Lines of Defense


Police Ideology and the Constitution

Ordering Information:
Institute of Police Technology and Management
1200 Alumni Drive
Jacksonville, Florida 32224-2678
(904) 620-4786

This POLICE ACADEMY TEXT BOOK addresses, in no uncertain terms, the ethics and morals expected of and by today's police officers. Part 2 is a line by line explaination, in common everyday language, of the U.S. Constitution, The Declaration of Independence and other significant writings.

Part I:
INTRODUCTION by Bruce Cameron.
Chapter 1: Trust
Chapter 2: Ethics
Chapter 3: Code of Ethics
Chapter 4: Fourth Branch
Chapter 5: Extrapolation
Chapter 6: Loyalty
Chapter 7: Solutions
Chapter 8: Our Last Line of Defense

Part II

Chapter: 9 Evolution of Rights & Wrongs
Chapter: 10 Declaration of Independence [annotated]
Chapter: 11 Constitution [annotated]
Chapter: 12 Amendments [annotated]

Opening Lines
You ain't sh_t if you ain't a cop. This old adage holds a lot of truth, eh? Does this mean Bill Clinton is okay in every way? After all, he's been the top law enforcement officer in the whole country. From the opposite standpoint, how about your wife? Your children? Your partner's family? Are they all sh_t because they don't wear the shield?

Literal interpretations aside, the philosophical inference and real meaning of the "you ain't sh_t..." line is trust.

Anthony M. Gregory (Police Lt. Cumberland, IN P.D.)

