Have you ever taken the time to actually read, word for word, the language used in most arrest warrants? Although I am sure that the format of arrest warrants varies from state to state, in most cases you will find the verbiage is consistent with," To ANY Peace officer, YOU, are hereby COMMANDED to arrest _____________."
Now, I will be the first to tell you, regardless if it was my dear old grandma, third grade teacher Mrs. Johnson or my first boss, throughout my life I have been asked to do a number of things that I was never keen on doing, and was usually able to dodge whatever request was thrown my way. However, if any of the abovementioned folks, at any time, would have said to me, "I COMMAND you to... ", it would have easily upped the ante on the motivation scale.
As many of you have come to recognize, arrest warrants have a certain fascination for me. Much of this fascination spawned from countless hours of uniform patrol, wandering around aimlessly, hoping to rid the world of communicable petulance. In July 2006 while digging through the warrant files, I came across a warrant dated April 7, 1992. From the surface, it was obviously not a worthwhile venture. For starters, the address of the guy was three counties away, somewhere between Hoot Owl Road and Possum Holler. Secondly, his charge of failure to maintain roadway with a $150.00 cash-only bond would not cause even the rookie officer to become excited. Nonetheless, I grabbed the warrant and asked dispatch to check if the warrant was still active. To my astonishment, not only was the warrant active, the subject now had 27 additional warrants throughout the state. I asked myself, "Why am I trying to go out and arrest folks when there's a warrant here for a guy who almost certainly needs to be back in front of a judge"?
The verbiage used in an arrest warrant makes it clear-cut and defined. We as law enforcement officers have been commanded by the courts to effect an arrest of a person without personally having to establish probable cause, reasonable suspicion or even the immediate need to advise the subject of their rights. Although a warrant must be supported by a signed and sworn affidavit showing probable cause that a specific crime has been committed, and the person(s) named in the warrant committed said crime, it does not mean that we, (the arresting officer) need establish it in order to make the arrest. What the verbiage of an arrest warrant should mean to you is that the judge (the Supreme Being in every jurisdiction) has just given YOU, the officer, a document that reads, "YOU WILL DO THIS." At no time in my years of law enforcement have I ever seen a warrant that reads, "YOU are hereby asked, if you have time, try and locate the above mentioned subject, as long as you're not busy, pretty, pretty, pretty please Judge Doe."
The next time you find yourself at the station on your 14th game of solitaire, adding your watch commander to HotOrNot.com without him knowing it or on your eighth tank of gas patrolling a town of three hundred people, try going and knocking out a few arrest warrants. And, if anyone decides to cause you any grief and despair about being motivated and possibly taking a criminal off the streets, just let them know you have been COMMANDED by the judge to arrest this person.
It should be a win/win for you, your department and the community we protect and serve.