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Are Cops Constitutional?
Seton Hall Law Journal ^ | 2001 | Roger Roots

Posted on 01/09/2012 10:54:07 AM PST by djf

Seton Hall Constitutional L.J. 2001, 685


Roger Roots*


Police work is often lionized by jurists and scholars who claim to employ "textualist" and "originalist" methods of constitutional interpretation. Yet professional police were unknown to the United States in 1789, and first appeared in America almost a half-century after the Constitution's ratification. The Framers contemplated law enforcement as the duty of mostly private citizens, along with a few constables and sheriffs who could be called upon when necessary. This article marshals extensive historical and legal evidence to show that modern policing is in many ways inconsistent with the original intent of America's founding documents. The author argues that the growth of modern policing has substantially empowered the state in a way the Framers would regard as abhorrent to their foremost principles.



THE CONSTITUTIONAL TEXT..............................................688

PRIVATE PROSECUTORS....................................................689

LAW ENFORCEMENT AS A UNIVERSAL................................692

POLICE AS SOCIAL WORKERS.............................................695

THE WAR ON CRIME..........................................................696

THE DEVELOPMENT OF DISTINCTIONS................................698

RESISTING ARREST............................................................701

THE SAFETY OF THE POLICE PROFESSION............................711



COPS NOT COST-EFFECTIVE DETERRENT.............................721


POLICE AS A STANDING ARMY...........................................722


THE THIRD AMENDMENT...................................................727

THE RIGHT TO BE LEFT ALONE...........................................728

THE FOURTH AMENDMENT................................................729

WARRANTS A FLOOR, NOT A CEILING.................................733


ORIGINALISTS CALL FOR CIVIL DAMAGES...........................739

DEVELOPMENT OF IMMUNITIES..........................................743

THE LOSS OF PROBABLE CAUSE, AND THE ONSET OF PROBABLE SUSPICION................................................744

POLICE AND THE "AUTOMOBILE EXCEPTION"......................745

ONE EXCEPTION: THE EXCLUSIONARY RULE?......................747

THE FIFTH AMENDMENT....................................................751

DUE PROCESS...................................................................752





Uniformed police officers are the most visible element of America's criminal justice system. Their numbers have grown exponentially over the past century and now stand at hundreds of thousands nationwide.1 Police expenses account for the largest segment of most municipal budgets and generally dwarf expenses for fire, trash, and sewer services.2 Neither casual observers nor learned authorities regard the sight of hundreds of armed, uniformed state agents on America's roads and street corners as anything peculiar — let alone invalid or unconstitutional.

Yet the dissident English colonists who framed the United States Constitution would have seen this modern 'police state' as alien to their foremost principles. Under the criminal justice model known to the Framers, professional police officers were unknown.3 The general public had broad law enforcement powers and only the executive functions of the law (e.g., the execution of writs, warrants and orders) were performed by constables or sheriffs (who might call upon members of the community for assistance).4 Initiation and investigation of criminal cases was the nearly exclusive province of private persons.

At the time of the Constitution's ratification, the office of sheriff was an appointed position, and constables were either elected or drafted from the community to serve without pay.5 Most of their duties involved civil executions rather than criminal law enforcement. The courts of that period were venues for private litigation — whether civil or criminal — and the state was rarely a party. Professional police as we know them today originated in American cities during the second quarter of the nineteenth century, when municipal governments drafted citizens to maintain order.6 The role of these "nightly watch" officers gradually grew to encompass the catching of criminals, which had formerly been the responsibility of individual citizens.7

While this historical disconnect is widely known by criminal justice historians, rarely has it been juxtaposed against the Constitution and the Constitution's imposed scheme of criminal justice.8 "Originalist" scholars of the Constitution have tended to be supportive, rather than critical of modern policing.9 This article will show, however, that modern policing violates the Framers' most firmly held conceptions of criminal justice.

The modern police-driven model of law enforcement helps sustain a playing field that is fundamentally uneven for different players upon it. Modern police act as an army of assistants for state prosecutors and gather evidence solely with an eye toward the state's interests. Police seal off crime scenes from the purview of defense investigators, act as witnesses of convenience for the state in courts of law, and instigate a substantial amount of criminal activity under the guise of crime fighting. Additionally, police enforce social class norms and act as tools of empowerment for favored interest groups to the disadvantage of others.10 Police are also a political force that constantly lobbies for increased state power and decreased constitutional liberty for American citizens.


The Constitution contains no explicit provisions for criminal law enforcement.11 Nor did the constitutions of any of the several states contain such provisions at the time of the Founding.12 Early constitutions enunciated the intention that law enforcement was a universal duty that each person owed to the community, rather than a power of the government.13 Founding-era constitutions addressed law enforcement from the standpoint of individual liberties and placed explicit barriers upon the state.14


For decades before and after the Revolution, the adjudication of criminals in America was governed primarily by the rule of private prosecution: (1) victims of serious crimes approached a community grand jury, (2) the grand jury investigated the matter and issued an indictment only if it concluded that a crime should be charged, and (3) the victim himself or his representative (generally an attorney but sometimes a state attorney general) prosecuted the defendant before a petit jury of twelve men.15 Criminal actions were only a step away from civil actions — the only material difference being that criminal claims ostensibly involved an interest of the public at large as well as the victim.16 Private prosecutors acted under authority of the people and in the name of the state — but for their own vindication.17 The very term "prosecutor" meant criminal plaintiff and implied a private person.18 A government prosecutor was referred to as an attorney general and was a rare phenomenon in criminal cases at the time of the nation's founding.19 When a private individual prosecuted an action in the name of the state, the attorney general was required to allow the prosecutor to use his name — even if the attorney general himself did not approve of the action.20

Private prosecution meant that criminal cases were for the most part limited by the need of crime victims for vindication.21 Crime victims held the keys to a potential defendant's fate and often negotiated the settlement of criminal cases.22 After a case was initiated in the name of the people, however, private prosecutors were prohibited from withdrawing the action pursuant to private agreement with the defendant.23 Court intervention was occasionally required to compel injured crime victims to appear against offenders in court and "not to make bargains to allow [defendants] to escape conviction, if they ... repair the injury."24

Grand jurors often acted as the detectives of the period. They conducted their investigations in the manner of neighborhood sleuths, dispersing throughout the community to question people about their knowledge of crimes.25 They could act on the testimony of one of their own members, or even on information known to grand jurors before the grand jury convened.26 They might never have contact with a government prosecutor or any other officer of the executive branch.27

Colonial grand juries also occasionally served an important law enforcement need by account of their sheer numbers. In the early 1700s, grand jurors were sometimes called upon to make arrests in cases where suspects were armed and in large numbers.28 A lone sheriff or deputy had reason to fear even approaching a large group "without danger of his life or having his bones broken."29 When a sheriff was unable to execute a warrant or perform an execution, he could call upon a posse of citizens to assist him.30 The availability of the posse comitatus meant that a sheriffs resources were essentially unlimited.31