Every month in this country, thousands of men and women raise their right hand and swear a solemn oath to enforce the laws of their particular political jurisdiction and to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. The great majority of these new officers are young, enthusiastic, and well meaning. It is doubtful, however, that many of them have ever actually read the entire Constitution they have just sworn to uphold. For those few who have, it was probably long ago and in some cursory way, during a high school social studies class.
This is a problem for law enforcement. Although we do not generally recognize it, we see it painfully in the suspicious attitude that the general populace has towards us. We see it frighteningly every time law enforcement officers are prosecuted, sued, or pilloried in the press for a use of force that seemed justifiable or unavoidable at the time, but which has subsequently been cast as a violation of someone’s rights. Unfortunately, law enforcement brings a great deal of this on itself. If the vow to uphold the United States Constitution actually means anything, and is not just some window-dressing that universally occurs in the wording of a law enforcement oath of office, then it is critically important that officers be familiar with the entire Constitution. We train our officers in physical tactics, firearms, emergency vehicle operations, first aid, ethics, diversity, social sensitivity, and in the criminal, civil, and traffic law we expect them to understand and enforce. We also train them in "Constitutional Law", which generally means the restrictions imposed on policing by the Bill of Rights, particularly by the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendments, as interpreted by the courts. Unfortunately, this is usually the only part of the Constitution that enters into their training. The emphasis on the "restrictions" placed on law enforcement, rather than on the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of the John Q. Citizen not to be messed with under most circumstances, leaves most officers end up looking upon the Bill of Rights as just an irritating impediment to doing their jobs. Yet it is the Constitution – its words, its meanings, and its spirit – that informs citizens of their place, rights, and prerogatives in society. It is the words, meaning, and spirit of the Constitution that should infuse law enforcement with its sense of mission, and its proper place with respect to the citizens it has sworn to protect and serve. This simply isn’t possible if law officers, and the general citizenry, don’t know the Constitution.
In Lines of Defense – Police Ideology and Constitution, author and former police officer Chuck Klein, takes a first stab at trying to correct this problem. I liked this book a lot. (I actually read it the first time in a single sitting.) It’s a work whose time has come. Ironically, I think the book will be controversial within law enforcement. This is a strange thing to say about a manuscript that really does nothing but try to plug the ethics and values embodied in the U.S. Constitution into contemporary policing in America. However, as Mr. Klein points up in detail in his book, law enforcement tends to be a closed society. The strength of its members tends to be that they are straightforward, direct, righteous, and goal-focused. These are superb traits for enforcing the law in challenging and dangerous situations, and for ensuring mutual support. They aren’t, however, the best traits for making a profession good at criticizing itself. Nor are they of much use in examining a mission that has progressively tended to become entangled in the political objectives of the government agencies and institutions to which law enforcement is beholden. A critical look at these issues is bound to provoke controversy.
Lines of Defense is broken down into two major sections. Part One is entitled "The Police", while Part Two is entitled "The Rule of Law". The first three chapters of Part One are entitled "Trust", "Ethics", and "Code of Ethics". In these chapters the author explores the "in-group" nature of police work. This includes the psychology of the critical backup that officers give one another in dangerous situations, and the de-facto privileged and immune status enjoyed by officers. He looks at the ways in which this impacts police attitudes and ethics. He makes the point that most officers fail to remember that someday they will lay down the badge and go back to being just John Q. Citizen. Maintaining this awareness might inform a great deal of what officers did, and how they felt about the public they are sworn to serve. (An officer I often teach with is fond of saying that as a citizen he is deeply suspicious of any court ruling or law that makes his life as an officer easier. I think this is an attitude with which author Klein would heartily agree.) Mr. Klein ties in this issue of ethics with the confusion created for the officer when original mission of law enforcement – which is to Keep the Peace – becomes subverted by the political agendas of those for whom he works. This can be anything from writing a certain number of tickets, to participating in some crusade meant to get the local prosecutor re-elected, to fulfilling the latest mandates of political correctness. Keeping straight on all of this requires an Ethic that incorporates a clear understanding of the role of police in society, and the rights of the citizens.
The third chapter of Lines of Defense is entitled "The Fourth Branch of Government", and this is where some readers are going to begin to find the book controversial. The thesis is that after the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive branches of government, Law Enforcement has become a de-facto fourth branch. In theory, the function of the Executive Branch is to enforce laws, and law enforcement is an extension of that branch. In practice, the Executive branch often does not enforce the law, or makes it own laws via Executive Order (witness the spate of new laws created by Bill Clinton during the last days of his presidency). In the real world law enforcement quite often finds itself carrying out the enforcement orders of the judiciary, or the bureaucrats (who, once appointed and empowered make their own rules, and are often beholden to no one) or even the legislative branches in local situations run by Town Boards. In this hodge-podge of conflicting political interests there are going to be moments when law enforcement is ordered to enforce laws that are clearly unconstitutional. Mr. Klein’s contention is that law enforcement officers are "or should be – the first line of defense against the usurpation of power – against violations of the rights of citizenship by bureaucrats, elected officials and even other police agencies. This requires a dedication to ethics: Knowing the difference between right and wrong – and conducting yourself accordingly." Somehow I think that this simple, and seemingly self-evident statement, is going to cause a lot of angst. Likewise his assertion that, "Constitutions were not written only for judges to decipher or define. Our Federal Constitution and state constitutions were made for all the people to read and understand. When a legislative body puts in writing a rule that violates a constitution, be it Federal or state, your duty – your obligation – is to the constitution." Heady stuff, but if that oath we took to uphold Constitution actually means anything, unavoidable as well. Of course, one can always opt out of responsibility, claiming that the courts, legislature, and executive have defined the constitution, and who am I to argue, no matter how ridiculously obvious or egregious the breach of rights is. But this does sound a lot like the "I was just following orders" excuse that has been used so often in the history of 20th century atrocities, and American history is replete with examples, such as the Dred Scott decision, of the Court clearly violating the Constitution. In any event, even if one accepts the interpretation of the Constitution provided by others, this still does not justify not knowing for oneself the document one has sworn to defend. The author’s exploration of each officer’s obligation to enforce the Constitution first and foremost is worthwhile reading.
The last sections of Part One deal with the ways in which "political spin" and "buried messages" are placed into laws, actions and communications of government. These are what the author calls Projections, and he contends that the ability to see through these projections to the real message and intent allows one to extrapolate whether the outcome of a given course of action is likely to be ethical or not. He illustrates some frightening conclusions about where the messages buried in Political Correctness may be taking us. The very last chapter of Part One deals with possible solutions to the problem. Some of the avenues Mr. Klein explores are jury nullification, judicial accountability, insider power control, communication and propaganda, age requirements, civilianism, education, and amendment of the Federal Constitution. His exploration of these options is insightful, although I wonder how much of it would be possible in the present political climate. Nevertheless, we need to make a start somewhere, which is what this work succeeds in doing.
Part Two of Lines of Defense was a real surprise to me. It begins with an excellent discussion of the philosophical evolution of the notion of human rights and of wrongs. It contrasts the way in which these ideas were held at the time when they were conceived and employed as the founding principles of the American Republic, and they way they are viewed now, which is quite strikingly and alarmingly different. It then launches into an annotated version of the complete Declaration of Independence, and the entire Constitution and Articles of Amendment. The beauty of this section is that the annotations are in Plain English, and simply define the meaning of the terms within their historical context, and in more modern verbiage. The author has deliberately not inserted Court rulings or cites, choosing instead to take the common sense view that the words mean what they say, or that they can reasonably be assumed to have meant at the time in history that they were written. This is, of course, what we would call a "strict constuctionist" or "original intent" view of the Constitution, and it will offend those who look at the Constitution as a "living document" subject to reinterpretation according to the current situation, or redefinition agreeable to the current orthodoxy of values. For those of us who think that this latter approach results in a Constitution that means nothing at all, and which ultimately defends us against no incursions on our rights, Mr. Klein’s approach is a breath of fresh air.
If I have any criticism of Lines of Defense it would be that I would like to have seen some additional discussion of the "gray areas" or "slippery slope" that law enforcement gets put on by much of current law and social policy, even when the law itself is not unconstitutional. The obvious example is the manner is which the current War on Drugs is being fought. We are fighting a "supply side" war that inevitably encourages officers and agencies to find ways to skate as close as possible to the technical limits of Fourth Amendment search and seizure rules. In doing so, even without outright violations of Constitutionally protected rights, it seems that we are instilling a fundamental antagonism to those limits, and to the underlying rights they represent. At the further extreme, agencies are encouraged to take actions which they know to be of dubious constitutionality, such as the Indianapolis drug interdiction roadblocks that the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled unconstitutional. This certainly has an effect on the ethics and viewpoints of individual officers, as well as on the public’s trust of the police. I queried the author about why he had not dealt with this, and he pointed out that it was beyond the scope of his book. He noted that agencies and officers could clearly do anything that was within the law and not unconstitutional, and that legislatures could clearly make any law that was not prohibited by the constitution. But a deep understanding of the Constitution would probably prevent most of these abuses and near-abuses from occurring in the first place. Lines of Defense was meant to address the need for that understanding.
I think that Lines of Defense would be a useful addition to the curriculum of virtually every Law Enforcement Academy in America. Of course, every class in an Academy setting (no matter how important) competes on equal footing with very other class (no matter how silly) for the limited available time and resources. Nonetheless, we would do a far better job of training our officers to uphold the oath they take to defend the Constitution, and to not violate the citizens’ rights, if they actually learned what the Constitution says and means. I think the second half of the book would also make an excellent basic high-school text on the Constitution. The depressing reality here is that the Constitution, as a whole document, is probably not taught these days in most high school Social Studies classes. (This is probably part of the same mind-set that changed the class names from Civics and U.S. History to Social Studies.) Ultimately it is the citizens who either know or don’t know the Constitution, who claim or relinquish their rights, who decide what rules are made, and who define the job that the police do. Lines of Defense would go a long way towards informing young citizens and young officers as to what the ultimate rules really are, and how we need to respect and enforce those rules if we are to maintain our freedom.


