Law enforcement should be impartial. It should be the service of justice. However, that service of justice must be accomplished within the confines of the legal structure our country, states, counties, and localities all have in place. Since the legislation goes hand-in-hand (in most places) with politics, it can be difficult to enforce the law impartially. Sometimes an officer has to consider the protected status of either the victim or the suspect and modify his (or her) normal enforcement actions accordingly. Wait... I'm wrong. That's not sometimes. It's all the time.
Now I can hear some of the readers gasping in surprise that an editor for the largest law enforcement website in the world would admit that law enforcement professionals aren't 100% impartial. Catch your breath. Lift your jaw off the floor. Yep, I said it. Impartial enforcement of the law is next to impossible. But it's not the officers and deputies on the streets that have made it that way. What has created this situation is our elected representatives and case law.
Let me give you an example of what I mean:
If you get dispatched to a domestic dispute and arrive on the scene to find a battered wife, it's a "no brainer" to lock up the husband. In fact, many states now have laws requiring you to do so. But what if you get on the scene to find a battered husband? So many laws have been written to protect the female that the gender of both the victim and the suspect have to be taken into consideration before you make an arrest. In some places, the husband could have two black eyes and a fat lip and the wife could have a bruise on her arm and the officer would still be legally required to arrest the husband. Doesn't make any sense? You're absolutely right.
That's because our legal system has evolved so far into an attempt to delineate right and wrong that we've almost legislated away common sense. In an effort to insure impartiality on the part of law enforcement officers we've all but put them in a situation where they can't exercise discretion or use their own judgment.
Now I can hear some folks saying, "But it's not the officer's place to judge. It's the judge's job to judge." And you're absolutely right. But I'm not talking about judging guilt or innocence. I'm talking about the judgment each of us uses every day to make decisions about what actions we'll take and why. I'm talking about the common sense judgment you use when you drive your car or take your child to the park. I'm talking about decision-making based on knowledge, training and experience. I'm talking about Police 101 stuff.
With the creation of laws that, in detail, attempt to protect every difference humanity can express or experience our society has partially bound the hands of those who are sworn to protect and serve. Now it should be To Protect and Serve within the confines of society's acceptance, media approval, case law and legislation written in complicated legalese.
Is it any wonder that our law enforcement professionals are so hesitant to simply do the right thing? We are not computers or robots. We are not capable of decision making based on basic input, programmed parameters and a limited list of options. I defy anyone to write the computer program that will allow any desk top or lap top computer to make every decision a cop faces daily. Then, if you can, program in compassion and empathy. Program in common sense.
Since no one can do that, let's - as a whole society - recognize that law enforcement officers do the best they can day in and day out with little thanks and insufficient pay. Let's recognize that for all the input they have to deal with it's a small miracle that more processors (brains) aren't getting fried and overloaded. Instead of continuing to legislate our every day behavior ad infinitum, let's find a way to legislate back to a simpler easier to understand legal system.