Our duty to criticize law enforcement … because it is not above the law

“Why did you say that about ____________?”

Fill in the blank. Everyone is someone’s favorite, even the Sandstorm Scholar. And sometimes they’re our favorites too; holding public officials accountable isn’t always a barrel of laughs. 

But even among those who appreciate accountability journalism and its companion op-ed pieces, many will become uncomfortable when it is law enforcement we are holding accountable.

Perhaps it’s because when we question law enforcement, we question one of the critical institutions of a stable society. It’s bothersome, even distressing, to confront the proposition of bad law enforcement. We need the institution to remain sacred.

We are weary, and wary, of media abuses and rushes to judgment.

Too, we are weary, and wary, of media abuses and rushes to judgment where law enforcement is concerned. These are, after all, the good guys. The media ought to be accountable we well.

But every genuine conservative must acknowledge the necessity of vigilance in every instance where government exercise of power is concerned. The Constitution was written to rein in government … particularly as it exercises police power.

Our record with regard to law enforcement is well known. We support all good peace officers. Wearing the badge as a deputy for a sheriff’s department left me with a much-heightened appreciation for our constitutional protections. And, some of my best friends are peace officers.

It is the Left who create an environment in which it is virtually impossible to fire a bad cop.

We will continue to highlight the good and shine the light on the questionable. Authority, absent accountability, becomes autocracy. The privilege of the First Amendment implies an obligation of the journalist, particularly the opinion journalist, to question power and authority when it is abused.

Ironically, it is the Left who create bureaucracies in which it is virtually impossible to fire a bad cop in most civil service environments. Police chiefs across the state will tell you it takes five years or more to rid a department of someone whose temperament and actions demonstrate him to be unsuitable for law enforcement. Lubbock’s Police Chief Greg Stevens continues to push legislation at the state level to remedy this problem. It is worth noting that a sheriff’s near absolute control over the hiring and firing process does not seem to have hurt the quality of sheriff departments compared to police departments in the same communities.

… a disturbing drain of substandard peace officers … who flush out to departments like Slaton, Crosbyton and Littlefield.

The larger departments in West Texas are usually the healthiest. They have better and more sophisticated layers of accountability and resources for training. There is, however, a disturbing drain of substandard peace officers who cannot hack it at the Lubbock Police Department or Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office, who flush out to organizations with lower standards in communities like Slaton, Crosbyton and Littlefield.

Or to a constable’s office.

That is not to say communities under 25,000 must necessarily have bad law enforcement. Police departments like Wolfforth’s, or the new and improved Hockley County Sheriff’s Office among many others, have leaders who understand small doesn’t preclude excellence and who maintain high standards of law enforcement for their citizens.

But it isn’t just constables either.

In future weeks look for a stories about the Slaton Police Department where video from a patrol car leaves questions about planted evidence. Also, we’ll look outside Lubbock County at what happens when a district attorney doesn’t follow the law. We may see what happens when a peace officer from Blanco Rio drives his department vehicle to Lubbock to enforce his girlfriend’s custody agreement.

Finally, sometime in the not too distant future we will learn what Barney meant when he offered  to teach a lady friend how to be a “-can shooter.” The answer might just blow you away, especially if you’re an Ameri-can.