DEAR SHERIFF: What do you believe is the proper role of the local police officer?
ANSWER: In the 19th century, Sir Robert Peel, a statesman from London, established principles as a guide to reorganizing and refocusing the London Metropolitan Police. Of these principles, the one that stands out in my mind as the most important is: “Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”
Frederick Bastiat, a Revolutionary period philosopher, in his book “The Law,” concludes the police are the people, and the police derive their authority from the people. Bastiat emphasized that each individual has the right and the authority to defend their own and their neighbor’s life and property.
Over the course of time, it has become practical to delegate the individual authority to those who could protect these rights as hired public servants to focus on maintaining order in society while the people went on with their lives. Such public servants were to have no more authority than is held by those who hired them, and the people have no less authority and obligation than they did before they hired the public servants.
The Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, was written as a framework for administering this philosophy and guarantees to the people that our government was instituted to protect their rights, liberties and freedom.
I heard an officer say once, “What does the Constitution have to do with the law?” This thinking is symptomatic of what’s wrong with our society and some public servants in general. We need leaders who will be the guide for their officers, ensuring that we spurn any attempts or trends to ignore the sacred document, of which were signed by men who, by their signing, literally made themselves targets for death.