Law enforcement in the Founders' time was a duty of every citizen.32 Citizens were expected to be armed and equipped to chase suspects on foot, on horse, or with wagon whenever summoned. And when called upon to enforce the laws of the state, citizens were to respond "not faintly and with lagging steps, but honestly and bravely and with whatever implements and facilities [were] convenient and at hand."33 Any person could act in the capacity of a constable without being one,34 and when summoned by a law enforcement officer, a private person became a temporary member of the police department.35 The law also presumed that any person acting in his public capacity as an officer was rightfully appointed.36

Laws in virtually every state still require citizens to aid in capturing escaped prisoners, arresting criminal suspects, and executing legal process. The duty of citizens to enforce the law was and is a constitutional one. Many early state constitutions purported to bind citizens into a universal obligation to perform law enforcement functions, yet evinced no mention of any state power to carry out those same functions.37 But the law enforcement duties of the citizenry are now a long-forgotten remnant of the Framers' era. By the 1960s, only twelve percent of the public claimed to have ever personally acted to combat crime.38

The Founders could not have envisioned 'police' officers as we know them today. The term "police" had a slightly different meaning at the time of the Founding.39 It was generally used as a verb and meant to watch over or monitor the public health and safety.40 In Louisiana, "police juries" were local governing bodies similar to county boards in other states.41 Only in the mid-nineteenth century did the term 'police' begin to take on the persona of a uniformed state law enforcer.42 The term first crept into Supreme Court jurisprudence even later.43

Prior to the 1850s, rugged individualism and self-reliance were the touchstones of American law, culture, and industry. Although a puritan cultural and legal ethic pervaded their society, Americans had great toleration for victimless misconduct.44 Traffic disputes were resolved through personal negotiation and common law tort principles, rather than driver licenses and armed police patrol.45 Agents of the state did not exist for the protection of the individual citizen. The night watch of early American cities concerned itself primarily with the danger of fire, and watchmen were often afraid to enter some of the most notorious neighborhoods of cities like Boston.46

At the time of Tocqueville's observations (in the 1830s), "the means available to the authorities for the discovery of crimes and arrest of criminals [were] few,"47 yet Tocqueville doubted "whether in any other country crime so seldom escapes punishment."48 Citizens handled most crimes informally, forming committees to catch criminals and hand them over to the courts.49 Private mobs in early America dealt with larger threats to public safety and welfare, such as houses of ill fame.50 Nothing struck a European traveler in America, wrote Tocqueville, more than the absence of government in the streets.51

Formal criminal justice institutions dealt only with the most severe crimes. Misdemeanor offenses had to be dealt with by the private citizen on the private citizen's own terms. "The farther back the [crime rate] figures go," according to historian Roger Lane, "the higher is the relative proportion of serious crimes."52 In other words, before the advent of professional policing, fewer crimes — and only the most serious crimes — were brought to the attention of the courts.

After the 1850s, cities in the northeastern United States gradually acquired more uniformed patrol officers. The criminal justice model of the Framers' era grew less recognizable. The growth of police units reflected a "change in attitude" more than worsening crime rates.53 Americans became less tolerant of violence in their streets and demanded higher standards of conduct.54 Offenses which had formerly earned two-year sentences were now punished by three to four years or more in a state penitentiary.55


Few of the duties of Founding-era sheriffs involved criminal law enforcement. Instead, civil executions, attachments and confinements dominated their work.56 When professional police units first arrived on the American scene, they functioned primarily as protectors of public safety, health and welfare. This role followed the "bobbie" model developed in England in the 1830s by the father of professional policing, Sir Robert Peel.57

Early police agencies provided a vast array of municipal services, including keeping traffic thoroughfares clear. Boston police made 30,681 arrests during one fiscal year in the 1880s, but in the same year reported 1,472 accidents, secured 2,461 buildings found open, reported thousands of dangerous and defective streets, sidewalks, chimneys, drains, sewers and hydrants, tended to 169 corpses, assisted 148 intoxicated persons, located 1,572 lost children, reported 228 missing (but only 151 found) persons, rescued seven persons from drowning, assisted nearly 2,000 sick, injured, and insane persons, found 311 stray horse teams, and removed more than fifty thousand street obstructions.58

Police were a "kind of catchall or residual welfare agency,"59 a lawful extension of actual state 'police powers.'60 In the Old West, police were a sanitation and repair workforce more than a corps of crime-fighting gun-slingers. Sheriff Wyatt Earp of OK Corral fame, for example, repaired boardwalks as part of his duties.61


Toward the end of the nineteenth century, police forces took on a brave new role: crime-fighting. The goal of maintaining public order became secondary to chasing lawbreakers. The police cultivated a perception that they were public heroes who "fought crime" in the general, rather than individual sense.

The 1920s saw the rise of the profession's second father — or perhaps its wicked stepfather — J. Edgar Hoover.62 Hoover's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) came to epitomize the police profession in its sleuth and intelligence-gathering role. FBI agents infiltrated mobster organizations, intercepted communications between suspected criminals, and gathered intelligence for both law enforcement and political purposes.

This new view of police as soldiers locked in combat against crime caught on quickly.63 The FBI led local police to develop integrated repositories of fingerprint, criminal, and fraudulent check records. The FBI also took over the gathering of crime statistics (theretofore gathered by a private association),64 and went to war against "Public Enemy Number One" and others on their "Ten Most Wanted" list.65 Popular culture began to see police as a "thin blue line," that "serves and protects" civilized society from chaos and lawlessness.66


But the constitutions of the Founding Era gave no hint of any thin blue line. Nothing in their texts enunciated any governmental power to "fight crime" at all. "Crime-fighting" was intended as the domain of individuals touched by crime. The original design under the American legal order was to restore a semblance of private justice. The courts were a mere forum, or avenue, for private persons to attain justice from a malfeasor.67 The slow alteration of the criminal courts into a venue only for the government's claims against private persons turned the very spirit of the Founders' model on its head.

To suggest that modern policing is extraconstitutional is not to imply that every aspect of police work is constitutionally improper.68 Rather, it is to say that the totality and effect of modern policing negates the meaning and purpose of certain constitutional protections the Framers intended to protect and carry forward to future generations. Modern-style policing leaves many fundamental constitutional interests utterly unenforced.

Americans today, for example, are far more vulnerable to invasive searches and seizures by the state than were the Americans of 1791.69 The Framers lived in an era in which much less of the world was in "plain view" of the government and a "stop and frisk" would have been rare indeed.70 The totality of modern policing also places pedestrian and vehicle travel at the mercy of the state, a development the Framers would have almost certainly never sanctioned. These infringements result not from a single aspect of modern policing, but from the whole of modern policing's control over large domains of private life that were once "policed" by private citizens.


The treatment of law enforcement in the courts shows that the law of crime control has changed monumentally over the past two centuries. Under the common law, there was no difference whatsoever between the privileges, immunities, and powers of constables and those of private citizens. Constables were literally and figuratively clothed in the same garments as everyone else and faced the same liabilities — civil and criminal — as everyone else under identical circumstances. Two centuries of jurisprudence, however, have recast the power relationships of these two roles dramatically.

