American police answer to local officials for the same reasons that sovereignty was rooted in the states or the people. Central governments have never felt powerful enough on the other hand, without control of the police. Armed enforcers beyond their control make them nervous.
The current attempt by the Obama Administration Department of Justice to assert Federal ‘standards’ for local police is the latest maneuver in this perennial tug of war.
The pattern is simple: local police are subjected to a media spotlight, usually “racism.” The Feds come in to assure … well, whatever it is that they assure. Justice Department organizers ‘protect’ locals engaged in ‘justified’ riots, the police are investigated and the Feds set up new rules for them to follow, monitoring their ensuing adherence to those rules. It is then, a de facto Federal takeover of local police policy. However, the program is showing side effects.
In Baltimore, a current example, crime has shot up, police are met by mobs when attempting their duty and they are accused for that, of neglecting it in reaction to the charges brought by an ambitious prosecutor against six officers when an arrested prisoner died in custody. For the police, they are castigated for enforcing or failing to enforce the law. Baltimore has Federal investigators and overseers of their police but the citizens feel less safe.
In essence, the Feds are saying that locals are incompetent racists who should not be allowed to control police, while Washington politicians are the White Knights of propriety who will bring honest and fair policing to Keokuk, Iowa from far off Washington, D.C. (Yeah, and a pig just flew by our window.)
Policing is an application of government power; it has never been apolitical. But local politicians are within the reach of local citizens; national politicians are not. Local police know their conditions and their people; they react to them. Washington is too far off for such understanding. Instead, the alien goals of Washington come down upon the locals when the Feds take charge.
But forcing the entire citizenry into a single mold is a long sought dream of central governments. It has always been a dream that has helped dictators sleep at night. Which is why the Founders wished to prevent it.
Good policing reflects community values, not Washington values. America is seeing its founding Christian values being abandoned, what will ultimately replace them is guesswork now. Depriving communities of local police during such transitions will provide police viewed by locals as foreign occupiers; the relationship needed for civility cannot exist between police and citizens under that view. Peace and order will suffer rather than be reinforced by such policing, as Baltimore and other places are beginning to show.
The Feds are manufacturing racism to foster their program, it seems to us. That is the most destructive part of the apparent program. We note that Federal funding for complaisant local cops is a part of the shtick; knowing that the funds must fade sooner rather than later is a bit of comfort.
As has been so often the case, we suppose that this clumsy attempt to Federalize the local police is destined to be another failed overreach. But in the meantime, it is destructive of the common weal.Citizens should encourage their local officials to resist it.