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“The police were stupid”. That’s the popular view and at first glance I can see why people think that. However, the police gave warnings and they explained the park was closed. Though the people likely knew that it was closed without the explanation.
Just saying this will make me unpopular. While you can be in a park when it is open, local, and sometimes state laws, prohibit being in a closed park. Unpopularity doesn’t alter that fact.
I’m not saying I agree with the need behind this. I think that people should be able to decide for themselves. I believe fully that how we have dealt with this all is wrong and has robbed us of our liberty. But this post isn’t about that, it’s specifically about the role of laws and police on our society.
While you have the right to peaceably assemble you do not have the right to do it anywhere you like. But parks are public spaces! Yes, they are. Many places are. Do you have a right to protest inside of a library? Inside of a police station? Inside of a school? Parks are not open 24/7 in most places so we recognize limitations already.
But people protest in the street! True enough, but not because they have a right to. They do because municipalities have made allowances for it by blocking off streets, including traffic enforcement and extra officers. If the crowd starts to cause an issue or veer off the designated street they are moved or arrested. That’s because even though the street is a public place you don’t have a right to walk down the middle of it any old time you please.
The woman in question asked the cops if they thought it was right, “not as a cop, but as a human being”. That sounds like a good question (it’s often one I hear Libertarians ask) but I continue to explain it is the wrong question. An officer who acts, not on the law, but on how they feel, is a dangerous officer. Such an act might work, when you support a law being ignored, but it can backfire. An officer willing to ignore the law can ignore it in very creative ways.
If the cop in the case of the woman in the park honestly believes that COVID-19 is a deadly virus and that the actions of these people is causing harm that could lead to death then his actions are laudable. How many people actually do believe the virus is going to kill everyone? That is what they have been told after all! So why wouldn’t a police officer also believe this? If he believes it, and is authorized to take action to protect people from it – as we’ve all been taught during this must be done – why would he get any blame for his actions?
I think likely the answer is that people don’t actually believe that the virus is going to kill them. They may go through the motions when it suits them in order to play the good neighbor or citizen and avoid the derision of the true believer but when it doesn’t suit them they act upon their true belief that this is a bunch of nothing. If that is how they honestly feel then they should have the courage to tell others this is how they feel about The Virus.
Blame the Lawmaker
As I have often said, the best solution is not to ask the officer to ignore the law, but to scream at your lawmaker until they change the law. The cops get the anger because they are there, they are ones with the duty to perform and it is often unsightly. The lawmaker sits in their ivory tower, having caused the problem in the first place, looking down and wondering why people don’t just obey. Cops face the consequences of this arrogance all the time.
Cops have to adhere to the law. For example, they hear the cries of the woman begging them not to take her husband away even while her nose is still bleeding. She is pleading with them but the law says that in domestic violence situations the officer “will” make an arrest. Unlike other types of assault where they “may”. There are times when a victim in a non-domestic violence assault does not want to prosecute. The cop likely feels that the person should, but he can do nothing. Do we want cops leaving the woman or child in a situation of domestic violence? Or do we want them to cart someone off to jail when there is no danger to the victim anymore and the victim says don’t? Say a car accident where the driver of one vehicle slaps the other?
These are just examples that demonstrate how cops have to focus on the law or else be swayed to all sorts of personal actions based on their emotions. People want cops to be swayed when the emotion is kindness but what if that emotion is greed, anger, or vengeance? People in power are people in power, they are human, give them an inch and they will take a bloody mile.
If you feel the law is something the police should not be enforcing, get rid of the law itself. Do not expect the police to ignore the law. If no law exists telling them to take action the police won’t come around because there is nothing there to enforce.
Closing a park is stupid. It’s a bad law based on too little information. If the people decide a thing the lawmaker should listen. If a million people ended up in this park, or less, a few thousand, or even a few hundred, the lawmakers would take notice. They would take even more notice if those same people were outside their office.
