A fundamental aspect of the good news of the gospel is the message of liberty. As President Joseph F. Smith said, “The Kingdom of God is a Kingdom of freedom; the gospel of the Son of God is the gospel of liberty.” Men of God, both ancient and modern, have spoken on this issue repeatedly. This book analyzes what liberty is and how it applies to government.
photo credit: So Cal Metro
If police officers are charged with upholding and enforcing the law, does that also grant them the authority to break it? If so, to what extent may an individual perform an illegal act to punish another individual for doing the same? And are there some illegal acts that are permissible to be broken in the name of upholding the law, while others are not?
I believe it goes without saying that those who enforce the law should apply the law in equal measure and force to themselves. Short of this standard of justice, how is the average citizen to have any confidence in and respect for the law when those who are charged with upholding it exclude themselves from its restraint?
Examples of this abound, but the easiest one to discuss is the situation where a police officer exceeds the speed limit in his vehicle in order to pull over and cite somebody who was seen exceeding the speed limit himself. Are law enforcement officers somehow exempt from this (malum prohibitum) law? If so, from where do they derive this authority, and to what situations, if any, does it not apply?
Recently, many Americans have become increasingly frustrated with the government for pursuing actions that would be blatantly illegal and immoral if pursued by individuals. The dichotomy of power and increasing division in accountability bleeds through our culture and fosters a sense of distrust in those who are supposed to be upholding the law. But there needs to be a distinction between breaking the law for other purposes, and breaking the law in order to enforce it.
It is this latter idea which is worse in my mind, for it is lawlessness masquerading as justice. Any individual who raises himself above the law—for whatever reason—is dangerous, but those who do it in the name of enforcing and upholding the very law they are breaking are worse, if for no other reason than their hypocrisy.
When did we ever (implicitly or otherwise) give our law enforcement officials authority to bend and break the rules?