Who Are the Real Law Enforcers---the Police or We-the-People?
Some time ago, I interviewed Captain Jim Wilmeth, who was then running for Sheriff of Lea County NM. Jim has not only a refreshing stance on enforcing our country’s laws but, his opinions are based squarely on the US Constitution.
Note: With today’s increasing attempts by our government to create a suppressive totalitarian society, his expressed viewpoints are placed in the position of being amongst the rare, honorable and dangerous to a suppressive regime.
With respect to the recent Tucson, Arizona apparent madman’s shootings, Jim wanted to offer his opinions and advice on correcting some of the law a enforcement problems by turning back to the US Constitution. Wilmeth is still a Captain with the Sheriff’s department and his salient ideas appear in the following interview.
Sher: Jim, it’s good to talk with you again. To get right to it, we recently discussed how upholding the laws that protect us must be between (and a combination of) law enforcement and the people in the community. Otherwise, law enforcement becomes a virtual--if not actual--Gestapo force over the people. Recently, FEMA has become the repository for multiple law enforcement activities of DHS, ICE, FLETC (Federal Law Enforcement Training Center) and others in which local law enforcement is now being trained by the federal government. It appears that the feds are usurping the authority of the local community. Would you give us your assessment of what is occurring with the seeming federal takeover and how it appears to usurp Constitutional intent and in what direction would you like to see law enforcement progress?
Jim: Sher, thanks again for talking with me and giving me a chance to speak to these points of interest. These activities are not often viewed as a takeover among the rank and file in local law enforcement, though they should be. Rather, they are viewed as the federal government providing what is trumpeted as vital training and support for locals that only the federal government, with its vast resources, can provide. In the case of more “elitist” training opportunities such as the FBI Academy, the training is viewed as a career-maker among those managers in this profession who seek to improve their chances for leadership positions or lucrative private contracts once they retire. In reality, much of the training provided at these centers often involves retired or former local law enforcement personnel who are now employed or under contract with the federal government to conduct the training.
The courses often include relevant training that is pertinent to local law enforcement, such as forensic tracking for the purpose of tying evidence to a crime, or basic crime scene evaluations. However, it has been my personal experience (as I won’t speak for anyone else) that these classes are usually accompanied by the marketing of merchandise and propaganda asserting the overwhelming superiority of the federal government’s agencies when it comes to crime fighting. The feeling is marketed pretty heavily that no-one fights crime, gathers intelligence, trains police, or solves issues better than the federal agencies.
Local law enforcers aren’t the only individuals who buy into this, by the way. Communities buy into it too. For example, in the January 15, 2011 edition of the Lovington Leader, the front page article is on a friend of mine, Sgt Danny Bryant with the Lovington PD. The front page article’s photo is entitled “One of the Elite”, and the article goes on to explain how Sgt Bryant became one of the “265 elite graduates from the FBI National Academy Program at Quantico, Virginia”, earning 18 college credit hours towards a criminal justice degree. Now, I’ve known Sgt Bryant for nearly 20 years. He didn’t need to go to Quantico to become a good local officer. He already was one, and has been for as long as I’ve known him.
I’ve seen excellent officers go off to the FBI Academy, confident in their department’s capabilities and independent in their thought come back regurgitating the same line…how amazing the courses were and how premier an education they received. Suddenly, the ideas of their fellow locals just aren’t as good because they don’t meet the mark of the FBI’s way of doing things, unless of course, they happen to be a fellow graduate too. This influence then winds itself into the manner in which operations are planned, individuals are mentored and crimes are investigated.
The Tenth Amendment clearly establishes our government’s principle of federalism by providing that powers not granted to the federal government nor prohibited to the States by the Constitution of the United States are reserved to the States or the people. The courts clearly established that police powers are a Reserved power of the States. How then, can the federal government train local law enforcement in its duties?
Constitutionally, the federal government has only one clearly enumerated law enforcement power – that of immigration and securing the border. Now, if the federal government wishes to train and empower local agencies to enforce immigration law, then it can, but only that issue. From a Constitutional aspect, I can find nothing that empowers the federal government to expend tax money from the treasury, for the purpose of training in how to do their job. The 10th Amendment is pretty clear on this issue.
