This is the third article in the“Connecticut: The Coming Storm” series.
As regular readers know, the initial article provoked such interest that I’ve followed up with information about the police and related issues not easily available to most. The second article in the series was: “Connecticut, The Coming Storm, Part 2: Who Are The Police?”
This article goes into greater depth about the police, and particularly their thinking regarding the law, themselves and the public. But first, let’s take a quick side trip to The Truth About Guns, where Robert Farago connects to an NRA-ILA article of interest:
Only last week, multiple reports surfaced of a disturbing letter that had reportedly been sent to Connecticut gun owners who tried to register their firearms but whose paperwork arrived at the Connecticut State Police (‘CSP’) after the deadline. That letter, dated January 2, 2014, and containing the signature of a State Police lieutenant, gave recipients four choices for disposition of their firearms, none of which indicated they would be given a pass for their late submission. Rumors swirled, as some claimed this was the precursor to a later campaign of outright confiscation, even by those who tried to comply with the registration aspects of the law but failed because of early Post Office closures or mistakes in paperwork.
‘The Connecticut State Police did nothing helpful to alleviate these concerns. As one rumor after another was reported in breathless media accounts, your NRA was diligently working behind the scenes to learn the truth. Our experience was consistent with other reports that have since emerged, in that answers received from CSP officials seemed to vary with whomever happened to answer the telephone. Some said a letter was being drafted but had not been sent. Others denied the existence of the letter categorically. Finally, after NRA personnel identified themselves as such and demanded to speak with high ranking officials, confronted these officials with the CSP’s inconsistent answers, and insisted on knowing the truth, the CSP reversed course and admitted to NRA that the letter was authentic and that it had been sent to a number of individuals whose registration paperwork was received after the deadline. Nevertheless, the officials insisted it was not a warning of later confiscation but a ‘public service’ to advise gun owners whose registrations were rejected of their options.
So, the letters send to Connecticut citizens who tried and failed to register guns and magazines are not, in fact, an urban myth. They actually exist and were sent to an unspecified number of citizens. Here’s a copy of the actual letter:
It took an investigation by the NRA, an investigation the Media won’t do, to discover the truth: the Connecticut State Police did send letters, the first step toward actual physical confiscation, to citizens. Of equal importance is that the CSP were caught misleading and lying to the public not only about what they did, but about their ultimate intentions.
This is interesting, to say the least. Normally, the Media distrust and hate the police and love to expose the slightest untruth or mistake, but obviously, they hate guns and gun owners more. They also tend to protect Democrat politicians as much as possible, making this a non-story for them.
Let’s return to the police.
Most police officers quickly learn to keep at least some distance between themselves and the public. They know that the public cannot understand their daily reality, and sometimes irrationally hate them simply because they wear the blue suit. They don’t want to attend social gatherings and get into arguments with the uninformed and/or foolish–that’s always a loser for cops–so they tend to keep to themselves. This can be taken to extremes, leading to a dangerous “us against them” attitude where officers come to see everyone as a threat to them in one way or another. Well-balanced officers understand that most citizens are willing to obey the law most of the time, and pose no threat whatever to them. They treat everyone as they would want to be treated, as they would want another officer to treat their wife, daughter or mother.
Sometimes, in initial and continuing training, trainers over-emphasize the idea that nothing is more important than going home unscathed at the end of each shift. This can cause officers to become overly cautious–they don’t fully do their jobs–or overly aggressive. It tends not to promote good mental health. Police work always contains an element of risk, and through competent tactics and experience, officers can minimize it, but never entirely avoid it. In fact, when officers try to avoid potential danger, they expose competent, mentally healthy officers to greater danger through greater exposure.
The truth is police officers knowingly accept a risky job, a job where they might face sudden, violent death at any time. Smart officers train for that day, they hone their skills to recognize danger and to avoid it if possible, but if it’s not possible, to give them the tactical edge, to allow them to overcome and survive while taking out the bad guys. It is a paradox of police work that professional officers, on one hand, hope that terrible things will happen so they can do what they are trained to do, what they are capable of doing, what the public pays them to do. Many are in the job because they want to be heroes, and because they believe they’re capable of it. On the other, they sincerely hope none of those things will ever happen, but the other hope is always present, whispering to them.
Often, this tendency can cause officers to shoot far too quickly, as in this case of an officer that shot a 70 year old man in the stomach. Why? Stopped by the officer for expired plates, the man removed his cane from his vehicle. Seeing it, the officer fired multiple rounds. By all means, take the link and read the entire article.
