The police should be held to the same laws they enforce upon us. They are not.
The glaring example of this inequity: Gun control.
American law enforcement was unique in history because police authority came from the legitimate authority of self-government. For almost all of human history police worked for a tyrant, the paid enforcers of a regime. In much of the world that is still the case, with all the abuse, corruption and unaccountability that comes along with it.
I was taken by a story a cop once told me. He had pulled over a woman here in Colorado for a minor traffic violation. She was foreign, from South America. He let her off with a verbal warning. Aghast, she looked at him in horror and said, “So, you are going to follow me home?”
It took a moment for this to register with him before it became clear. She assumed that in exchange for not demanding a cash bribe he would follow her home to have sex with her.
That is what the police is in much of the world. Thuggery. Something wholly unthinkable here.
Where she was from, only cops legally have guns.
American policing works because police are us. They are our friends and neighbors. Their sensibilities and values largely match the community they serve. They don’t just keep to their own type, other cops. They don’t take an oath to a king or a gangster. They take an oath to our constitution, with our goal of equal protection of the law.
American policing breaks down when police no longer feel part of us, no longer our friends and neighbors. The intimate art of policing falters the more separated they are from regular people. This isn’t just dangerous to us civilians; it hurts cops.
As detailed in Kevin Gilmartin’s book, “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement,” police alcoholism, divorce and suicide grow when cops become socially isolated from the community they serve. They hang out with other cops more than civilians. After all the recent shaming of police, expect more cops just keeping to their own. And watch for the personal carnage it will cause them.
Yet, little wonder there is outrage today when people perceive the police can operate by a different set of rules. Even union-loving media outlets like NPR are running stories about police union contracts that protect bad cops and treat them differently than other alleged criminals.
They don’t live by the laws we live by.
There is no better illustration than gun control. In 2013 the Colorado legislature passed anti-gun laws including a ban on the sale and possession of so-called large capacity magazines over 15 rounds. Magically this restriction doesn’t apply to cops.
A police office can personally own magazines that hold any amount of ammunition. You and I can’t.
In my hometown of Boulder I am in open defiance of the city’s “assault weapon” ban. Yet cops can still own theirs. The Boulder police can use their AR-15s and large capacity magazines to take mine.
Police can now own scores of models of regular handguns that are no longer available to us. If you are not into guns you might not get this. There are a growing number of handguns that only take magazines with more the 15 rounds, like the quality-made 16-round Springfield XD. Colorado cops can personally buy one. You and I can’t.
Gun-haters lied when they said their mag ban wouldn’t lead to a gun ban. It’s exactly what it did. Sure, you can buy the Springfield XD, but unless you’re a cop it won’t come with the magazine that makes it work.
So, police are better able to defend themselves than the citizens they serve. It turns police into the “other,” an elite with special privileges, special rights we don’t have. It separates them from us. Some call it militarizing the police.
Play this out over decades and you see the police living a very different life, with less in common with regular people.
The Colorado legislature should make sure police and the people live by the same laws, including guns. Remove the restrictions on regular people or put them on cops too.
They won’t because the police carve-out is a key strategy of their anti-gun agenda.
Some people are more equal than others.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
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