Ideally, if we are to resist the federal government’s attempts to modify our social behavior as a profession, as well as control our local law enforcement activities, we must refuse to ascribe to them a level of importance they have not earned. Our local law enforcement officers and prosecutors, together with our public defenders are fully capable of understanding the scope and meaning of the Constitution. Further, our local agencies are full of men and women who have vast experience in conducting investigations, defensive tactics, interpersonal communication, intelligence gathering, etc. We can, and should, train ourselves and each other, exchanging information and valid procedures between each other without concerning ourselves with a federal nod of approval.
Sher: You have spoken highly of Sir Robert Peel’s “Nine Principles of Policing.” In number seven of those principles he states: “Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.” This certainly seems to fly in the face of the way in which law enforcement in some areas of the USA is being administered today. With consideration to the US Constitution, how do you believe law enforcement should most effectively operate?
Jim: Robert Peel’s comments, at least in my opinion, provide a simple and eloquent proof to my argument that Constitutional law enforcement stems from our individual authority as a free people. If you don’t mind recalling our last conversation, you will remember the line of reasoning where I revealed how police power is a Reserved power of the States, stemming directly from the individual authority inherent in each of us, and defined in the 10th Amendment.
I think you would agree the concept of a community, and of a society which identifies itself by certain mores and beliefs, begins with individuals choosing to band together for mutual aid, support and protection. The Constitution is the means by which we can pursue the unique interests of our lives and enjoy our freedoms free from unnecessary interference. Our Founding Fathers were well aware of the concept of crime, both against the individual, and against society. They fully understood that certain acts were inherently wrong, while others were wrong because the agreed upon mores of their society made them so.
Prior to our nation’s birth, law enforcement had typically been the practice of two entities: the State (represented by military action) and the common law of men. During the first few years of our nation we refined our concept of criminal law enforcement, restricting the power of the Federal level of government and actively curtailing the very concept that federal authority overpowered that of the common man when acting in concert for the welfare of the community. It was, for lack of a better way to say, the duty of the individuals within a community to “police” it--or conserve the peace and provide for the protection of the population. Over time, we started formally vesting this authority in chosen representatives who devoted their time strictly to the conservation of the peace, the protection of life and property and the protection of individual rights, and modern policing arrived. I want to bring up this important point though: the vesting of power in certain individuals to act on behalf of everyone else in their community did not entertain the idea that individuals relinquished that authority. This remains the case today. Current case law supports that police do not possess a Constitutional duty to protect an individual.
With all this in mind, I suggest law enforcement would operate better by embracing its historical foundation and returning to the simple concept that it is not an entity apart from its community, it is an arm of that community. It is populated by its community members, guided by them, empowered by them and focused by them. From a Constitutional point of view, this means that law enforcement is most effective when it refuses to be utilized as a tool for modifying social behavior, and instead, remains subservient to the mores of its local community support.
Sher: At the recent horrific Arizona shootings, several courageous citizens stepped forward to apprehend and stop the perpetrator. Is this one of the ways in which you view law enforcers and We-the-People working together?
Jim: Absolutely, and as far as I am concerned it is also proof that these types of actions are a natural right and responsibility of every free human being. I believe this is a power vested in us by God, placed in us to enable us to help, aid and assist our fellow man; and as such, we bear the responsibility for exercising it properly and prudently. If it weren’t so, then these are actions we simply could not do. Tucson proved this point, in the same way that hundreds of other events all over our country have proved it.
Odds are, in a serious, life-threatening situation, local police are not likely to be present, and chances are they will be arriving as the battle has already been joined. If we had enough police to blanket the US so completely that the government could guarantee their presence at every crime...well, we would have a police state wouldn’t we? The solution has always been there: the public are the police and the police are the public. Sure, when the situation can be handled by those men and women who dedicate their work hours and lives to the cause of conserving the peace and protecting individual rights, let them do so, and we should all support their efforts with conviction, as long as they are following the Constitution. But when your community is under attack by genuine criminal elements, or your very freedoms are being usurped for the illusion of safety, that my friends is when the Sheriff, their deputies, local police and free people have to become an inseparable team of allies, guardians, and patriots.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have heard government officials (not just law enforcement) attempt to dissuade people from becoming actively involved in solving problems or facing down threats. Why? The Supreme Court has emphatically stated that the government has no Constitutional duty to protect an individual. Isn’t it better to revitalize our shared heritage and work together for the safety of our communities and to preserve our local autonomy? And in defense of the men and women I have worked beside for over twenty five years, I want to make this point also. When that police officer or Deputy Sheriff does engage a truly bad person (and there are plenty of them), when he or she does enter the fray, try to remember that the court said they didn’t have to [do so]. In that light, try to see the majority of your local law enforcement as free men and women just like you, who are dedicating their time to responsibilities we all share. The Federal government is doing a good enough job of causing local law enforcement and communities to distrust each other, let’s not make it any easier for them. We need each other if we are to remain free.