Statistically, the overwhelming majority of police officers will complete a career suffering nothing more than the occasional bruise and contusion. They are far more likely to have their feelings hurt than to experience serious injury, but that statistical reality isn’t always enough to keep officers on an even mental keel. If they are not practiced and confident in the use of their handgun, they will tend to shoot before it is absolutely necessary.
Most police officers, even if they are not avid gun guys and girls, have absolutely no problem with honest, law-abiding people owning and carrying as many guns as they like. As people who must actually apply the Constitution on a daily basis, they appreciate the need for honoring all of it. They simply assume everyone they meet could be armed and act accordingly, which does not mean with paranoia. They know most citizens are no threat to them whatever, and for the rest, competent tactics and observational skill will usually give them the edge.
If is, however, police executives that often hate the Second Amendment and would disarm everyone if they could. Such people are egotists and politicians and often combine the worst characteristics of both. Even more than mere politicians, some police executives believe that they alone know what is good for the public. In many places–the East and West coasts and major cities, particularly those controlled by Democrats–one does not become a police executive without faithfully and willingly agreeing with the politicians in charge, and that sometimes means being “flexible” with the Constitution and the law.
Officers have enormous discretion, and this is absolutely necessary. Would you want officers to have to ticket everyone they stop? They can’t possibly enforce all of the laws on the books, and most will complete a career without enforcing most laws. Keep in mind that patrol officers are encouraged to work fast. They make traffic stops, take reports, do quick, initial investigations of crime scenes, and then move on to the next call. They are always understaffed and overworked, and though they end up having to work overtime, their administrators are always harassing them about having to work the overtime the lack of manpower mandates. On one hand, OT adds nicely to what can be pretty small paychecks. On the other, working an extra 20-40 hours a week in one of the highest stress jobs around is not a good thing for one’s job performance, health, relationships or family, and being constantly harassed about doing only what the job demands adds enormously to that stress level.
It is detectives who have the time to handle more complex investigations. The reports officers write every day go to them, and they specialize. Detectives are generally more experienced officers who have shown a talent for investigations, but sometimes, people are given the job for reasons other than merit. In most agencies, becoming a detective is not a promotion, but there are many perks, including flexible hours, working essentially Monday though Friday, 8-5, weekends and holidays off, clothing allowances, and much greater prestige. Some work crimes against persons, others crimes against property. In larger departments, they specialize even more. In my last police job, I worked primarily vehicle burglaries, and also stalking crimes, the latter because I was the only officer interested in it and one of the few who was willing to believe victims when there was evidence to support that belief. Because detectives are closer–physically and otherwise–to administrators, they tend to be more aware of, and more cautious with, politics. They are often assigned to handle “sensitive” issues involving VIPs.
TYPES OF COPS:
There are three primary types of officers: city police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and state patrolmen. Each state has its own mini-FBI as well. There are considerable differences between them, not only in enforcement focus, but in attitudes. Federal officers are in an entirely different universe and generally look down on everyone else. Please keep in mind that I am, of necessity, generalizing.
Sheriff’s Deputies: they’re hired and paid by individual counties. They usually wear various shades of tan, brown or green, though some have adopted dark blue. Beginning officers commonly work the jail until there is an opening in patrol. Most are not at all fond of working the jail. There are very good reasons some people are in jail, and they tend not to be the nicest folks around.
Their jurisdiction is normally within their county, which can encompass several towns and cities with which they share concurrent jurisdiction. For the most part, deputies only enforce the law in the county–there are usually few of them and huge amounts of territory to cover–but they occasionally encroach on city cop territory, which city cops generally despise.
Because sheriffs must regularly stand for reelection, there is more or less constant political pressure to support the current sheriff. Failing to fully support a sheriff can be dangerous to one’s promotion hopes, even to one’s career. Sheriff’s departments are generally more political animals than city police departments, but not always. Sheriff’s deputies often don’t have as much opportunity to gain experience, and that experience is more limited, than city officers, but again, this is not universally true.
Deputies generally take a more relaxed approach to law enforcement. This is partially due to the political nature of their jobs, but also due to the fact that when they need help immediately, their fellow deputies are often a very long way away. They really don’t want to get into anything over their head–ever.
Sheriff’s departments tend to be relatively relaxed in terms of military decorum. Their deputies are usually in the field, alone. Particularly in the west, their headgear tends toward cowboy hats and baseball caps. Backup is many miles away, and they commonly get dirty. There’s not usually a lot of time for spit and polish.
