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Are Law Enforcement Officers Above the Law?

Few people will write an article that even comes close to being critical of our U.S. law enforcement officers. Americans are due a non biased review of why law enforcement officers (LEO) are either treated with enormous respect or in many cases are despised by the people they are sworn to serve.

I can effectively write on this issue because my background includes serving almost two decades as a U.S. Federal Agent. I had the opportunity to work with dozens of law enforcement agencies around America.  This included local, state and federal agencies. I am happy to give our LEO a pat on the back when they do as they have been sworn to do, or write a critical article for the one’s who have forgotten they are not above any U.S. law.

In America the media and politicians have groomed us to always put LEO on a throne above all other professions aside from our military personnel.  LEO are not owed any higher allegiance to their careers than a plumber, factory worker, insurance salesman, athlete, or doctor.  People who apply for LEO positions do so because this career is very stable and the pay covers their bills and provides for their families. The popular belief is that LEO enter law enforcement to ‘serve’ the people.  This is so far from the truth that no further explanation is needed. For the vast majority it is for a paycheck and for many it feeds their ego’s.

The LEO who enter law enforcement to feed their adrenaline and ego are the one’s who believe they are one step ahead of other Americans.  The one’s who do this job for a paycheck are the honest officers and they serve the people because that is what they are paid to do.  These officers are the LEO that show respect to all Americans regardless of their wealth status, race, or religion.

The LEO who show disrespect for the people they serve are the one’s who believe some laws apply to them, but not all laws.  A few examples:  In a busy city it is more likely you will see a police officer in his/her patrol car breaking traffic laws than you will see from citizens. There are some officers who strongly believe it is their job to let citizens know they have the absolute power to make or ruin a person’s day, and in some cases have been known to alter the truth and evidence.

There are LEO who believe they are not subject to the laws of assault and battery. In most states, an assault/battery is committed when one person: 1) tries to or does physically strike another, or 2) acts in a threatening manner to put another in fear of immediate harm. Many states declare that a more serious or “aggravated” assault/battery occurs when one: 1) tries to or does cause severe injury to another, or 2) causes injury through use of a deadly weapon. Throughout America an assault by a police officer on a suspect or prisoner in a jail or prison happens much more regularly than ever reported by the media.

Technology has started to bring many assault cases by police officers into the limelight.  Seldom in our past history does a person making a complaint about officer abuse were shown even the courtesy of listening to them.  Today with cameras on every corner and many officers being required to wear body cameras the truth is being revealed.  Do you think most police officers are in favor of having to wear a body camera? No.  Even officers who are not inclined to assault a person often berate suspects to the point of the suspect admitting to crimes he/she did not commit.  In spousal or child abuse experts have shown emotional abuse of the innocent person is often worse than physical abuse.  The same applies in law enforcement.

There are two famous words every law enforcement officer is quickly taught in the academy and throughout their career. ‘Stop Resisting’ Often you will hear these two words being shouted even while a suspect may be docile. They are safety words for the officers. Without cameras it is hard to contradict an officers testimony if he/she testify they shouted this command ten times!

In conclusion citizens and police officers must be taught that mutual respect and courtesy must be shown at all times to one another.  Of course there are citizens who are serious troublemakers and deserve to be put through the legal system, but there are indeed LEO who abuse their authority.  An LEO is not above the law in America.  If you have ever been pulled over or had the police respond to your home/business on a criminal complaint, you likely did not have a pleasant experience.  These encounters of course should not be fun, but they should not be used by an ego cop to demean a person who has not been convicted of a crime.

Respect is an earned reward and not given out due to intimidation.  

An LEO doesn’t and should not believe since he/she  was hired by a police department that they automatically have earned respect from the people they serve.  If a plumber is hired by a company does he/she automatically earn the respect of the customers he serves?  Of course not.  It is only when the plumber treats the customer with courtesy and completes the job as he is being paid to, will he begin to progress in his career and earn respect from the person he/she serves.