Due process and the very idea of a fair trial for those with whom they disagree are anathema to many of today’s leftists. Those they target for “racism” apparently need to be destroyed rather than afforded the due process guarantees they insist upon for themselves.
They tend to support a strict observance of every constitutional and procedural right in cases where anyone is arrested for, say, drug usage, armed robbery or even murder, but aren’t nearly as insistent that such rights be granted to those who have done anything that conflicts with their enlightened view of what the world should be like.
The American Civil Liberties Union, for example, which receives a great deal of its funding from these folks, goes into court in a heartbeat to protect the rights of traditional criminals or anyone its leaders perceive as a victim of racism or discrimination but is AWOL when the mistreated are not members of currently-favored groups.
This is doubly true for law enforcement officers progressives suspect are guilty of brutality or are motivated by the sort of thinking they abhor, often simply because they chose to take jobs as cops. Police, by their lights, are evil regardless of race, gender or background and must be regarded as guilty whenever anyone accuses them of anything. It is as if since the very concept of enforcing the rules that allow a civil society to function is a product of what they have come to dismiss as an aspect of “white privilege” those who enforce them are guilty as a group simply because they wear a uniform or carry a badge.
There is no question that there are bad and even racist cops, but the evidence suggests there aren’t that many of them. People don’t become cops for the money or the power; most join up because they share the dream of those they swear to protect and serve; a safe society in which to live and raise their families and hope they can help make that dream a reality.
In today’s world, they are asked to take on tasks they didn’t bargain for when they joined up and for which they aren’t really trained. They’re tax collectors, drug counsellors and spend an inordinate amount of time dealing not with criminals, but with the mentally ill.
Police reform should be aimed at dealing with those law enforcement officers who break the rules or create an environment in which bad actors are supported and hold onto their jobs. This, of course, requires not just enlightened oversight and a thorough review of the role of police in a free society, but reforms to limit the ability of police unions to force departments to virtually ignore allegations of wrong doing on the part of their members.
Nevertheless, it appears that the reality we face today is that few are prepared to stand up for the rights of a cop accused of wrongdoing. The progressive mob wants them fired or jailed, resembling nothing so much as the lynch mobs storming jails in a Western movie demanding that the prisoner be hung rather than tried.
Politicians vying for the favor of the mob are loath to oppose these demands and are, in fact, more likely to endorse them lest they too be branded as evil while prosecutors seem likely to overcharge in such cases. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, the charges initially lodged by professional prosecutors against the cop involved in the George Floyd death were upped by a progressive, elected attorney general playing to the demands of the modern equivalent of the lynch mob surrounding the jail.
That cop and others like him may or may not be guilty, but we’ll never know for sure if those who believe in due process and the rights of the accused don’t step forward to defend them. Doing so isn’t always popular as anyone who’s read “To Kill a Mockingbird” or is familiar with the courage it took for John Adams to volunteer to defend the British soldiers in Boston in 1770, who fired on a crowd of colonists in what became known as the “Boston Massacre.”
In today’s world, mounting a defense can also be incredibly expensive, but since it has become painfully obvious that groups like the ACLU aren’t likely to step forward, others must. Cops are Americans and deserve the same rights as every other American. There was a time when members of disfavored groups were treated unequally and many in the community would ignore our failure to live up to the ideals so well illustrated by John Adams’ defense of unpopular defendants so long ago, but that time has blessedly passed. Bringing it back for the men and women we depend on for our safety would be a crime.
• David A. Keene is an editor at large for The Washington Times.
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