It is easy to say the cop should just have not done his duty because the duty he was being asked to do was so dumb. Yet I know from history this is a dangerous road when it comes to law enforcement. I’m not saying there is not a line in which this notion falls apart. There is. There is a time and place when officers should disobey. For those who read this far your comments will reflect that I said this for those who have a knee jerk reaction your comments will also reflect that.
Exceptions to the Above
There is a time when cops should ignore the law just as there is a time when a soldier should. Where is that line? Generally it is accepted that it is something you cannot come back from. Something that there is no repair for, no repentance as it were.
If an action has as an inherent component that someone will get hurt or die, or has as an inherent component that property will be destroyed an officer should consider disobeying. Or when an action has as a default component that someone’s liberty will substantially be removed.
Why substantially? What does that mean? A temporary loss of liberty is sometimes required to bring a situation under control. Doing what China does and just locking people away for months, or even days, is not appropriate without due process.
I say above that these things must be inherent in the action. That is an important distinction. When a police officer talks to someone, injury to that person is not inherent in the action. If a law is passed that requires an officer to – for example – shoot someone on sight, or destroy all cars without smog control. That means injury or destruction are inherent in the law. The officer cannot obey the law without causing an injury that either cannot be come back from or denies the person their due process of law.
It is true that everything the police did during the Nazi regime was lawful according to the laws of Germany. But the actions taken then easily fall into the above categories of inherent harm and so it is easy for us to see why they should have disobeyed.
The woman in the park had warnings, due process, and a very temporary loss of liberty in order to remove her from the situation.
But it was stupid!
Yes, yes it was.
The blame for that falls directly at the feet of the person or people who made the law that closed the park. The people should take this all up with them. For some odd reason – I have yet to come to a satisfactory explanation for why – people just cannot seem to bring themselves to blame the lawmaker. I do not understand why they cannot seem to see the logic in this. In a system like the one we have the lawmaker is clearly the one at fault.
What about Houston PD?
That is an interesting case. If you have not heard about it below is the letter sent out to media in response to a judge’s ruling. The letter is not from Houston PD though, but rather from the police union.
This case stands unique in that judges are not lawmakers and should not act as if they are but it is not unique in that the blame still rests with the lawmaker.
The police union asked the County Attorney to look into it and the response was that state law grants the judge “broad authority” during a local disaster. Lawmakers never should have delegated their authority to a judge. Of the ruling the judge said, “This is not a police state, but we needed to make clear it’s not a recommendation, it’s something we have to do for sake of our safety, our lives and our economy.” Yet according to the CDC it is just a recommendation. One with dubious efficacy as well. You give an individual this much power and they are going to use it.
This case stands to highlight well my point.
The judge was given power under the law to act based on her opinion. She formed that opinion then acted upon it. This is exactly what we do not want to happen. Every police officer could be like this judge if given the right circumstances.
I maintain the wise course of action is – and has always been since the founding of our country – to make sure that would be tyrants – petty but tyrants still – are not given the opportunity to abuse power by always limiting their power.
The law is what gives them their power. The people are what gives the law its power. If the people limit the law then the tyrants are always impotent. There are only a few vehicles by which this can be done.
These are the tools in our toolbox to fight against our liberties being taken. It’s vital to understand the choke points to liberty within our system and go directly to them. You may stop a leak in one place for a while but unless you stop the flow of water, the leak with continue. The lawmaker is the source. The faster people understand that and put the pressure there, the sooner we can rein in the reign of tyrants.
The below article is the inspiration for this blog post.
A mother in Idaho ended up in handcuffs after she and scores of other parents defied the state’s coronavirus lockdown to let their kids play at a Meridian park. Sara Brady, a 40-year-old mother of two and wife of a police officer, was arrested for misdemeanor trespassing at Kleiner Park on Tuesday, an incident recorded on video that has since sparked protests at city hall, KBOI reports. “I feel like I was signaled out because I was the only person that was arrested,” Brady said. “I wasn’t the only person standing on the bark. I definitely wasn’t playing on