by Bruce Carmeron, Editor
LAW & ORDER Magazine

"Ethics is the foundation of policing.

"Ethics engender trust, and without this vital ingredient, policing as we in this country expect and understand it, is impossible. You might still have enforcement of the laws, but not truly efective policing, for this requires the support of those being policed, meaning their trust.

"In this work, Mr. Klein explores the many ways ethics are involved in policing, and the consequences to be expected when this most basic of its ingredients is minimized or even eliminated. He theorizes that those entering this profession must have ethical qualities already ingrained in them to want to be an active participant in this field where sorrow, danger and boredom are routine events.

"There is a passage of great insight into how ethics affect police officers; 'A code of ethics, to have impact, must become part of each officer's demeanor. He must not only believe in the code and what it stands for, but must live this ethical life. Anything less will only lead to conflicts of conscience.'

"In the society we presently exist in, where the various publics are ready to pounce on and question every action of the police, officers that are able to rely on their individual ethics have a potential shield against personal attack. The cloak of ethics will not only keep many possible sins from ever being temptations, but will blunt the attack of those without cause.

"The reason the ethics of individual officers is so important to policing is that this personal quality is extrapolated and carried onward to affect all levels of the organization. The ethics of its officers will be reflected in how the agency operates, and consequently is perceived by the publics it serves,"