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The Thinning Blue Line

The police are often portrayed as the defenders of society, placing themselves between the innocent and the forces of chaos. Naturally, then, the first challenge of those who wish to break the law is to find a way to circumvent those whose duty is enforcing the law — for those who wish to cause harm to bypass the guardians of the society they wish to harm.

It doesn’t exactly help when we, the protected, put handcuffs on those protecting us. Which is precisely what is happening in two cases.

In England, they have some very specific laws governing “hate crimes.” Those who assail a religion, or assail others on behalf of a religion, in a way that the English solons have deemed particularly “hateful,” are to be prosecuted and sentenced for hateful behavior.

Unless, it seems, the religion being used to shield the hateful acts happens to be Islam. In that case, in accordance with the long-established legal doctrine best described as “if we leave the crazies who hate us alone, maybe they won’t hurt us,” British police are being instructed to not enforce hate-crime laws too rigorously — especially against radical (and borderline radical) Muslims.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the Obama administration is ending support for a program started by the Bush Justice Department that authorized local police departments (after special training and whatnot) to enforce federal immigration laws against illegal aliens. The prevailing reasoning here seems to be something like “those laws are solely the responsibility of the federal government to enforce, and if we choose to not do so, tough.”

The duty of the police is to enforce the laws. If certain laws are deemed to be “unenforceable” or “inappropriate” or “inconvenient,” then the solution is to repeal the laws, not to tell the police to ignore them. That leads to a general disrespect for all laws, and is ultimately more harmful to society as a whole than most crime waves.

Further, it is simply not the place of the police to decide — or even cooperate with attempts to decide — how to enforce  laws selectively.

(Thanks to Rob Port of Say Anything Blog for pointing out both these stories.)



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