Because Sheriffs are directly accountable to voters, sheriff’s departments are least likely to enthusiastically violate the Constitution and confiscate arms and magazines. However, in some parts of the country that are very much anti-gun, they may be quite enthusiastic about repressing the law abiding, at least as far as guns go.
City Cops: They’re hired and paid by individual municipalities. They usually wear dark blue uniforms. Patrol officers are normally the only officers most of the public ever meet. Good cops are aware of this and do their best to leave a good impression. Their jurisdiction normally consists only of the land within the city limits.
In many places, they gain more direct experience than the other types of cops because they handle far more, and far more types of calls. They are generalists, expected to be able to handle any type of crime. In my final year of police work, I worked in a city of about 50,000. However, it was a major tourist center, had a nearby major military installation, and was a regional shopping and commerce center. We were 8th in the nation that year in the number of arrests per officer per year. There were few better places to quickly gain an enormous amount of practical experience.
City cops often consider themselves to be better trained, more capable, and more professional than their colleagues in other types of agencies. In some places, this is doubtless accurate. In others, not so much.
All police agencies are paramilitary, and some city agencies are aggressively so, but most are more relaxed, particularly in uniform standards and the way officers, supervisors and executives relate to each other.
City agencies tend to be PR-minded, and might reasonably–remember: I’m generalizing–be the next least likely to unconstitutionally seize arms and magazines. However, they too are affected by the dominant politics of their population.
State Troopers: they’re hired and paid by the state. Their uniforms tend to more resemble outdated military dress uniforms in various bright colors. They also tend to wear far more elaborate, military drill instructor-like hats, and they are very serious about their uniform standards. Absolute military discipline and uniformity of just about everything, including thought, tends to be enforced.
Many police executives are lunatics about hats. They choose and demand that officers wear ridiculously expensive, showy hats, hats that serve no practical purpose. State agencies carry the love of hats to the level of fetishes. In truth, poor supervisors and administrators love them most. It takes no actual supervisory skill and less effort to determine if an officer is wearing his hat and to take action against him for failing to do it.
Their jurisdiction is their entire state. Similar to Sheriff’s deputies, they can enforce the law in any town and county, but they tend to be more than busy enough out on the highways to worry about city or county issues. There tend to be few of them and they patrol enormous portions of their respective states. They are often called out of bed to drive to an accident two hours away. Like deputy sheriffs, backup is usually a long way away.
Their experience tends to be limited to enforcing traffic and motor vehicle laws, though one can get into all manner of trouble while driving. That’s how criminals get around and how they transport themselves and the fruits of their crimes, and some troopers are adept at catching these people.
Troopers tend to think of themselves as superior to all other law enforcement officers. They are most likely, as institutions, to faithfully reflect the edicts of their superiors, which means that any state police organization, anywhere, will be most likely to unconstitutionally seize arms and magazines.
HONORING THE CONSTITUTION:
All officers take an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution and the laws of their jurisdiction. Usually, there is little conflict. If the legislature passes a controversial law, a law that very well might be unconstitutional, it’s usually not a problem. Most officers aren’t in a position where they’ll have to enforce that law, and in most places, not enforcing it will put the police very much on the side of the public, where they usually want to be.
For the most part, no one demands that officers enforce unconstitutional laws. They might end up watching a suburban street for several weeks because a councilman is annoyed by kids driving fast on his block, or they might end up focusing on DUI enforcement in response to a highly publicized accident, but issuing tickets for people who are actually speeding and arresting drunk drivers are not constitutionally, lawfully problematic. The laws passed in Connecticut present dilemmas no officer wants to face.
Every police officer is taught that they can refuse to obey unlawful, unconstitutional orders. In fact, they can be punished, fired, even prosecuted for violating the law and the Constitution. At the same time, virtually every state has laws, and every law enforcement agency has regulations, requiring officers never to neglect their duties. An officer seeing someone in need of help and ignoring them should be in trouble. An officer observing a crime underway in their presence, particularly a crime of violence, and ignoring it, deserves to be punished. They’ve betrayed their oath and the social contract.
What happens, however, when the legislature passes a law like Connecticut’s? The legislature and the state Attorney General will surely call it constitutional (it’s his job to defend such laws–yes, I know; Eric Holder ignores any law President Obama and he don’t like). It touches on areas of the law that have not been fully examined by the Supreme Court. Whose judgment should prevail? Do officers assume–as they normally do–that any law passed by the legislature and signed by the governor is constitutional until ruled otherwise, or do they impose their individual understanding of constitutional law?
