the tremendous power he can exercise over a citizen’s life and he behaves with personal restraint. The Peace Officer is mindful of the citizen’s rights and his or her personal responsibility. This officer is polite, professional, and personable. This officer is not interested in overpowering a citizen in an encounter but acts to preserve the peace.
Next, the law enforcement officer. This person seeks citizen encounters to exercise control over the citizen. Many of this class carry out unreasonable searches and seizures, contrary to the Fourth Amendment. It is this class of police officer that precipitates costly civil lawsuits, as per 42 U.S. Code, Chapter 21—Civil Rights § 1983, Civil action for deprivation of rights (pg 4490).
Any encounter between a citizen and any governing official, whether an animal control person, city building inspector, municipal department head, county elected officeholders, police officers, sheriff’s deputy, county commissioner, or the county judge, the first duty of all these officials is to secure the rights of the citizen.
Long ago, I learned an important principle. Before you can teach a dog tricks, you have to know more than the dog. Before a government official acts against or for a citizen, the government official should know the limits of his or her authority and the range of rights of the citizen.
Ignorantia juris non excusat (ignorance of the law is no excuse). The Texas Penal Code, Title 2, Chapter 8, §8.03. Mistake of Law (a) It is no defense to prosecution that the actor was ignorant of the provisions of any law after the law has taken effect.
If you ask your lawyer if your ignorance of the law can be a defense to prosecution, he or she will say, “It all depends.” Read all of §8.03 for insight.
Personally, I respect all governing officials. There are many with whom I enjoy friendship. Over my many years of life, there have been encounters with police officers, civilian and military, state and local, from the east coast to the west. Only one personal encounter with a rogue police officer happened right here in my city of Rockwall, Texas.
Late one evening, city police were investigating an auto parts business adjoining my office in downtown Rockwall. Someone reported seeing lights in the closed auto parts store.
In a short span of time, there were two encounters with Rockwall police officers. The first was with an officer who opened my unlocked back door and called out. I answered his call. The first related the matter of the report on the auto parts store. The first officer, a peace officer, asked if he could enter my place of business to look around. I declined and that was the end.
It would have ended there except a second, a law enforcement officer, approached me as I stood in my rear doorway. This second officer asked me why I would not allow a search of my business. Knowing my rights under the Fourth Amendment, I stated, “I don’t want to and I don’t have to.” The second attempted to bully me, asking, “Why do you look so guilty? What are you hiding? He withdrew his handgun from its holster, holding it at a 45-degree angle between himself and me, his finger clearly within the trigger guard.
The first officer knew my rights and respected them. The second undoubtedly knew my rights and ignored them.
The encounter precipitated a certified letter to the chief of police and that was a mistake on my part. The police chief is not the top authority in a city manager form of municipal government. I should have addressed my certified letter to the city manager and copied each member of the city council.
My certified letter should have been transmitted to the city manager who can hire or fire the chief of police.
What should you do in an encounter with a rogue police officer or other governing official? First and foremost, do not misbehave. Remain calm. Leave it to the rogue official to be the ‘bad guy’. In a court of law, if there is misbehavior on the part of the citizen and misbehavior on the part of the governing official, the citizen will most likely lose.
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.1 Peter 2:13–17 ESV