Because I said so
In America we are raised to question authority. It is a simple statement based on the premise “We hold these truths to be self evident” as stated in the Declaration of Independence from an oppressive monarchy. In order to have our inalienable rights our system is built on the rule of law to protect us from corrupted powers or from an overreaching government or its representatives. We ask our fellow citizens who have the willingness to serve and protect us to do so with our admiration and respect. However, the process by which laws are enacted is designed to allow we the people our say in what the laws that govern us should be. When our Founding Fathers were attempting to develop the Bill of Rights they needed to look no further than the British Governments treatment of its American Colonies as the example of what not to do to a free people.
Why the history lesson? After twenty years as a peace officer it was amazing to watch the same thin blue line served faithfully with fellow brothers and sisters in blue erased by the statement “Because I said so”. When did this statement become the new law of the land? Obviously as a Peace Officer we must never bring our personal feelings to the job. That is not to say we do not sometimes get emotionally challenged, but to use this statement as a threat of violation shows incompetence or a blatant disregard for the role of protection and service to the citizen. After reviewing the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, local, State, and Federal Laws and statutes, it appears this law has not been enacted by the constituency.
The question is basic. Why would a senior member of the City Police Department decide that I or any other citizen sitting on the side of the street preparing to watch fireworks must be punished because a vehicle made an illegal u-turn in an area where people were sitting content in their celebration of the Fourth of July? There was no attempt to chastise or cite the driver who committed the illegal act directly in front of the Officer. The Officer in question did advise that he felt it was dangerous to be where we were because the vehicle came close to us and that we must move to another spot. The problem was the vehicle never came close to anyone and there was no danger so many chose to stay where they were. This obviously did not sit well with my fellow brother in blue because he came back and demanded in both verbal and command presence the order to move.
When asked to clarify the reason why we must move his reply left a majority of his fellow citizens momentarily speechless followed by angry. I then proceeded to ask the officer if the law (“Because I said so”) existed in our Constitution or if it was defined by statute to which he rolled his eyes in serious contempt for the challenge to his authority. We did move on as directed but not without the thought as discussed by many of his fellow citizens that we had just witnessed a blatant disregard for the rights of the citizen to peaceably assemble. Had this been a rookie I would have found it to be a good teachable moment and pulled him aside or spoken with his Chief. Instead because of his rank I felt it was too late for him to learn what he should have been taught at the Police Academy.
To be a Peace Officer it is given to us a sacred trust to possess the authority to protect and serve our fellow citizens. This trust was not broken last evening but it certainly appears damaged in the eyes of many of us who were subjected to this violation of our freedoms. There are many good and consciencious Peace Officers here in this City and all over the Country, so it begs the question, are we forgetting what we stand for?