Most of the time, as with most of the laws, officers can simply not enforce laws they suspect are unconstitutional or highly unpopular with the public. They will virtually never find themselves in a situation where they have to make an on the spot choice. But in this case, in a largely anti-gun, anti-freedom, pro citizen-control state, substantial public sentiment may be against them, and it is actually possible that they’ll be ordered to enforce the law, and punished or fired for refusal.
In most cases, no one is actually endangered by such orders, because enforcement is handled informally by local officers that know their communities and the people in them. An officer–just one–can stop by Joe Citizen’s house–competent officers almost always prefer to speak with people in person–and explain the law and the politics and ask Joe to go along with it so they don’t have to arrest him, and most of the time, Joe will, and everyone is annoyed, but everyone understands what’s happening, no one is really mad at the police who are only doing a job they don’t really want to do, no one is endangered and no one goes to jail to make politicians happy.
But the current controversy goes far beyond normal procedure. If officers do nothing, if they do not enforce the law, no harm whatever will be done to society, to the rule of law, to the integrity of the police, to the social contract or to any individual. The people who will be the subject of police raids are not, in fact, criminals. They have done no affirmative act to further a criminal enterprise. They have no criminal intent. They have harmed no one, nor do they intend to harm anyone. Their property is subject to seizure and they to arrest only because the legislature has decreed that entirely lawful and innocuous goods, goods that are arguably specifically protected by the Constitution, goods they purchased when they were unquestionably legal, are, on a specific date, forever more illegal and their owners, felons.
If on the other hand, the police do choose to enforce such unconstitutional laws, they will endanger not only themselves, but the citizens they choose to attack. At least some of these citizens will reasonably see themselves as resisting a tyrannical, unconstitutional assault on fundamental liberties. They will see any attempt to take their weapons as a blatantly telegraphed intention to establish a dictatorship. They will remember the words of the Founders who wrote the Second Amendment to give the people the power to rise up and overthrow a tyrannical government.
There will be mistakes: the homes of people with names similar to those on a confiscation list will be raided, a cell phone mistaken for a gun, a quick movement mistaken for a deadly threat, a citizen with a firearm meeting unknown people breaking into his home, trying only lto protect his family. People will be injured. People will die. Honest, innocent people will be imprisoned, their lives and the lives of their families destroyed, and for what? So socialist politicians, surrounded by armed security provided at taxpayer expense, can smugly grin and pontificate about public safety?
The Constitution was written to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. Fifty one percent of the population may not deprive 49% of their fundamental, unalienable rights. This is one of the foundational principles of our constitutional republic. The majority may indeed write and pass laws, but may never deprive any minority of their unalienable rights. This is what differentiates America from virtually every other nation. And this tyranny of the majority is what Connecticut’s anti-Second Amendment politicians, salivating over the prospect of gaining ever-greater degrees of control over citizens, will almost certainly try to impose.
Ultimately, the police, like the military, are under the control of civilian–non-police–authority. A police chief refusing to follow the orders of his Mayor or Council may be fired. Sheriffs are, in most places, more powerful. They are commonly the supreme law enforcement authority in their counties, answerable only to the voters, and to a lesser degree, their county commissioners who sometimes have a coercive power of the purse. State police superintendents are more likely to follow orders, though they too could refuse and resign or be fired.
What does Joe Average Patrolman, two years out of the academy, three years into a police career, do when ordered to go to the home of Joe Average Citizen, seize his firearms and magazines and arrest him? What does Joe Average Officer, two years from retirement and a pension, do? Does he accept the arguments of his supervisors and executives, of state politicians and the AG that his actions are lawful, or does he honor his oath of office, remember history, the Federalist papers, and his own experience and eyes? Does he throw away his career, or choose to remain to do whatever small amount of good he might be able to do? Perhaps he can keep less rational, more bloody-minded officers from killing anyone.
Grapple with those issues, gentle readers, until the next article in this series, to be posted Saturday, March 22, 2014. In that article, I’ll explain the nature of SWAT teams. the way they and their leaders think, and the ways they are currently misused. I’ll also explain why any use of SWAT teams to seize the arms of the law abiding will almost surely result in deaths and the breakdown of respect for the law and those that enforce it.
I pray that such violations of the Constitution never take place, but if they do, the consequences will change America forever, and in the short term, surely not for the better.