ASHES, ASHES, AND WE ALL FALL DOWN
American law enforcement is working through a historic question of purpose and direction. The public and the national thinkers have a broad spectrum of things they believe about what we should be doing, and how we should be doing it.
There is an equally large debate mirroring this within law enforcement. Are we nurturers? Warriors? Secretaries? Mental health specialists? Role models? Ideas abound. Meanwhile, the calls for service keep coming and all politicians want us to help them get elected.
Jack asked me to comment on this article from the American Thinker titled, “If it all goes wrong, with whom will the police side?” The police aren’t supposed to have a “side”; our mandate is to enforce the law. But, the American understanding of law and order in some circles is devolving into a strongman concept of the legitimacy and exercise of power– if you have it, use it; and the implications be damned.
Democratic considerations are an obstacle to getting what we want; not a responsibility to uphold. This is not American thinking. It is Soviet, Mongol, Mexican, or fascist thinking, and it is getting the nod from way too many people who ought to know better in governments across the nation at all levels.
We may have seen the early warning sign with COVID. Or perhaps not, with the overreaching of governments in so many other ways—ranging from the BATFE and their curious administrative gun rulings, to highly intrusive laws that, good or bad, cover everything from taxes to pizza making. Many of these have passed due to Republicans as well as Democrats.
The question in this article is: “Should our government decide “our democracy” is in imminent danger and it’s necessary to suppress dangerous insurrectionists like Catholics and soccer moms, would America’s federal, state and local police play along?”
I will speak for what I have seen in my state (Texas) and what I know of the culture down here; both law enforcement and social, in my very large agency. As far as California, Illinois, or Eastern Maine, I have no experience.
Firstly, to understand this, we need to understand the police. Many commentors on this subject do not—they view the cops as a monolithic whole with afterthought jurisdictional trappings.
There are hundreds of types of “police” spread apart city, county, state, and Federal jurisdictions with different powers, focuses, and internal cultures. A constable in rural Texas thinks differently and has different priorities than a chief of police in a township in Northern Maine. The mindsets and cultures of these agencies greatly vary, and the legal requirements in their jurisdictions dictate how they do their jobs.
Each Texas peace officer is responsible individually when they use their powers per our Code of Criminal Procedure. When I file a charge against someone, I am saying that I will swear to it. When I use force, I do so as an agent of the state, with responsibility to the state. There is no, “I was just following orders”.
If my entire agency leaves the rails and decides to do something illegal, I have not only the right but the responsibility to refuse to join them.
If anyone tells me, “arrest them”, I can decide on my own whether there is probable cause and whether I should. I don’t care if they are my police chief or Merrick Garland. I have the power to tell them to pound sand.
We have more types of cops in my agency than you can imagine—no two think or act the same. But most took the oath expecting to do the job to the standards and under the law and Constitutional contract we have now.
So as the Federal government by way of the DOJ decides to go on a tear and target and put in jail, or worse, whole rosters of political enemies going on becoming kinetic ones, they will be spending their own money and energy. It’s unclear what “suppress” would mean, but let’s say it means rigorous and creative—read, bad faith—applications of existing Federal laws.
Yeah, us local cops can enforce Federal laws. But we very rarely do. And states and local jurisdictions cannot be made to enforce Federal laws.
We have seen this happen with immigration laws, for one example. Whatever is going on will probably be done by Federal agencies with big budgets, or Federal task forces that aren’t answering calls or working other crimes, funded by Federal money. Without a big Federal budget increase, you won’t get more cases through the system. But anything might go with an entity able to print as much money as it wants. It’s worked so far.
If someone approached our chief and said for us to involve ourselves, we would now tread the thin ice of naked extralegal power on the DOJ’s say-so; knowing that if it came to it, we would be expendable. If no one tried to make us direct actors in the drama, which I think is likely, it would not impact us greatly at the local level at least initially. Once someone tried to make us participate, a few zealots might embrace the “new order”.
But remember what I said earlier. I predict a lot more would refuse, actively or passively undermine it, or resign or retire—at least down in Texas. You would see people splitting into ideological cliques and refusing to work together, or cooperate on cases. You would see work slowdowns. Fratricidal violence and firefights between agencies are unlikely– yet. The convention of the rule of law still has power. It would take a lot to push it over the edge. More on that in a minute.
Local agencies are running call to call and are more short-staffed handling all of the ordinary crimes than they or anyone you elect wants you to know. It is not uncommon for large areas of cities to have a handful of cops on duty trying to keep the lid on. You can forget about them running around and trying to arrest soccer moms and Catholics.
Glib police administrators who want Federal jobs once they get kicked out of office will pay lip service, but the money for overtime and resources for anything more will have to come from Uncle Sam. And you still need the people.
