Sunday, August 15, 2010

The problem with speaking your mind...

So, today, I was reminded of that one problem which will inevitably occur when a man speaks his mind. He will, naturally, offend someone somewhere...even if it's unintentional.

This happened to me today (again). Those who know me know that I'm not the kind of person to sugar-coat my words, and that I'll simply not say anything if I disagree with someone but think that speaking my mind will offend someone.

Well, the subject matter in question today happens to be the issue of police officers in America, specifically in Texas, and more specifically right here where I live and work. I joked about having a gun in my truck, "because a cop takes up too much space"...not knowing that one of my friend's friends happens to be married to a cop. I feel the way I do about those who wear a badge for several reasons, some personal and some general.

As you read these, please remember that one of my friends that I grew up with happens to be a deputy for the local Sheriff's Office. It was in her bedroom that I sat and watched Full Metal Jacket the night before I shipped off to basic, sipping the beer purchased by her mother at the corner store because I was only 18 years old at the time.

Another good friend of mine also happens to be a deputy, and he's the man who taught me how to shoot. Not just how to take aim and squeeze, but how to really shoot "when it matters". If you've spent more than a week around me, you know how I feel about this, and how grateful I am for this man's instruction. He's been a friend of my family since before I was born, and is one of the few non-relatives in this area that actually knew my mother. Giving a bit of insight into my point of view, he also happened to be the deputy that pulled me out of a holding cell in the Brazoria County Jail to ask how I was doing and if I needed him to call anyone for me, as I was waiting to see a judge after being wrongfully arrested on criminal charges that were later dropped.

I do not automatically have a lack of respect for people that wear a badge, I have an automatic lack of respect for the badge itself due to reasons which will be explained below. My friends run the gamut from preachers to plumbers, convicted dope dealing felons to criminal attorneys who have represented confessed killers, bartenders to missionaries, and yes...even a cop or two. Your chosen profession does not necessarily shape who you are, or determine whether or not I consider you to be a respectable person.

Anyhow, I'm going to state a few things here, and do my best to keep my personal experiences out of it, so that my point of view can be looked at from an objective manner...namely, so that it can't be said that such a point of view is skewed by my personal experiences. That being said, I will list only facts pertaining to police officers, and leave you to form your own opinions after being slightly more educated on the matter.

1) A Law Enforcement Officer's ("LEO") only power is derived from a lawful authority to utilize physical force or threat of physical force, to deprive someone of life, liberty, or property in order to enforce a particular law. Like it or not, there is simply no other power that a police officer possesses, when you get right down to the heart of it. In fact, he is required as a condition of his employment, to use exactly these two methods in order to perform the duties of his job.

2) An LEO's job requirement, as a matter of basic logic, requires him to enforce laws that have criminalized acts which have no actual nameable "victim". While a person may claim that drugs, gambling, prostitution, et cetera are "sinful" or "bad for society", there is simply no natural right for any man to persecute another man for engaging in such acts. Yes, there is a legislated authority for those wearing a state-issued costume and firearm to stop those engaging in such acts, but there is no natural right allowing for the forced compulsion of a man to conform to the moral standards of another, provided that man is not depriving another man of his life, liberty, or property against his will.

3) An LEO's paycheck is derived, much like his powers, from either the use of physical force or the threat of physical force. Granted, he does not go shaking people down for "protection" money like a mobster in order to get paid. Rather, the Law Enforcement Agency (or "LEA") he works for is funded by taxation. Taxation is money taken by force, or threat of force, by those who oppose the payment of taxes for things they do not agree with (obviously, those who agree with taxation pay it voluntarily!). If I work for money, and do not give a cut of this money to the government under their proscribed payment schedule, I will be given one of two punishments (or, potentially, BOTH!) if/when caught by the taxation authorities. Either I will be imprisoned, or I will be told that I must pay the tax I "owe" plus interest penalties. If I refuse to pay taxes, I will be imprisoned. If I resist, I will be forcibly imprisoned. If I resist hard enough, I will be injured or even killed, depending upon the level of resistance I offer.

4) An LEO is not, according to the law, required to enforce the law equally upon all people. The legal concept of "discretion" applies to the majority of the LE professions, including but not limited to police officers, prosecutors, and judges. An LEO may decide to "overlook" a criminal offense, using his "discretion", which is essentially his own personal whims. His "discretion" to act in certain instances is determined by many things, including the actual harm being done to society by a particular act.

Unfortunately, it can also be determined by the LEO's personal prejudices, which are most certainly not limited to the subject's race. They may also include the subject's demeanor, apparent financial status, age, clothing, or even his choice of bumperstickers.

Let's use a few examples, shall we?
A) A 21 year old man gets pulled over for not using a blinker in a dedicated turn lane, 150 yards away from a high school. After he gets pulled over, the officer is looking in his car for items which are in "plain view", and notices a small tablet of a prescription muscle relaxer in the passenger-side floorboard belonging to his wife, who recently underwent surgery. The driver was not under the influence of any intoxicating chemical at the time.

B) An adult male and his adult girlfriend are on a very public, yet otherwise very vacant, beach at 10:30PM on a Tuesday evening in January after celebrating their 5th wedding anniversary at a local seafood restaurant. One thing leads to another, and there are "adult activities" occurring that involve a topless wife and a husband with his fly unzipped. A local patrol officer driving up and down the beach stops to investigate, after seeing this one single car parked on his beat.