Perhaps the first distinction between the rights of citizen and constabulary came in the form of increased power to arrest. Early in the history of policing, courts held that an officer could arrest if he had "reasonable belief both in the commission of a felony and in the guilt of the arrestee.71 This represented a marginal yet important distinction from the rights of a "private person," who could arrest only if a felony had actually been committed.72 It remains somewhat of a mystery, however, where this distinction was first drawn.73 Scrutiny of the distinction suggests it arose in England in 1827 — more than a generation after ratification of the Bill of Rights in the United States.74

Moreover, the distinction was illegitimate from its birth, being a bastardization of an earlier rule allowing constables to arrest upon transmission of reasonably reliable information from a third person.75 The earlier rule made perfect sense when many arrests were executed by private persons. "Authority" was a narrow defense available only to those who met the highest standard of accuracy.76 But when Americans began to delegate their law enforcement duties to professionals, the law relaxed to allow police to execute warrantless felony arrests upon information received from third parties. For obvious reasons, constables could not be required to be "right" all of the time, so the rule of strict liability for false arrest was lost.77

The tradeoff has had the effect of depriving Americans of certainty in the executions of warrantless arrests. Judges now consider only the question of whether there was reasonable ground to suspect an arrestee, rather than whether the arrestee was guilty of any crime. This loss of certainty, when combined with greater deference to the state in most law enforcement matters, has essentially reversed the original intent and purpose of American law enforcement that the state act against stern limitations and at its own peril. Because arrest has become the near exclusive province of professional police, Americans have fewer assurances that they are free from unreasonable arrests.

Distinctions between the privileges of citizens and police officers grew more rapidly in the twentieth century. State and federal lawmakers enshrined police officers with expansive immunities from firearm laws78 and from laws regulating the use of equipment such as radio scanners, body armor, and infrared scopes.79 Legislatures also exempted police from toll road charges,80 granted police confidential telephone numbers and auto registration,81 and even exempted police from fireworks regulations.82 Police are also protected by other statutory immunities and protections, such as mandatory death sentences for defendants who murder them,83 reimbursement of moving expenses when officers receive threats to their lives,84 and even special protections from assailants infected with the AIDS virus.85 Officers who illegally eavesdrop, wiretap, or intrude upon privacy are protected by a statutory (as well as case law) "good faith" defense,86 while private citizens who do so face up to five years in prison. The tendency of legislatures to equip police with ever-expanding rights, privileges and powers has, if anything, been strengthened rather than limited by the courts.88

But this growing power differential contravenes the principles of equal citizenship that dominated America's founding. The great principle of the American Revolution was, after all, the doctrine of limited government.89 Advocates of the Bill of Rights saw the chief danger of government as the inherently aristocratic and disparate power of government authority.90 Founding-era constitutions enunciated the principle that all men are "equally free" and that all government is derived from the people.91


Nothing illustrates the modern disparity between the rights and powers of police and citizen as much as the modern law of resisting arrest. At the time of the nation's founding, any citizen was privileged to resist arrest if, for example, probable cause for arrest did not exist or the arresting person could not produce a valid arrest warrant where one was needed.92 As recently as one hundred years ago, but with a tone that seems as if from some other, more distant age, the United States Supreme Court held that it was permissible (or at least defensible) to shoot an officer who displays a gun with intent to commit a warrantless arrest based on insufficient cause.93 Officers who executed an arrest without proper warrant were themselves considered trespassers, and any trespassee had a right to violently resist (or even assault and batter) an officer to evade such arrest.94

Well into the twentieth century, violent resistance was considered a lawful remedy for Fourth Amendment violations.95 Even third-party intermeddlers were privileged to forcibly liberate wrongly arrested persons from unlawful custody.96 The doctrine of non-resistance against unlawful government action was harshly condemned at the constitutional conventions of the 1780s, and both the Maryland and New Hampshire constitutions contained provisions denouncing nonresistance as "absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind."97

By the 1980s, however, many if not most states had (1) eliminated the common law right of resistance,98 (2) criminalized the resistance of any officer acting in his official capacity,99 (3) eliminated the requirement that an arresting officer present his warrant at the scene,100 and (4) drastically decreased the number and types of arrests for which a warrant is required.101 Although some state courts have balked at this march toward efficiency in favor of the state,102 none require the level of protection known to the Framers.103

But the right to resist unlawful arrest can be considered a constitutional one. It stems from the right of every person to his bodily integrity and liberty of movement, among the most fundamental of all rights.104 Substantive due process principles require that the government interfere with such a right only to further a compelling state interest105 — and the power to arrest the citizenry unlawfully can hardly be characterized as a compelling state interest.106 Thus, the advent of professional policing has endangered important rights of the American people.

The changing balance of power between police and private citizens is illustrated by the power of modern police to use violence against the population.107

As professional policing became more prevalent in the twentieth century, police use of deadly force went largely without clearly delineated guidelines (outside of general tort law).108 Until the 1970s, police officers shot and killed fleeing suspects (both armed and unarmed) at their own discretion or according to very general department oral policies.109 Officers in some jurisdictions made it their regular practice to shoot at speeding motorists who refused orders to halt.110 More than one officer tried for murder in such cases — along with fellow police who urged dismissals — argued that such killings were in the discharge of official duties.111 Departments that adopted written guidelines invariably did so in response to outcries following questionable shootings.112 Prior to 1985, police were given near total discretion to fire on the public wherever officers suspected that a fleeing person had committed a felony.113 More than 200 people were shot and killed by police in Philadelphia alone between 1970 and 1983.114

In 1985, the United States Supreme Court purported to stop this carnage by invalidating the use of deadly force to apprehend unarmed, nonviolent suspects.115 Tennessee v. Garner116 involved the police killing of an unarmed juvenile burglary suspect who, if apprehended alive, would likely have been sentenced to probation.117 The Court limited police use of deadly force to cases of self defense or defense of others.118

As a practical matter, however, the Garner rule is much less stringent. Because federal civil rights actions inevitably turn not on a strict constitutional rule (such as the Garner rule), but on the perception of a defendant officer, officers enjoy a litigation advantage over all other parties.119 In no reported case has a judge or jury held an officer liable who used deadly force where a mere "reasonable" belief that human life was in imminent danger existed.120 Some lower courts have interpreted Garner to permit deadly force even where suspects pose no immediate and direct threat of death or serious injury to others.121 The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently denied the criminal liability of an agent who shot and killed an innocent person to prevent another person from retreating to "take up a defensive position," drawing criticism from Judge Kozinski that the court had adopted the "007 standard" for police shootings.122

Untold dozens, if not hundreds, of Americans have been shot in the back while fleeing police, even after the Garner decision. Police have shot and killed suspects who did nothing more than make a move,123 reach for their identification too quickly,124 reach into a jacket or pocket,125 "make a motion" of going for a gun,126 turn either toward or away from officers,127 'pull away' from an officer as an officer opened a car door,128 rub their eyes and stumble forward after a mace attack,129 or allegedly lunge with a knife,130 a hatchet,131or a ballpoint pen.132 Cops have also been known to open fire on and kill persons who brandished or refused to drop virtually any hand-held object — a Jack Daniel's whiskey bottle,133 a metal rod,134 a wooden stick,135 a kitchen knife (even while eating dinner),136 a screwdriver,137 a rake138 — or even refused an order to raise their hands.139

