We’ve seen it in several stories over the last few weeks.State and local governments, presumably acting in the best interests of their citizenry, have implemented rules (laws?) limiting the movement or activity of their residents in response to the coronavirus pandemic.Most people have complied with these directives with little to no consideration as to the impact on the personal freedoms we all assumed we enjoyed in the United States.
And then the pandemic lingered.The longer we were cooped up at home, the nastier we became.Government programs to assist those impacted by reduced or eliminated paychecks are woefully short of needs.The American economy was shutting down.Most of us are not used to being dependent on government for our livelihoods.We shouldn’t be.
Bars closed.Restaurant dining in was done.Pick up and take out became the restaurants’ lifeline.Grocers and hardware stores were open.Movie theaters, beauticians and barbers were closed.The choices defied logic.
Governments were telling us which jobs were and were not essential.They were not necessarily consistent in doing so.What’s essential to one person, much less the deciding government body, is different based on each person’s needs (and honestly, their desires).Beaches were open, but beachside parking was shut down. In most cases authorities relied on voluntary compliance with directives.
When people did not comply, some governments would order police departments in their jurisdictions to take enforcement action.In many places this was done by discussion of the safety issues involved.In others, the action was a bit over-aggressive.In Texas, Maryland and some other locales people were cited or arrested for failing to follow the emergency declarations.Bonds, fines and even jail time could be substantial, especially to people trying to maintain their incomes.
In my academy and subsequent law enforcement training days the emphasis was on protecting people’s constitutional rights like speech, assembly, firearms ownership and the like.These actions, even if the laws or rules were properly enacted and have the power of law, make me question the commitment to those principles.
Police officers are not, and should not be, used to being the monitor of behavior or being involved in the chosen interactions between people.I am disturbed that so many police officers seem willing to enforce such provisions with little or no qualms.I would have alarm bells clanging in my head.Most officers elected to serve to protect the community, not monitor it for compliance to the whims of the elected or appointed officials, good intentions or not.
There are times in the law enforcement job when officers need to rely on the common sense that someone saw in them in order to entrust them with the power of taking peoples’ freedom or even their lives.When a requested action seems wrong on its face, there’s a reason for that.
Americans have long believed in the freedoms enshrined in our federal and state constitutions.Yes, we are in trying times and a little understanding on everyone’s part will go a long way.Law enforcement’s role is one of peacekeeping and protection, not monitoring and condemnation.Perverting that function into behavior control in private interaction takes us dangerously close to a police state where freedom isn’t even an afterthought.
The governmental reaction to the coronavirus has placed police officers in a precarious position.Violation of constitutional rights is a serious offense that can cost police officers their careers and their freedom.Why would we ever put them in that position?The answer is that we shouldn’t.
Americans should be allowed to make their own decisions as to what is essential to them, evaluate any risk and then act as their conscience directs.Anything less imperils the foundation of, not only our economy, but our country.