The “Thin Blue Line,” is a term used most often among fellow police officers to describe the fragile line they alone are entrusted to enforce; a line separating orderly society from lawlessness. Within most contexts the phrase is one of respect in recognition of the significant sacrifices that honorable members of law enforcement make for the betterment of society each day.
In an age where police officers and their actions have increasingly been put under attack, the term has also been used to underscore the reality that the fraternity of law enforcement is one that will protect their own, sometimes at all costs.
Such realities are not often a concern. As in most ventures in life, those in career trades are frequently dependent upon fellow colleagues for employment success, or even survival. In such circumstances it is incumbent upon the those within such groups to work together and collectively, ‘have each other’s back.”
This feeling of comaraderie is almost always a positive for the success of any team effort reliant upon individuals working together. However, in the case of law enforcement, this “thin blue line,” has on too many occasions been used in self serving ways counter to the public welfare.
As such, when police behavior is not used as a means with which to better protect society, but as a means to protect themselves, public confidence in the selective application of criminal laws threatens the entirety of the criminal justice system.
Most recently, a case out of the state of Minnesota was brought to my attention. Regrettably, from my perspective I cannot say that I am either shocked or surprised at the developments presented. However, what is noteworthy are the actions of a police chief who was willing to expose malfeasance among his fellow officers when it would have been both self serving and convenient to sweep exposure of the incident under the rug.
Basically, Minnesota police officers uncovered a potentially extremely intoxicated individual in a state of undress within a vehicle. Nothing was more notable than that as the customary dui investigation protocol commenced.
However, the course of this standard investigation no doubt leading to arrest ultimately ground to a halt when it was discovered that the individual was a police officer from another Minnesota county.
How did we learn this? We among the general public were able to discover this favoritism due to the further incompetence of the police officers in question who failed to shut off the vehicle cam recording the entirety of the incident.
Far from desiring to memorialize the course of events pursuant to a potential prosecution, we know of the cops error by virtue of the reality that they took great pains to disconnect body cams and other visual presentation of their actions once determined to enable their fellow officer to evade public accountability.
For those endorsing the mandatory imposition of body cams to record the legitimacy of police conduct during the course of an investigation, the incident has become a poignant irony with which to underscore the perceived double standard of selective enforcement of criminal laws nationwide.
Not isolated to racial or ethnic boundaries, as this incident demonstrates, selective enforcement of criminal laws have been used not only to prosecute those to whom groups officers are more inclined to target for arrest, but also to selectively decide who shall be among a favored group that is more likely evade arrest for unlawful conduct.
Much praise must be centered upon the police chief responsible for the integrity of the department charged with overseeing the conduct of these law enforcement officials.
It would have been far more expedient to shield his department from public scrutiny and justifiable scorn directed at his operation by invoking the principals of, “the thin blue line,” that works to protect their own in times of trouble. However, refreshingly, this commendable police chief took it upon himself to uphold the proper principals of this time honored phrase, not as a means with which to cover up police misconduct, but to expose it.
In so doing, such officers in leadership roles engender trust among the general public that laws will not be selectively enforced to the detriment of certain targeted groups. In time, this trust carries the prospect of allowing victims of disenfranchised groups to be more inclined to work with law enforcement officials within their own communities, as opposed to shunning them.
To many who have suffered from selective enforcement of laws, be they criminal or the more frequent traffic related detention, the positive nature of the police chief’s actions may very well be obscured by the questioning as to the extensiveness of police misconduct such as this.
Common sense dictates that when we commend the actions of such a police chief, we inherently recognize that his doing the right thing has not been the normal and/or expected course of procedure in today’s turbulent times.
No matter the prism with which we digest the above referenced course of events, those among the general public must always remain vigilant to be on guard among the minority of bad actors that continue to proliferate most all police agencies in some form or another.
No matter the honorable leadership of the majority of police officials nationwide, human nature will never allow certainty that all members of a given department will uphold the noble principals society has a right to expect from law enforcement.
With these realities in mind, let us all recognize that some members of law enforcement among us may not always be those that follow the ideals and principals of those such as this particular Chief of Police.
More importantly, not all police departments will be lead by those determined to make sure that the rule of law applies as equally to its own ranks as those within the public at large.