Cops who shoot an individual holding a shiny object that can be said to resemble a gun — such as a cash box,140 a shiny silver pen,141 a TV remote control,142 or even a can opener143 — are especially likely to avoid liability. In line with this defense, police officers nationwide have been caught planting weapons on their victims in order to make shootings look like self defense.144 In one of the more egregious examples ever proven in court, Houston police were found during the 1980s to have utilized an unofficial policy of planting guns on victims of police violence.145 Seventy-five to eighty percent of all Houston officers apparently carried "throw-down" weapons for such purposes.146 Only the dogged persistence of aggrieved relatives and the firsthand testimony of intrepid witnesses unraveled the police cover-up of the policy.147

Resisting arrest, defending oneself, or fleeing may also place an American in danger of being killed by police.148 Although the law clearly classifies such killings as unlawful, police are rarely made to account for such conduct in court.149 Only where the claimed imminent threat seems too contrived — such as where an officer opened fire to defend himself from a pair of fingernail clippers150 — or where abundant evidence of a police cover-up exists, will courts uphold damage awards against police officers who shoot civilians.151

As Professor Peter L. Davis points out, there is no good reason why police should not be liable criminally for their violations of the criminal code, just as other Americans would expect to be (and, indeed, as the constables of the Founding Era often were).152 Yet in modern criminal courts, police tend to be more bulletproof than the Kevlar vests they wear on the job. Remember that the district attorneys responsible for prosecuting police for their crimes are the same district attorneys who must defend those officers in civil cases involving the same facts.153 Under the Framers' common law, this conflict of interest did not arise at all because a citizen grand jury — independent from the state attorney general — brought charges against a criminal officer, and the officer's victim prosecuted the matter before a petit jury.154 But the modern model of law enforcement provides no real remedy, and no ready outlet for the law to work effectively against police criminals. Indeed, modern policing acts as an obstruction of justice with regard to police criminality.

The bloodstained record of shootings, beatings, tortures and mayhem by American police against the populace is too voluminous to be recounted in a single article.155 At least 2,000 Americans have been killed at the hands of law enforcement since 1990.156 Some one-fourth of these killings — about fifty per year — are alleged by some authorities to be in the nature of murders.157 Yet only a handful have led to indictment, conviction and incarceration.158 This is true even though most police killings involve victims who were unarmed or committed no crime.159

Killings by police seem as likely as killings by death-row murderers to demonstrate extreme brutality or depravity. Police often fire a dozen or more bullets at a victim where one or two would stop the individual.160 Such indicia of viciousness and ferocity would qualify as aggravating factors justifying the death penalty for a civilian murderer under the criminal laws of most states.161

From the earliest arrival of professional policing upon America's shores, police severely taxed both the largess and the liberties of the citizenry.162 In early municipal police departments, cops tortured, harassed and arrested thousands of Americans for vagrancy, loitering, and similar "crimes," or detained them on mere "suspicion."163 Where evidence was insufficient to close a case, police tortured suspects into confessing to crimes they did not commit.164 In the name of law enforcement, police became professional lawbreakers, "constantly breaking in upon common law and ... statute law."165 In 1903 a former New York City police commissioner remarked that he had seen "a dreary procession of citizens with broken heads and bruised bodies against few of whom was violence needed to affect an arrest.... The police are practically above the law."166


Defenders of police violence often cite the dangerous nature of police work, claiming the police occupation is filled with risks to life and health. Police training itself — especially elite SWAT-type or paramilitary training that many officers crave — reinforces the "dangerousness" of police work in the officers' own minds.167 There is some truth to this perception, in that around one hundred officers are feloniously killed in the line of duty each year in the United States.168

But police work's billing as a dangerous profession plummets in credibility when viewed from a broader perspective. Homicide, after all, is the second leading cause of death on the job for all American workers.169 The taxicab industry suffers homicide rates almost six times higher than the police and detective industry.170 A police officer's death on the job is almost as likely to be from an accident as from homicide.171 When overall rates of injury and death on the job are examined, policing barely ranks at all. The highest rates of fatal workplace injuries occur in the mining and construction industries, with transportation, manufacturing and agriculture following close behind.172 Fully 98 percent of all fatal workplace injuries occur in the civilian labor force.173

Moreover, police work is generously rewarded in terms of financial, pension and other benefits, not to mention prestige. Police salaries may exceed $100,000 annually plus generous health insurance and pension plans — placing police in the very highest percentiles of American workers in terms of compensation.174 The founding generation would have been utterly astonished by such a transfer of wealth to professional law enforcers.175 This reality of police safety, security and comfort is one of the best-kept secrets in American labor.

In all, it is questionable whether modern policing actually decreases the level of bloodshed on American streets. Police often bring mayhem, confusion and violence wherever they are called.176 Approximately one-third of the people killed in high-speed police car chases (which are often unnecessarily escalated by police) are innocent bystanders.177 Cops occasionally prevent rather than execute rescues.178 "Police practices" ranked as the number one cause of violent urban riots of the 1960s.179 Indeed, police actively participated in or even initiated some of the nation's worst riots.180 During the infamous Chicago Police Riot during the Democratic National Convention in 1968, police physically attacked 63 newsmen and indiscriminately beat and clubbed numerous innocent bystanders.181


If the modern model of cop-driven criminal justice has any defense at all, it is its "professionalism." Private law enforcement of the type intended by the Framers was supposedly more inclined toward lax and arbitrary enforcement than professional officers who are sworn to uphold the law.182 Upon scrutiny, however, the claim that professional police are more reliable, less arbitrary, and more capable of objective law enforcement than private law enforcers is drastically undermined.

The constitutional model of law enforcement (investigation by a citizen grand jury, arrest by private individuals, constables or citizens watch, and private prosecution) became seen as inefficient and ineffective as America entered its industrial age.183 Yet the grand jury in its natural and unhobbled state is more, rather than less, able to pursue investigations when compared to professional police. Grand jurors are not constrained by the Fourth, Fifth or Sixth amendments — or at least the "exclusionary rule" fashioned by the courts to enforce those amendments.184

In the absence of police troops to enforce the law, the early criminal justice system was hardly as hobbled and impotent as conventional wisdom suggests. Private watch groups and broad-based advocacy groups existed to enforce laws and track criminals among jurisdictions. Thousands of local antihorsethief associations and countless 'detecting societies' sprang up to answer the call of crime victims in the nineteenth century.185 In Maine, the "Penobscot Temperance League" hired detectives to investigate and initiate criminal cases against illegal liquor traffickers.186 In the 1870s a private group called the Society for the Suppression of Vice became so zealous in garnering prosecutions of the immoral that it was accused in 1878 of coercing a defendant into mailing birth control information in violation of federal statutes,187 one of the earliest known instances of conduct that later became defined as entrapment.188 Although some of these private crime-fighting groups were invested with limited state law enforcement powers,189 they were not police officers in the modern sense and received no remuneration.

