Lately, the subject of law enforcement has been troubling what’s left of my mind. In this so-called nation of laws, some people, towns, counties and states have begun selective law enforcement. Many are deciding for themselves the laws they will honor and those they will ignore. Primary among these are state and local governments that decide to become sanctuaries for lawbreakers — thumbing their noses at our justice system. This country is and has been heading into a form of anarchy.
Merriam-Webster defines anarchy thusly: “a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority.” Although, technically, “governmental authority” exists, that point is arguable. That “authority” is not always law-abiding. Do such jurisdictions deserve authority?
Are cities, counties and states that declare themselves sanctuaries lawful or lawless? Elected officials, in support of sanctuaries, are aiding and abetting lawbreakers — with or without the approval of the citizenry.
The subject that I’m sneaking up to is lawmen. Back to Merriam-Webster: “a law-enforcement officer (such as a sheriff or marshal).” Now, let’s look at the term law enforcement officer (LEO). Various sources were accessed (U.S. Legal and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, among others) with virtually identical results. To wit: The job of an LEO involves prevention, investigation, apprehension of suspects or those already convicted. Additionally, “Federal [LEOs] have duties similar to those of local police officers. These agents enforce the law, investigate crimes, preserve evidence, write reports …” (U.S. Legal). No reference was made to the existence of what I’ll call jurisdictional enforcement. No hint that local police cannot become involved with federal law enforcement or vice versa. Nothing indicates that a sheriff upholds only local laws. The oath of office for Frederick County sheriffs and deputies makes no such mention. In fact, the oath references that the officeholder “will support the Constitution of the United States.” It doesn’t take a great leap to extend that to U.S. laws.
As LEOs frequently remind us, information from private citizens is always useful. Similarly, law enforcement agencies often rely upon each other in order to adequately protect and serve the citizenry— that’s us, folks. Even suggesting that one agency ignore or refuse to assist another is akin to suggesting that citizens offer no assistance to the various agencies. Think about that. Are we shooting ourselves in the foot by handicapping LEOs?
Policing at all levels needs assistance. Anything that we do that hinders their legitimate work is deplorable. These folks put it all on the line every day. They have earned and deserve our respect and all the help we can give them.
If an LEO, in assisting another agency, does not negatively affect the home unit, and they are upholding the law, what difference should it make? We were, after all, created as a nation of laws. Enforcing them is what a lawman does. Assisting other LEOs is traditional and natural. Any elected official who orders an LEO not to enforce any law should be subject to discipline — including removal from office.
Hopefully, most would have problems with a lawman who refused to enforce the law — even when ordered to do so. Worse would be the elected official who instructed a lawman to ignore the law. Who placed such people above the law, and when? If you’re an elected official, it’s likely that you took an oath to uphold the law. Do that. If you don’t like the law, change it. There’s a system in place to do that. Don’t like the system? Change it or resign.
Carroll County Sheriff James DeWees said: “My stance on the issue? If ICE has legal documents to take into custody someone they have a signed warrant for, then my office will assist them. We would do this for any local, state or federal law enforcement agency and ICE is no different.”
I agree. No one, elected or otherwise, should be permitted to tell a LEO not to enforce any law. Additionally, no one should be permitted to tell any LEO not to cooperate with other LEOs if all are acting in a lawful manner and such cooperation does not negatively affect any unit in a significant manner. When LEOs are prohibited from enforcing laws, how can we (the taxpayers) be positively affected?
Rick Blatchford writes from Mount Airy. Contact him at email@example.com.