Why do some law enforcement officials think they can ignore the laws that apply to law enforcement?
They recognize that private citizens should be law-abiding, but they themselves – that's another story. After all, they're the good guys, they have the best of intentions, they're trying to protect us, and they're not breaking the law, just stretching it a bit.
Hey, Dirty Harry did it, and he got results, right? Heck, the vast majority of TV and movie cops go rogue when playing by the rules won't work, and nobody complains about them. Who doesn't love Lethal Weapon and Die Hard?
Even President Obama uses his pen and his phone like a .44 Magnum when Congress and the Constitution get in the way of his plans for the fundamental transformation of America.
This attitude is alarming, but it's not surprising. In fact, it's the very reason we have laws regarding law enforcement. As Lord Acton observed, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
That's why citizens in LaSalle County in north central Illinois were alarmed, if not surprised, when their state’s attorney, Brian Towne, formed the first State’s Attorney Felony Enforcement team five years ago. Oh sure, he had the best of intentions. He just wanted to set up his own police force so he could intercept drug traffickers on Interstate 80 – and use confiscated assets at his own discretion.
That's why a trial court and an appellate court both put the kibosh on his motorized Star Chamber last year.
That's why we in Madison County were alarmed when our state's attorney, Tom Gibbons, set up his own State’s Attorney Felony Enforcement (SAFE) team two years ago, modeled on Towne's personal police force.
Fortunately, the judicial slap-down against Towne's force put Gibbons' team on ice, too.
Gibbons hopes the Supreme Court will reverse that decision so his SAFE team can “get back to the work of protecting our community.”
Something tells us we'd be safer without it.