Such volunteer nonprofessionals continue to aid law enforcement as auxiliary officers in many American communities.190 Additionally, private organizations affiliated with regional chambers of commerce, neighborhood watch and other citizens' groups continue to play a substantial — though underappreciated — role in fighting crime.191 America also has a long history of outright vigilante justice, although such vigilantism has been exaggerated both in its sordidness192 and in its scope.193

Moreover, government-operated policing is hardly a monopoly even today, neither in maintaining order nor over matters of expertise and intelligence-gathering.194 There are three times more private security guards than public police officers and even activities such as guarding government buildings (including police stations) and forensic analysis are now done by private security personnel.195

The chief selling point for professional policing seems to be the idea that sworn government agents are more competent crime solvers than grand juries, private prosecutors, and unpaid volunteers. But this claim disintegrates when the realities of police personnel are considered. In 1998, for example, forty percent of graduating recruits of the Washington, D.C. police academy failed the comprehensive exam required for employment on the force and were described as "practically illiterate" and "borderline-retarded."196 As a practical matter, police are more dependent upon the public than the public is dependent upon police.197

Cops rely on the public for a very high percentage of their investigation clearances. As the rate of crimes committed by strangers increases, the rate of clearance by the police invariably declines.198 Roughly two-thirds of major robbery and burglary arrests occur solely because a witness can identify the offender, the offender is caught at or near the crime scene, or the offender leaves evidence at the scene.199 In contrast, where a suspect cannot be identified in such ways, odds are high that the crime will go unsolved.200

Studies show that as government policing has taken over criminal investigations, the rates of clearance for murder investigations have actually gone down. For more than three decades — while police units have expanded greatly in size, power and jurisdiction — the gap between the number of homicides in the United States and the number of cases solved has widened by almost twenty percent.201 Today, almost three in ten homicides go unsolved.202


Moreover, a surprisingly high number of police conclusions are simply wrong. Since 1963, at least 381 murder convictions have been reversed because of police or prosecutorial misconduct.203 In the 25-year period following the Supreme Court's ruling in Gregg v. Georgia204 reaffirming the use of capital punishment, one innocent person has been freed from death row for every seven who have been executed.205 In Illinois, Thirteen men have been freed from death row since 1977 after proving their innocence — more than the twelve who were actually put to death over the same period. Governor George Ryan finally ordered a moratorium on executions until the death penalty system could be revamped,206 referring to the death penalty system as "fraught with error."207

Yet death penalty cases are afforded far more due process and scrutiny of evidence than noncapital cases. If anything, the error rate of police in noncapital cases is likely substantially higher. Governor Ryan's words would seem to apply doubly to the entire system of police-driven investigation.

The advent of DNA analysis in the courtrooms of the 1990s greatly accelerated the rate at which police errors have been proven in court, even while avenues for defendants' appeals have been systematically cut off by Congress and state legislatures.208 DNA testing before trial has exonerated at least 5000 prime suspects who would likely have otherwise been tried on other police evidence.209 Often, exculpatory DNA revelations have come in cases where other police-generated evidence was irreconcilable, suggesting falsification of evidence or other police misconduct.210 The sheer number of wrongly accused persons freed by DNA evidence makes it beyond dispute that police investigations are far less trustworthy than the public would like to believe.211

Even more unjustified is the notion that a justice system powered by professional police possesses higher levels of integrity, trustworthiness and credibility than the criminal justice model intended by the Framers. Within the criminal justice system, cops are regarded as little more than professional witnesses of convenience, if not professional perjurers, for the prosecution.212 Almost no authority credits police with high levels of honesty. Indeed, the daily work of cops requires strategic lying as part of the job description.213 Cops lie about the strength of their evidence in order to obtain confessions,214 about giving Miranda warnings to arrestees when on the witness stand,215 and even about substantive evidence when criminal cases need more support. Cops throughout the United States have been caught fabricating, planting and manipulating evidence to obtain convictions where cases would otherwise be very weak.216 Some authorities regard police perjury as so rampant that it can be considered a "subcultural norm rather than an individual aberration" of police officers.217 Large-scale investigations of police units in virtually every major American city have documented massive evidence tampering, abuse of the arresting power, and discriminatory enforcement of laws according to race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status. Recent allegations in Los Angeles charge that dozens of officers abused their authority by opening fire on unarmed suspects, planting evidence, dealing illegal drugs, or framing some 200 innocent people.218 More than a hundred prosecutions had to be dismissed in Chicago in 1997 due to similar police misconduct.219 During the infamous "French connection" case of the 1970s, New York City narcotics detectives were caught diverting 188 pounds of heroin and 31 pounds of cocaine for their own use, making the City's Special Investigating Unit the largest heroin and cocaine dealer in the city.220

Police criminality was so acute in New Orleans during the 1980s and 1990s that people were afraid to report crimes for fear that corrupt officers would retaliate or tip off organized crime figures. One New Orleans officer was convicted of ordering the execution of a witness who reported him to the internal affairs unit for allegedly pistol-whipping a teenager.221 Thirty-six Washington, D.C. officers were indicted on charges such as drug dealing, sexual assault, murder, sodomy and kidnapping in 1992.222

In Detroit, repeated corruption allegations have seen a number of low- and high-ranking officers go to prison for drug trafficking, hiring hit men, providing drug protection, and looting informant funds.223 Police burglary rings have been uncovered in several cities.224

Patterns of police abuse tend to repeat themselves in major American cities despite endless attempts at reform.225 New York City police, for example, have been the subject of dozens of wide-ranging corruption probes over the past hundred years226 yet continue to generate corruption allegations.227 Police exhibit unique levels of occupational solidarity.228 Review boards and internal affairs commissions inevitably fail to penetrate police loyalty and find resistance from every rank.229 Cops inevitably form an isolated authoritarian subculture that is both cynical toward the rule of law and disrespectful of the rights of fellow citizens.230 The code of internal favoritism that holds police together may more aptly be described as syndicalism rather than professionalism. Historically, urban police "collected" from local businesses.231 Today, a more subtle brand of racketeering prevails, whereby police assist those businesses which provide support for police and undermine businesses which are perceived as antagonistic to police interests. This same shakedown also applies to newspaper editors and politicians.232

Even at the federal level, where national investigators presume to police corruption and oversee local departments, favoritism toward the police role is rampant. In 1992, for example, the federal government filed criminal charges in only 27 cases of police criminality.233 A federal statute criminalizing violations of the Fourth Amendment has never been enforced even a single time, although it has been a part of the U.S. Code since 1921.234 Throughout the 1980s and '90s, the FBI Crime Laboratory actively abetted the misconduct of local police departments by misrepresenting forensic evidence to bolster police cases against defendants.235


In terms of pure economic returns, police are a surprisingly poor public investment. Typical urban police work is very expensive because police see a primary part of their role as intervention for its own sake — poking, prodding and questioning the public in hope of turning up evidence of wrongdoing. Toward this end, police spin quick U-turns, drive slowly and menacingly down alleyways, reverse direction to track suspected scofflaws, and conduct sidewalk pat-down searches of potential criminals absent clear indicia of potential criminality.236 Studies indicate, however, that such tactics are essentially worthless in the war on crime. One experiment found that when police do not 'cruise' but simply respond to dispatched calls, crime rates are completely unaffected.237

