By Joseph M. Squadrito
“However much the recent crime increase threatens the vitality of America’s cities — and thousands of lives — it is not, in itself, the greatest danger in today’s war on cops. The greatest danger lies, rather, in the delegitimation of law and order itself.”
— Heather Mac Donald, “The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe”
Every law enforcement officer has taken a sworn oath to “Protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” and that of their respective state. While the scope of the oath is broad in definition, it is essential to understand that the police are our first line of defense in all domestic lawlessness and violence.
This “Thin Blue Line” is all that separates us, the law abiding, from the malefaction in our society. The police officer separates the anarchist from the orderly ranks of citizens and government. Regardless of the color of their uniform, our police officer holds this oath sacred and as demonstrated during the past few years give their lives, in ever increasing numbers, in fulfillment of their oath.
Today, our nation and the world face crisis and unrest as never witnessed throughout recorded history. Civil unrest, nuclear proliferation, economic uncertainty, general strife and political disunity are a few we read about every day. Here in our homeland there are not only concerns about international issues but that of domestic unrest and violence.
There are now those among us who seek to divide us — through violence, by race, religion, national origin and of course political affiliations. And a new issue has arisen involving the history of this country and the monuments and flags that symbolize this nation’s past conflicts.
As a result of all this, violence erupts, people are killed or injured, and property is destroyed. This societal ill tears at the fabric of our way of life and our system of governing as it pits American against American.
There are provisions within our system of government that provide for peaceful assembly and for the systematic peaceful transition of government, it’s policies, laws and general obligations to its people. Violence and lawlessness do not bring about these changes; they only divert our attention and bring death and destruction.
The police must be the first to deal with these warring factions. Outnumbered and often ill-equipped, they do what must be done — that is, to separate the factions, eject the combatants and arrest the instigators. In so doing, more often than not, the police themselves become the targets of these aggressors.
The pundits and armchair quarterbacks are quick to critique the police, their leadership and tactics (or lack thereof). Sometimes that is warranted. Most often, however, these critics are in the midst of these conflicts or have formulated or sympathized with one side or the other. The police are aware of this; they are trained for this and know full well what to expect.
But as we watch this dramatic situation unfold we must remember that we are asking our only uniformed representatives of civil government to deal with a societal problem to which no one, but no one, seems to have a conclusive answer.
Joseph M. Squadrito, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, is retired from the Allen County Sheriff’s Department. Squadrito served with the department for 33 years, rising through the ranks before serving two terms as sheriff. He is a graduate of the charter class of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy as well as the F.B.I. National Academy, the United States Secret Service Academy and the Southern Police Institute. Send comments to [email protected]