C) A small group of well-to-do friends gathers in someone's garage, for a game of quarter-ante poker over a few beers. All five men are well-to-do professionals, homeowners, and otherwise upstanding members of the community. The man hosting this garage poker party took contributions for beer and other refreshments, and those contributions exceeded the costs of those refreshments by four dollars and seventy three cents...but the remainder of the donations was not redistributed amongst the players, because none were concerned about less than a dollar going to "the house". A call to the police station is made when the drinking goes on and the game gets a bit too rowdy, and a policeman is sent to investigate. Upon speaking to the poker-players, he gets the skinny upon the arrangement about everyone chipping in $15 for beer and hotwings every Tuesday evening, and further investigation leads to the officer learning that the homeowner is guilty of "promoting gambling" because he didn't spend the entire $75 on refreshments.

Now, let's look at the possible outcomes of these events, and they may vary depending upon what particular municipality you live in. In every circumstance, NOT A SINGLE NONCONSENSUAL PERSON was "harmed" by any of the actions perpetrated, but all three were violations of the law. In every single instance, the officer could very easily determine that the actor was not engaging in a harmful act, and simply disregard the act. However, depending upon the whims of the officer, the actor could also potentially be in a very bad legal position. Here are the possible outcomes...

A) The person could be charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance in a "Drug-Free Zone", which could not only result in a dope conviction, but also an "enhancement charge" for being within a thousand feet of a school that will potentially double the monetary fine and add an additional five years to the sentence. In addition to this, he would be branded as a "felon", prohibited from ever voting or purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer, or even owning a firearm until five years after the date of final discharge from incarceration or community supervision.

B) Both the husband and wife could be charged with "indecent exposure"...even though the only person seeing them happened to be a random beat cop that pulled up stealthily with his headlights off, on a deserted beach. If either of them had ever had a past conviction under the same statute (say, for instance, he was seen urinating on the side of a highway 30 miles from the nearest town, or she was arrested for baring her breasts at Mardi Gras, and either of them had plead no contest to the charge so he/she could avoid the time and monetary expenses of a jury trial), they would be required to become REGISTERED SEX OFFENDERS...even though the officer intentionally turned his lights off to avoid detection by the couple in the car, and there was no one else present on the beach at the time.

C) The owner of the home could be charged with "promotion of gambling", as well as a third party who may have purchased the refreshments, merely because they didn't spend the entirety of the money given for refreshments and did not equally redistribute the leftovers.

Each of these occurrences are but random possibilities, but they remain possible as long as we have such a thing as "officer discretion". Again, the discretion of the officer is essentially left to his personal whims. He may decide to pursue charges based upon his personal prejudices, his past dealings with the actors, et cetera. I personally do not feel that such power should be left in the hands of a man merely because he completed a six-month course at a local community college. Honestly, I don't think that power should be left in the hands of ANYONE, when the actors have harmed absolutely no one.

Remember, these are extreme (and yet, very possible) repercussions of "officer discretion".

4) An LEO has absolutely ZERO right to tell another man how to live his life, if in doing so, the actor does not harm another without consent. An LEO may have "legal authority" to do so, but he has no natural "right" to do so. "Authority" is a concept based upon force, whereas "right" is a concept based upon a natural assumption of Free Will granted by our birthright as members of the human race.

5) An LEO is not required, under force or threat of force, to live by the same set of laws as everyone else. The courts have ruled, in the case of Garrity, that an officer cannot be held criminally liable for admission of crimes made to investigating officers, if he is threatened with termination for not cooperating in the investigation of said alleged crimes. The Garrity case involves a "ticket-fixing" scheme, in which officers where threatened with termination of employment for failure to cooperate with an investigation into the corrupt and illegal acts. Under the 5th Amendment, a person is not legally required to answer questions from a police investigator, if his answers are criminally incriminating. If you do cooperate with any investigation involving crimes committed on duty, any evidence you provide cannot be used against you in a criminal proceeding, provided certain criteria are met.

This differs from those of us in the "real world". For instance, if I am being investigated for stealing from my employer, or offering free goods and services in exchange for sexual favors at the expense of my employer, I may be terminated from my employment AND prosecuted for criminal acts, REGARDLESS of whether I cooperate with a police investigation, as both acts are simultaneously criminal AND grounds for lawful termination of employment. However, if I were a policeman being investigated for stealing cocaine from the evidence locker or ignoring traffic violations in exchange for sexual favors in the backseat of my patrol car, I have the option of accepting termination for admitting to these acts, and invoking my Garrity privileges to avoid criminal prosecution based upon any statements I may make to an investigating officer if my job is threatened for non-cooperation.

Keep in mind, these are just basic generalized facts regarding the institution of Law Enforcement in America, and more specifically the particular area of Texas that I happen to live in. These issues do not even begin to delve into the deep-seated disregard for "mundanes" that we citizens happen to see on a daily basis at the hands of LEOs.


With that being said, I cannot respect the action of becoming an LEO in Texas. I respect the person as an individual, giving him/her at least a modicum of basic human respect (and will likely provide much more respect, provided you have proven yourself worthy), but I do not respect the person's chosen livelihood. To become an LEO in the Great State of Texas, you must assume a legal authority to assert your will upon others using either physical violence or the threat of physical violence, while simultaneously asserting a legally-authorized privilege of immunity from the same laws we live in.

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