Thus the very aspect of modern policing that the public view as most effective — the creation of a 'police presence' — is in fact a monstrous waste of public resources.238 Similarly, the history of America's expenditures in the war on drugs provides little support for the proposition that money spent on policing yields positive returns.239 University of Chicago professor John Lott has found that while hiring police can reduce crime rates, the net benefit of hiring an additional officer is about a quarter of the benefit from arming the public with an equivalent dollar amount of concealed handguns.240

There is no doubt that modern police are a creation of lawful representative legislatures and are very popular with the general public.241 But the rights of Americans depend upon freedom from government as much as freedom of government.242 Constitutions must provide a countermajoritarian edifice to the threat posed by the will of the masses, and courts must at times pronounce even the most popular programs invalid when they contravene the fundamental liberties of a minority — or even the whole people at times when they inappropriately devalue their liberties.243



It is largely forgotten that the war for American independence was initiated in large part by the British Crown's practice of using troops to police civilians in Boston and other cities.244 Professional soldiers used in the same ways as modern police were among the primary grievances enunciated by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. ("[George III] has kept among us standing armies"; "He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power"; "protecting them, by a mock trial....").245 The duties of such troops were in no way military but involved the keeping of order and the suppression of crime (especially customs and tax violations).

Constitutional arguments quite similar to the thesis of this article were made by America's Founders while fomenting the overthrow of their government. Thomas Jefferson proclaimed that although Parliament was supreme in its jurisdiction to make laws, "his majesty has no right to land a single armed man on our shores" to enforce unpopular laws.246 James Warren said that the troops in Boston were there on an unconstitutional mission because their role was not military but rather to enforce "obedience to Acts which, upon fair examination, appeared to be unjust and unconstitutional."247 Colonial pamphleteer Nicholas Ray charged that Americans did not have "an Enemy worth Notice within 3000 Miles of them."248 "[T]he troops of George the III have cross'd the wide atlantick, not to engage an enemy," charged John Hancock, but to assist constitutional traitors "in trampling on the rights and liberties of [the King's] most loyal subjects ..."249

The use of soldiers to enforce law had a long and sullied history in England and by the mid-1700s were considered a violation of the fundamental rights of Englishmen.250 The Crown's response to London's Gordon Riots of 1780 — roughly contemporary to the cultural backdrop of America's Revolution — brought on an immense popular backlash at the use of guards to maintain public order.251 "[D]eep, uncompromising opposition to the maintenance of a semimilitary professional force in civilian life" remained integral to Anglo-Saxon legal culture for another half century.252

Englishmen of the Founding era, both in England and its colonies, regarded professional police as an "alien, continental device for maintaining a tyrannical form of Government."253 Professor John Phillip Reid has pointed out that few of the rights of Englishmen "were better known to the general public than the right to be free of standing armies."254 "Standing armies," according to one New Hampshire correspondent, "have ever proved destructive to the Liberties of a People, and where they are suffered, neither Life nor Property are secure."255

If pressed, modern police defenders would have difficulty demonstrating a single material difference between the standing armies the Founders saw as so abhorrent and America's modern police forces. Indeed, even the distinctions between modern police and actual military troops have blurred in the wake of America's modern crime war.256 Ninety percent of American cities now have active special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams, using such commando-style forces to do "high risk warrant work" and even routine police duties.257 Such units are often instructed by active and retired United States military personnel.258

In Fresno, California, a SWAT unit equipped with battering rams, chemical agents, fully automatic submachine guns, and 'flashbang' grenades roams full-time on routine patrol.259 According to criminologist Peter Kraska, such military policing has never been seen on such a scale in American history, "where SWAT teams routinely break through a door, subdue all the occupants, and search the premises for drugs, cash and weapons."260 In high-crime or problem areas, police paramilitary units may militarily engage an entire neighborhood, stopping "anything that moves" or surrounding suspicious homes with machine guns openly displayed.261

Much of the importance of the standing-army debates at the ratification conventions has been overlooked or misinterpreted by modern scholars. Opponents of the right to bear arms, for example, have occasionally cited the standing-army debates to support the proposition that the Framers intended the Second Amendment to protect the power of states to form militias.262 Although this argument has been greatly discredited,263 it has helped illuminate the intense distrust that the Framers manifested toward occupational standing armies. The standing army the Framers most feared was a soldiery conducting law enforcement operations in the manner of King George's occupation troops — like the armies of police officers that now patrol the American landscape.


The actual intent of the Second Amendment — that it protect a right of people to maintain the means of violently checking the power of government — has been all but lost in modern American society.264 Modern policing's increasing monopoly on firepower tends to undermine the Framers' intent that the whole people be armed, equipped, and empowered to resist the state. Many police organizations lobby incessantly for gun control, even though the criminological literature yields scant empirical support for general gun control as a crime-prevention measure.265

Nor is there much legitimacy to the claim that professional police are more accurate or responsible with firearms than the armed citizenry intended by the Framers. To this day, civilians shoot and kill at least twice as many criminals as police do every year,266 and their 'error rate' is several times lower.267 In a government study of handgun battles that lead to officer injuries, it was found that police who fired upon their killers were less than half as accurate as their civilian, nonprofessional, assailants.268

Moreover, police seem hardly less likely to misuse firearms than the general public.269 In New York City, where private possession of handguns has been virtually eliminated for most civilians, problems with off-duty police misusing firearms have repeatedly surfaced.270 Los Angeles police have been found to fire their weapons inappropriately in seventy-five percent of cases.271 Between early 1989 and late 1992, more than one out of every seven shots fired by Washington, D.C. police officers was fired accidentally.272


Although standing armies were not specifically barred by the final version of the Constitution's text, some authorities have pointed to the Third Amendment273 as a likely fount for such a conceptual proposition.274 Additionally, the Amendment's proscription of quartering troops in homes might well have been interpreted as a general anti-search and seizure principle if the Fourth Amendment had never been enacted.275 The Third Amendment was inspired by sentiments quite similar to those that led to passage of the Second and Fourth Amendments, rather than fear of military operations. Writing in the 1830s, Justice Story regarded the Third Amendment as a security that "a man's house shall be his own castle, privileged against all civil and military intrusion."276

The criminal procedure concerns that dominated the minds of the Framers of the Bill of Rights were created not only before the Revolution but also after it. In the five years following British surrender, the independent states vied against each other for commercial advantage, debt relief, and land claims. Conflict was especially fierce between the rival settlers of Pennsylvania and Connecticut on lands in the west claimed simultaneously by both states.277 Both states sent partisan magistrates and troops into the region, and each faction claimed authority to remove claimants of the rival state.278 Magistrates occasionally ordered arrest without warrant, turned people out of their homes, and even ordered submission to the quartering of troops in homes.279 In 1784, a Pennsylvania grand jury indicted one such magistrate and forty others for abuse of their authority.280 Many agents had to be arrested before the troubles finally ended in 1788 — the very moment when the Constitution was undergoing its ratification debates.281 These troubles, and not memories of life under the Crown, were fresh in the minds of the Framers who proposed and ratified the Bill of Rights.

