Is it Just for Law Enforcement to be above the Law?
On my way home from class yesterday, I noticed a police car parked on the side of the rode at a meter. My curiosity took over, so I decided to see how much time his meter had left. I would like to say “ to my surprise “ it was expired, but I honestly wasn’t surprised at all. I think in our society that the government and law enforcement feels that they are above the law; even if this is something small to be above. I wanted to get the opinions of my peers. So, I uploaded this picture to my facebook:
Under the picture I explained the situation and asked whether or not they thought that this was just. Out of the 18 people that commented on it, 15 stated that they felt the police officer parking there was unjust. One of the comments is from Gaby Martin who is also a student here at the University of Michigan. Her comment is as follows :
“This specific incident isn’t really fair, but in the scheme of things, pretty inconsequential: it’s just a parking meter. On a larger scale, I do think that everyone needs to cooperate and work together for society to function…however, the rules under which the society (particularly our society) operates should be different. I think our justice system is entirely and inherently messed up because one human should not have more power than, or be able to exert control over, another. I’m all for socialist anarchism.”
I like the point that she makes towards a parking meter being unjust, yet inconsequential in the scheme of things. While I do agree with her that it is a small example, I stand behind the fact that it is still unfair. Tony Slagle, a student at Indiana University of South Bend, who is studying criminal justice, says that worrying about a parking meter is
“pretty trivial. I don’t mind the police officer not getting a ticket for this. But what about running red lights with lights and sirens on to just get to their favorite restaurant more quickly? These along with many other potentially dangerous things are what frustrate me. “
It seems to me that people can agree that this is an unjust act, but in the bigger picture why is it important? I argue, that it is important for the very reason that Tony states. If officers get away with parking at an expired meter, they also think they can get away with acts that are more dangerous such as speeding and running red lights.
Bill Siderits, one of my close friends that I graduated from high school with, who is now attending MSU, makes a great opposing argument. He says,
“Odds are, this officer isn’t doing anything vital for the betterment of society, but is it rational to believe that contemplation is worth the risk of being wrong?”
His comment got me thinking critically. Let’s say that I didn’t think that the officer was parked there for any good reason, so I decided to write his plate down and turn him in. Odds are, if he wasn’t doing something important, he still probably wouldn’t have received a ticket. Possibly a warning or a slap on the wrist. However, if he was doing something important, I would look like a complete ass for not placing trust into our civil system that keeps us safe, for the most part anyways.
So how is any of this relevant to what we are learning? It is relevant because according to Hobbes natural state, humans naturally desire the power to live well and they are never happy with the power they have, unless they acquire more. This can be compared to the situation of the parked police car with an expired meter. Cops are given rights to do certain things that regular civilians are not. Such as arrest, handing out tickets, and acquiring search warrants. Though they have power in some areas, they want more of it. Therefore, they begin to break laws in which civilians would be punished for. It is no doubt that a regular car parked with an expired meter would be slapped with a ticket. The fact that the officer will not acquire one, gives them a sense of power over others because they know they can get away with such an act.
This situation is also relevant to the way in which Hobbes views an Ideal government. Hobbes’ believes that a common power is required to keep men united. That being said, everyone should be allowed to have the same power as the next person. Hobbes’ would disagree that it is okay for a police officer to park at an expired meter simply because that would disrupt the idea of a common power, since civilians are not allowed to do so. Hobbes also believes that the people must make an agreement amongst themselves to submit to one ruler. While our country does go through the process of electing a president, I feel that our idea of a ruler is much different than that of Hobbes. While the President is our countries ruler, he is not the all time decision maker; congress and the house have more power than the president. Thus, in Hobbes’ point of view, we are not submitting ourselves to one ruler, but rather a mass of them.
Though I do understand that parking at an expired meter isn’t the crime of the century, it really got me thinking about the way our society is ran. I just thought it was ironic to have walked pass parking meters with parked cars beside them, and the only expired meter is the one in which a police officer was parked.