Sher: In closing, in what direction would you like the USA to proceed with reference to Constitutional enforcement of the law? And, in today’s climate, do you believe it possible? How do we accomplish it?
Jim: The Constitution is remarkably and refreshingly clear when it comes to the authority of the state as it is enacted by the men and women we choose to represent our will. The Bill of Rights protects our liberties and is the perfect reference for all law enforcement to use to enable us to do our job while retaining the respect of our neighbors and friends. In short...federal law enforcement needs to be downsized to only those police powers it is afforded in the Constitution. The remainder of those concerns should be relegated back to the entities who truly have the vested authority to act: local law enforcement. With the involvement of our communities, we can do just fine thank you. Does this mean we should abandon our information sharing and our interstate compacts? Of course not, but they should be controlled, defined and implemented by the States, absent federal oversight. Let local agencies and States hold onto their own funds so we can use them ourselves, without being told what to use them for. We must make a concerted effort to simplify the criminal codes in our states.
Finally, we should place a great deal of political pressure on our representatives and senators to simplify the federal criminal code and re-emphasize the role of the private citizen in representing their own interests in courts. That would be a start.
I absolutely believe it is possible. The common free man and woman are awakening, and this is OUR country. The levels of government are instituted by us, empowered by us, and subservient to us; and we are starting to remember that! Accomplishing this will be difficult, but not impossible. We must first wean ourselves off the deceptive and addictive lure of federal aid, returning those funds to their original jurisdictions for local use. We have to recognize the strings that the federal government puts on us and cut them. We must dedicate ourselves to working as one people and recognize the value of our local law enforcement as well as the value of our community members.
FEMA and its purported purpose is a great example of what not to do when faced with disaster.
Answer this question, when a disaster occurs, who REALLY knows where the resources are? Do we not know who the doctors are in our communities? Who has the bulldozers? Who has land to move livestock to? Why do we continue to accept the argument that the federal government can provide more assistance? Governors and legislatures are fully capable of agreeing to mutual aid contracts without the federal government’s involvement as are local municipalities and counties. What it will take, from the majority of us, is a concerted effort to accept responsibility for taking care of our own issues, using the resources and connections that are present in our and neighboring communities.
I could go on and on, but this is the key, I think. Look across the fence at your neighbor, care for them and their family, defend their rights and property as you would your own. Stand shoulder to shoulder with the local Sheriff and their deputies ... and tell big brother “We don’t need your heavy hand, your holier than thou attitude, or your desire to make us all numbers on a list.” We are a free people ... and our power is in our communities, not your departments and agencies!” Then we need to roll up our sleeves and do it ourselves, not ask the feds to do it for us, or give us the money to do it. Our nation was not built by men and women who waited for the government to solve their problems, and it can’t be sustained by that attitude either.
Sher: Jim, thanks again, and we’ll look forward to hearing from you again in the future.
Jim: I’m looking forward to talking with you again. Perhaps we can talk how to create a valid, and effective 21st century militia that is organized to respond to natural disasters, civil unrest, or militant action. Teaming local resources up with law enforcement and community leaders can create a powerful, local problem-solving entity independent of federal interference. Thus protecting our autonomy and individual freedoms.
Sher Zieve is a long-time syndicated columnist who generally writes columns of a politically Conservative and Constitutional nature. She also interviews notable people with an interesting and/or newsworthy story to tell. These include politicians, writers, activists and others in the news. Her work has been and continues to be carried by both national and international publications. Sher appears regularly on national talk shows.