The Third Amendment's proscription of soldiers quartered in private homes addressed a very real domestic concern about the abuse of state authority in 1791. This same fear of an omnipresent and all-controlling government is hardly unfounded in modern America. Indeed, the very evils the Framers sought to remedy with the entire Bill of Rights — the lack of security from governmental growth, control and power — have come back to haunt modem Americans like never before.282


The 'police state' known by modern Americans would be seen as quite tyrannical to the Framers who ratified the Constitution. If, as Justice Brandeis suggested, the right to be left alone is the most important underlying principle of the Constitution,283 the cop-driven model of criminal justice is anathemic to American constitutional principles. Today a vast and omnipotent army of insurgents patrols the American landscape in place of grand juries, private prosecutors, and the occasional constable. This immense soldiery is forever at the beck and call of whatever social forces rule the day, or even the afternoon.284


Now to the Fourth Amendment. The Amendment reads: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."285 This protection was clearly regarded as one of the more important provisions of the Bill of Rights during debates in and out of Congress prior to ratification.286 To this day, the Amendment is probably the most cited constitutional provision in challenges to police action.

The cold, hard reality, however, is that the interest protected by the amendment — security from certain types of searches and seizures — has been drastically scaled back since 1791. In saying this, I am mindful that there are those among the highest echelons of the bench and academy who claim that current Fourth Amendment law is more protective than the Framers intended.287 Indeed, there are those claiming the mantles of textualism and originalism who would decrease Fourth Amendment rights even further.288 The ever-influential Akhil Amar, for example, has argued that the Fourth Amendment's text does not really require warrants but merely lays out the evidentiary foundation required to obtain warrants.289 Amar joins other "originalist" scholars who emphasize that the only requirement of the Fourth Amendment's first clause ("The right of the people to be secure in their persons, papers, and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated") is that all searches and seizures be "reasonable."290 The warrant requirement pronounced in many Supreme Court opinions, according to Amar, places an unnecessary burden upon law enforcement and should be abandoned for a rule Amar considers more workable — namely civil damages for unreasonable searches after the fact as determined by juries.

This type of "originalism" has appealed to more than one U.S. Supreme Court justice,291 at least one state high court,292 and various legal commentators.293 Indeed, it has brought a perceivable shift to the Supreme Court's Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.294 Even the U.S. Justice Department has adopted this argument as its own in briefs filed in the U.S. Supreme Court arguing for elimination of the warrant requirement.295

The problem with this line of interpretation is that it does not square with the original view of the Framers. Even the most cursory examination of history reveals that law enforcers of the Founding Era, whether private persons, sheriffs or constables, were obligated to procure warrants in many circumstances that modern courts do not require warrants.296 The general rule that warrants were required for all searches and seizures except those involving circumstances of the utmost urgency seems so well settled at the time of ratification that it is difficult to imagine a scholar arguing otherwise.297 But Professor Amar does. "Supporters of the warrant requirement," the professor writes, "have yet to find any cases" enunciating the warrant requirement before the Civil War.298

Perhaps Amar has overlooked the 1814 case of Grumon v. Raymond, in which the Connecticut Supreme Court held both a constable, who executed an improper search warrant, and a justice of the peace who issued the warrant, civilly liable for trespass.299 The court in Grumon clearly stated that the invalidity of the search warrant left the search's legality "on no better ground than it would be if [the search had been pursuant to] no process."300 Or maybe Amar is unfamiliar with the 1807 case of Stoyel v. Lawrence, holding a sheriff liable for executing a civil arrest warrant after the warrant's due date and declaring that the warrant "gave the officer no authority whatever, and, consequently, formed no defence";301 or the 1763 Massachusetts case of Rex v. Gay, acquitting an arrestee for assaulting and beating a sheriff who arrested him pursuant to a facially invalid warrant;302 or Batchelder v. Whitcher, holding an officer liable for ordering the seizure of hay by an unsealed warrant in 1838;303 or Conner v. Commonwealth, in which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded in 1810 that if the requirement of warrants based on probable cause could be waived merely to allow constables to more easily arrest criminals, "the constitution is a dead letter."304

Even the cases Amar cites for the proposition that search warrants were not required under antebellum Fourth Amendment jurisprudence do not squarely support such a proposition.305 Most of them merely repeat the "warrant requirement" of the common law and find that their given facts fit within a common law exception.306 Similarly, the cases Amar cites that interpret various Fourth-Amendment equivalents of state constitutions by no means indicate that Founding-era law enforcers could freely search and seize without warrant wherever it was "reasonable" to do so. 307


Under Founding-era common law, warrants were often considered as much a constitutional floor as a ceiling. Warrants did provide a defense for constables in most trespass suits, but were not good enough to immunize officials from liability for some unreasonable searches or seizures.308 The most often-cited English case known to the Framers who drafted the Fourth Amendment involved English constabulary who had acted pursuant to a search warrant but were nonetheless found civilly liable for stiff (punitive, actually) damages.309

For more than 150 years, it was considered per se unconstitutional for law enforcers to search and seize certain categories of objects, such as personal diaries or private papers, even with perfectly valid warrants.310 Additionally, Fourth Amendment jurisprudence prohibited the government from seizing as evidence any personal property which was not directly involved in crime, even with a valid warrant.311 The rationale for this "mere evidence" rule was that the interests of property owners were superior to those of the state and could not be overridden by mere indirect evidentiary justifications.312 This rule, like many other obstacles to police search and seizure power, was discarded in the second half of the twentieth century by a Supreme Court much less respectful of property rights than its predecessors.313


Under the Founders' Model, a private person like Josiah Butler, who lost twenty pounds of good pork under suspicious circumstances in 1787, could approach a justice of the peace and obtain a warrant to search the property of the suspected thief for the lost meat.314 Private individuals applied for many or most of the warrants in the Founders' era and even conducted many of the arrests.315 Even where sworn constables executed warrants, private persons often assisted them.316 To avoid liability, however, searchers needed to secure a warrant before acting.317 False arrest was subject to strict liability.318

The Founders contemplated the enforcement of the common law to be a duty of private law enforcement, and assumed that private law enforcers would represent their interests with private means. However, the Founders viewed private individuals executing law enforcement duties as "public authority" and thus intended for the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to apply to such individuals when acting in their law enforcement capacities.319 Consequently, the Supreme Court's 1921 decision in Burdeau v. McDowell320 — often cited for the proposition that the Fourth Amendment applies only to government agents — was almost certainly either wrongly decided or wrongly interpreted by later courts.321

Some of the earliest English interpretations of the freedom from search and seizure held the protection applicable to private citizens as much as or more so than government agents.322 Massachusetts and Vermont were apparently the first states to require that search and arrest warrants be executed by sworn officers.323 New Hampshire adopted the same rule in 1826, more than a generation after the Bill of Rights was ratified.324 It is likely that some states allowed private persons to execute search warrants well into the nineteenth century.