Furthermore again, each official act a cop does, under the current system, comes with the potential for lawsuits and complaints attached. I don’t see American police being transformed into authoritarian lemmings under their own or under Federal control with the current climate.
We just saw all of law enforcement upended by George Floyd and lawyers nationwide line up to have at us for excessive force use. If you want to go Full Bore Fascist, you would have to find a way to change the legal climate that would theoretically stick lawsuits and investigations to you like leeches in the Mekong Delta.
The guys on the line won’t kick that football like Charlie Brown, only to have Lucy file a Section 1983 case on them.
You would have to codify that the old rules no longer apply and the cops don’t have to answer for how they uphold the edicts of His Royal Senescence Joseph Robinette Biden, the President of Southern Canada. That would be confirmation that all of the liberal legal sabotage we have seen over the past century was a smokescreen by the ACLU, the DOJ Civil Rights Division, and the SPLC to further Communism.
Now a Capitol police lieutenant managed to shoot Ashley Babbitt dead in a highly questionable use of force. It was virtually ignored by the DOJ and the George Floyd press. But that’s a one off. Let one of us shoot someone like that at our police station and see what happens. If a single January 6th protestor hollers “I can’t breathe” in the forest, does anyone hear it? Every cop outside of Washington knows this, too.
I can’t predict how the many Federal agents will process all this. There are fewer of them than there are local cops. They have their own insular agency cultures, as mentioned earlier. It is wrong to typecast them as monolithic liberal sentinels just like it is with us. But in this scenario, it will be harder for non-believers in the DOJ’s mandates to hide in the ranks and Federal-anything trends leftward. You might see a bunch quit. But new ones will be hired.
So let’s fast forward to when shots finally get fired.
It may happen as part of a Lexington-and-Concord moment, or it may be a slow burn like Mexico where the rule of law dies a lingering death.
Once bullets are snapping past their heads, the cops who have decided to stay will defend themselves; at least long enough to find another job. And all those other crimes we alluded to earlier will still be going on. Once a shot is fired outside of the law, the shooter knows he is now on his own legally and can be expected to act accordingly.
I will add that the above linked article’s author is, in my opinion, overestimating the impact of all of the war toys and ammunition various Federal agencies are buying. Americans have plenty of guns and ammo, and there aren’t very many agents in those special units. If someone makes kicking doors the standard daily activity, they won’t after they are ambushed or set off booby traps.
Most Federal agencies pit a big team of well-prepared agents against a lone actor who is not very bright or tactically astute. This will be different. They will have motivated opponents, including ex-cops and ex-soldiers enraged at the loss of their country. Someone on the team will die or be wounded each week. A gun is just a tool—and one that can be taken from you on a dark night by a man with a knife. People will quit. Will they keep going or pull back from the abyss?
If not, then when shot placement determines right and wrong, the people in the middle—the backbone of the country—will cease to believe in the system.
The lawyers who boldly de-legitimized American law enforcement will be hiding in their offices, clutching their lucky rabbit feet or Starbucks card and praying to something that no one is going to behead them. Judges may sit on their benches in empty courtrooms and pretend the system still works. Whichever cops are coming to work now probably aren’t the same types we had before this kicked off. Forget about a jury agreeing on anything if they even still exist.
It will now be Rome in 476 A.D.. We fell, even if we aren’t ready to say it yet. Some entity—possibly a coalition of military or state government leaders, might try to put the brakes on this.
Maybe it will be the shock of what they have done to themselves and the realization that the fabric of the country is coming apart. Maybe a string of police chiefs publicly resign, or whole state governments announce “no confidence” in Washington. Probably county sheriffs will refuse to enforce any Federal laws in their counties and offer tacit sanctuary.
A government and social climate of Mexico, El Salvador, Iraq, Syria, Venezuela, or a combination-fried-rice of all of it will now exist here.
Read the news from those countries on what the police will be acting like. Opportunities for all sorts of corruption, partisanship, abuse, and brutality in the new police ranks will abound. Would the U.S. government suspend habeas corpus and call in foreign military assistance from China?
Would Texas and/or a coalition of states declare no confidence in the U.S. government and effectively secede? It is impossible to put the entire U.S. under martial law. We couldn’t tie down Iraq or Afghanistan successfully, nor seal our borders. Now the cops won’t exist as we knew them. We are in the part of the nuclear war film where “history doesn’t record what happened next”. You don’t know who wins the war, but you know it’s going to be a bad, bad, day for a whole lot of people.
Mark Deuce has had a life-long career in community law enforcement. He is the author of Deuces Wild for TTP.