By T.B Lefever:
In the early days, policing was touch and go. Training and departmental procedures were severely lacking in a lot of ways. I’ve heard stories from past generations of young recruits being handed a glorified wooden club called a “night stick’ and told to transport arrestees in the wagon as their paid duty while waiting on their police academy start date. Thankfully, the days of untrained young men and women taking custody of prisoners are over with as a result of the trial and error of street cops and local department policy makers who learned the hard way over the years. When you make a mistake, you fix it. When you’re presented with a lesson, you learn it. My own department seems to be in a constant state of flux with changing policies and added paperwork to the most mundane of situations. Complain as we might, there is effort being made to work out the kinks.
Sometimes mistakes are made over and over again with no learning moment or occasionally novel situations arise and present us with operational dilemmas because we have never established a response that properly addresses them. For these most extreme cases, our criminal justice system has relied on the United States Constitution to guide us. Supreme Court rulings have always been the most impactful change agent for criminal procedure as they set the precedent for how we conduct our business going forward. Every cop has their own issues with some of the legal “handcuffing” we encounter when attempting to make cases or do the right thing by people, but any seasoned cop will tell the rookies that we are our own worst enemies. Our past and present mistakes and lack of foresight tighten the handcuffs around the wrists of our fellow officers and those who will one day take our place.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act following high profile incidents to include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Siege in Waco, the Rodney King beating, and a rash of violent crimes across the country. As the largest crime bill in US history, it covered everything from assault weapons bans to expanded death sentencing and everything in between. One section of the bill provided the US Attorney General the authority to prosecute law enforcement misconduct. Essentially, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division files a federal lawsuit against a local, county, or state police agency for alleged civil rights violations or abuses. Pending litigation, the Fed aims to takeover supervision of the department. Most recently we saw this take place in Ferguson citing discriminatory policing practices. Since the bill’s inception, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched 67 civil rights investigations against police departments nationwide. 26 of the cases have resulted in federal oversight of the agency through monitoring and direct supervision by the DOJ. 14 of such cases have fallen under the umbrella of the Obama Administration with a dozen or so additional cases where agencies reached agreements to abide by the DOJ’s recommendations outside of the courtroom at the risk of losing federal funding. Local police departments stay under federal supervision for a set time period in some cases and remain until the Fed is satisfied in others. Lately, it seems that after every politicized officer involved shooting I hear the phrase “The DOJ is considering civil rights charges”. This trend is on the rise.
We have seen the results of federalized institutions in this country and it is difficult by any measure to call them successful. Federal overreach in our schools and healthcare system are prime examples of this. Given the evidence of federal government ramping up its efforts to control more and more aspects of our lives, continuing the trend of federal overreach into policing is a disturbing thought to this police officer. Without the ability to act autonomously to fit the needs of their own communities specifically, police officers acting as robots within a leviathan like bureaucracy will become even more out of touch with those criticizing us and even less effective at fighting crime. In my experience, the Ferguson Effect is on full display in some departments but present at least to some degree in all of them. No police Chief wants his department to be the next Ferguson just as no officer wants to be the next Darren Wilson.
We need to keep learning from our mistakes and make the most effective changes to deal with the constantly reshuffled deck of cards that is society
As the Obama Administration continues to condone the narrative of a massively racist and bloodthirsty police force being perpetuated in the media, I can’t help but question the motives for increased federal oversight. Recently, United Nations Human Rights Council representative, Rapporteur Maina Kai, had this to say:
“The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice has provided oversight and recommendations for improvement of police services in a number of cities with consent decrees. This is one of the most effective ways to reduce discrimination in law enforcement and it needs to be beefed up and increased to cover as many of the 18,000-plus local law enforcement jurisdictions.”
The United Nations has a long list of member nations who have little to no appreciation for the state’s rights and small government philosophy our nation was founded on. It’s what makes America special; a beautiful contrast to Europe. Our ancestors fought and died for this distinction yet here we are being cheered on while we conform to non-American ideals and urged to warp the original use of this bill from a corrective measure into the national standard. As I stated earlier, the number of local and state police agencies under federal supervision is on the rise. Is it mere coincidence? Is the Fed making its move to takeover to the chagrin of UN officials like Rapporteur Maina Kai? Just because it isn’t asked nearly enough, where is George Soros in all this?
This month, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in partnership with the United Nations, announced the formation of the Strong Cities Network. SCN will be an international intelligence sharing network to combat “all forms of violent extremism” created by those who refuse to use the words “radical Islamic terrorism”. Assuming the information shared between nations leads to prosecution, I wonder if the organization will be guided by the US Constitution or UN International Law on our own soil. At best, the SCN is an empty PR initiative used by an administration who still calls Fort Hood an “incident of workplace violence”. At worst, it is our government welcoming international influence onto US soil.
The notion that law enforcement practices in the US need to change is not incorrect. We need to keep learning from our mistakes and make the most effective changes to deal with the constantly reshuffled deck of cards that is society. Using last decade’s policing methods will never be adequate to serve the coming decade’s societal conditions. With that being said, we have been confronted with some cold hard facts of life in 2016 America. The NSA conducts mass surveillance and data collection on its citizens. WikiLeaks reveals indisputable government collusion between the mainstream media and our nation’s front-running candidate for president. Our federal healthcare system is floundering. Our education department is producing results that find us sinking like a rock in international rankings. The credibility of the once proud and unflappable FBI has been compromised at its highest level. It is likely that our 45th President will be arguably the most dishonest POTUS ever. These massive problems start at the federal level where the shot callers are far out of touch with individual communities. In the opinion of this small fish, the Fed needs to get its own house in order and let local police handle theirs.
T.B Lefever is an OpsLens Contributor and active police officer in the Metro-Atlanta area. Throughout his career, Lefever has served as a SWAT Hostage Negotiator, a member of the Crime Suppression Unit, a School Resource Officer, and a Uniformed Patrol Officer. He has a BA in Criminal Justice and Sociology from Rutgers University.