Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Law & Order

With regards to the killing of Michael Brown (and I suppose Eric Garner) Bojidar Marinov writes:

now the conservatives discovered not only the value of obeying the laws – that were passed by Congress – but also the value of unquestionable obedience to any orders from police, whether lawful or not.

I understand what Bojidar is getting at, but I think we need a bit more nuance.

In other words, I'm not sure standing up for one's rights (e.g. to bear arms or to speak freely) or standing against unjust laws (e.g. abortion on demand or Obamacare) is the same thing as standing up to or resisting a police officer's lawful order.

For example, I taught my children to think critically of government, matters of law, rights and responsibilities; AND ALSO to comply with the police.  

Was I being logically inconsistent by teaching them to on the one hand question governmental authority (law making) and on the other hand obey the police (law enforcing)? I don't believe I was.

These are two different circumstances. One has to do with a larger picture of principle and the other is more pragmatic. (That is, when it comes to cops and their policing…I didn't want my kids to get into further legal difficulty—perhaps even physical danger—for disobeying a cop's lawful order.)

Speaking of lawful order: Bojidar is grossly overstating things when he says, "the conservatives discovered . . . the value of unquestionable obedience to any orders from police . . ."

Is this actually the case? I don't think it is.

I am not speaking of "unquestionable obedience" to "any orders" from police. Rather, I am speaking of obeying what officers may lawfully tell one to do.

Suppose I am driving along and a cop "lights me up." Even though I’m sure I've broken no laws, what should I do? Keep driving because he has no right to pull an innocent motorist over? Or, should I pull over?

I think I should pull over. And though I don't believe I am guilty of breaking any laws I will provide my license and registration if she asks me to (a command in the form of a request). I will not be disrespectful in any way.

But let's suppose she says this can all "go away" (whatever "this" is) if I give her a little something "off the books" to make Christmas a little sweeter this year.

Should I comply? I don't think so. This isn't a "lawful order." So it's not a matter of "any orders" but of lawful orders.

After we submit to the lawful orders of the police—in effort to avoid legal and physical escalation—then perhaps in a more proper setting (maybe before a judge) we can then make our case. 

I’m just not convinced that the best way to fight unjust law is to combat the police.