Lawlessness prevails when cops take sides

When police take sides, lawlessness prevails When the police choose sides, effective law enforcement becomes virtually impossible to achieve

Recent events around this country have revealed an issue that affects the way we police in this country. I’m referring to the insidious behavior of law enforcement officials who have both publicly and privately taken sides in a number of high-profile incidents. 

Whatever happened to police neutrality? What message is sent to all parties when law enforcement officials take sides because they are driven by fear-induced political correctness? When the police take sides, they fail to police. Enforcement is neutered and all sides pay the price. 

As law enforcement officials, we swear on oath to defend the Constitution, our respective state laws, and most importantly, to protect and serve the people. I don’t recall my oath specifying any certain segment of people. It said “the people.”

A Lesson Learned Young
As a young officer starting my police career in the early 70s — when there were riots and civil unrest — the first lesson taught in the academy (as well as at the agency) was the need to remain neutral. We were taught to not take sides or to placate one group over another. We were simply to do the job. It is inevitable that even if you attempt to gain favor with one side or one group, you will ultimately be required to enforce some laws and your once-friendly, fragile alliance will come crashing down.

In order to fully enforce the laws police cannot succumb to pressure to march with one particular group or meet another. Doing so only sets the police up for failure at some later time. This is a self-defeating cycle and puts the line officers in a no-win situation. They either over-respond against one side or they under-react, doing nothing — both of which inevitably hurt the people they are sworn to protect. If you choose sides, you have to go against that side eventually in order to restore the balance.

I remember protecting a group of black marchers from a mostly white counter protest group and while marching just a few feet away, the black marchers were shouting “Kill the pigs!” and “Down with the police!” and other not-so-endearing comments. I remember thinking about the irony of protecting a group that hated me and others like me. 

I knew that I was not protecting the group so much as I was protecting their First Amendment rights to free speech and to peacefully assemble. I also knew that if those on the other side had tried to intervene, I would do everything in my power to stop them. 

I was neutral. I was doing my job to protect the people. It’s what we as police do, or should do. My loyalty was to the people — all the people — and to protect anyone and everyone from those who wanted to harm them.

We Should Mediate, Not Placate
Now that may sound a little too cozy for a lot of you, but we didn’t have to lower our standards or sell ourselves for political correctness. We had a job to do and simply did it. It’s when we allow emotions, biases, or politics to enter into the equation that rule of law and order breakdown. As law enforcement officials, we cannot let ourselves be drawn into that quagmire.

If we remain neutral and everything we do is for the people, then we need not employ political correctness as our shield. We must reassert the shield of neutrality and remember the oath we all took to defend the Constitution of the United States.

This is no easy task, but it is essential if we are to truly and fairly enforce the laws. Neutrality is not a sign of weakness; it is a true sign of strength and selflessness and a belief in the fairness of all our actions. Knuckling under to political correctness sends the wrong message to everyone. Once we lose our neutrality it is extremely difficult to get it back, if we ever do, and we begin to placate instead of mediate. If we have to take enforcement actions, those we sided with feel betrayed and those we sided against see opportunities to escalate the situation.

Remaining neutral, understanding and adhering to our oath, serving and protecting all the people, consistently and fairly enforcing the laws, community involvement and proper training and leadership are the keys to successful policing. 

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