Because many Founding-era arrests and searches were executed by private persons, and early constables needed the assistance of private persons to do their jobs, the Fourth Amendment was almost certainly intended for application to private individuals. Burdeau cited no previous authority for its proposition in 1921, and early American cases demonstrate an original intent that the Fourth Amendment apply to every searcher acting under color of law.325 On the open seas, most enforcement of prize and piracy laws was done by "privateers" acting for their own gain but who were held accountable in court for their misconduct.326

Later courts have taken this holding to mean that "a wrongful search or seizure conducted by a private party does not violate the Fourth Amendment." Walter v. U.S. 447 U.S. 649, 656 (1979). See also United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 113 (1984) (saying "This Court has also consistently construed this protection as proscribing only governmental action; it is wholly inapplicable to a private individual not acting as an agent of the Government or with the participation or knowledge of any government official.").

As explained in Part I, early constables had powers no greater than those of other individuals, so they needed warrants before engaging in law enforcement activities beyond any citizen's authority. Like you or I, a constable would be thought outside the bounds of good etiquette (and well outside the law) were he to conduct an unconsented search of another's person, property or effects, and should — very reasonably — expect to be jailed, physically repulsed, or sued for such conduct.

A private person's only defense was the absolute correctness of his allegations. A person was liable if, for example, his complaint was too vague as to the address to be searched,327 he misspelled the name of the accused in his complaint,328 or he sought the execution of a warrant naming a "John Doe" as a target.329

This was the constitutional model secured to America by the Framers. The idea of police having special powers was only a seedling, alien to the scheme of ordered liberty and limited government created by the Constitution. Eventually, police interceded between private individuals and magistrates altogether, and today it is virtually unheard of for a private person to seek a search warrant from a magistrate.

Freedom from search and seizure has been retracting in favor of police ever since the ink was dry on the Bill of Rights. The Framers lived under a common law rule that required warrantless arrests be made only for felonies where no warrant could be immediately obtained.330 By the early to mid-1800s, the rule had changed to allow warrantless arrests for all felonies regardless of whether a warrant could be obtained.331 Early American courts also apparently allowed warrantless arrests for misdemeanor breaches of peace committed in the arrestor's presence. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, most state courts had changed to allow warrantless arrest for all crimes of any kind committed in an officer's presence, as well as for all felonies committed either within or without an officer's presence regardless of whether a warrant can be obtained.332

By the mid-1900s, arrest had become the almost-exclusive province of paid police, and their power to arrest opened even wider. A trend toward allowing police to arrest without warrant for all crimes committed even outside their presence has recently developed,333 with little foreseeable court-imposed impediment.334 Almost every American jurisdiction has legislated for the erosion of common law limitations with regard to domestic violence arrests and arrests for other high profile misdemeanors.335

Despite the Fourth Amendment, the Supreme Court has imposed almost no limits on warrantless arrest at all. Only forcibly entering a residence without warrant to arrest someone inside has been found to violate the Fourth Amendment.336 Outside the home, modern police have been essentially licensed by the Court to arrest almost anyone at any time so long as probable cause exists.337 The Supreme Court effectively buried the original purpose of warrantless arrest entirely in 1985, declaring that "[r]estraining police action until after probable cause is obtained... might... enable the suspect to flee in the interim."338

Long forgotten is the fact that common law allowance for warrantless arrest was precipitated solely on an emergency rationale and allowed only to protect the public from immediate danger.339

The rationale for the felon exception to the warrant requirement in 1791, for example, was that a felony was any crime punishable by death, generally thought to be limited to only a handful of serious crimes.340 Felons were considered "outlaws at war with society,"341 and their apprehension without warrant qualified as one of the "exceptions justified by absolute necessity."342 By the late twentieth century, however, many crimes the Framers would have considered misdemeanors or no crime at all had been declared felonies and the rationale for immediate community action to apprehend "felons" had changed greatly.343 The courts, however, have been slow to react to this far-reaching change.344 In any case, the vast majority of arrests (seventy to eighty percent) are for misdemeanors,345 which would have been proscribed without warrant under the Framers' law.


The writings of most modern "originalist" scholars promote civil suits against police departments, instead of exclusion of evidence, as a remedy for police misconduct. Professor Amar, for example, champions a return to civil litigation, but with, somehow, a better return than such actions currently bring.346 He invents a fantastically implausible cause of action where "government should generally not prevail."347 He bases this idea on actual cases from the nineteenth century where people prevailed against constables and sheriffs in relatively routine circumstances, often with heavy damage awards.348

These cases actually occurred — but in an age before police took over American law enforcement. Civil damages really were a better remedy when many or most searches were sought — and sometimes conducted — by private persons who stood strictly liable in court if their allegations proved false or their conduct proved overzealous.349 American law provided recovery for every false arrest. If it was not the constable who executed the warrant, the private person, who lodged the original insufficient complaint, was liable.350

Under Founding-era common law, liability for officers was in many respects higher than for private persons. Sheriffs and deputies could be held liable for failing to arrest debtors for collection of debts351 or to serve other process,352 for allowing an imprisoned debtor to escape,353 for failing to keep entrusted goods secure354 or to deliver goods in custody at a proper time,355 or for failing to keep faithful accounting and custody of property.356 Sheriffs were also obligated to return writs within a specific time period, at pain of civil damages.357 They were liable to debtors whose property was sold at sheriffs sales if proper advertisement procedures were not followed358 and for negligently allowing other creditors to obtain priority interests on attached property.359

Law enforcers were liable for false imprisonment, even where they acted with court permission, if procedures were improper.360 A deputy was liable for damages to an arrestee whom he arrested outside his jurisdiction.361 Sheriffs were even liable if their deputies executed civil process in a rude and insolent manner.362 When executing writs, sheriffs were liable for any unnecessary violence against innocent third persons who obstructed them.363

The Founders' law knew no "good faith" defense for law enforcers. Sheriffs and justices who executed arrests pursuant to invalid warrants were considered trespassers (as were any judges who granted invalid warrants). Any person was justified in resisting, or even battering, such officers.364 Justices of the peace could be held liable for ordering imprisonment without taking proper steps.365

Any party who sued out or issued process did so at his peril and was civilly responsible for unlawful writs (even if the executing officer acted in good faith)366

Nor did state authority provide the umbrella of indemnification that now protects public officers. Sheriffs of the nineteenth century often sought protection from liability by obtaining bonds from private sureties.367 Their bonds were used to satisfy civil judgments against them while in office.368 If the amount of their bonds was insufficient to satisfy judgments, sheriffs were liable personally.369 It was not uncommon for a sheriff to find himself in jail as a debtor for failing to satisfy judgments against him.370 Even punitive damages against officers — long disfavored by modern courts with regard to municipal liability — were deemed proper and normal under the law of the Framers.371

Unlike the early constables, uniformed police officers were generally introduced upon the American landscape by their oaths alone and without bonds. Their municipal employers (hence, the taxpayers) were on the hook for their civil liabilities. Although courts tended to treat police identically to bonded officials,372 their susceptibility to civil redress was much lower. This change in the law of policing had the effect of depriving Americans of remedies for Fourth Amendment (and other) violations.373 The evil that now pervades criminal justice — swarms of officers unaccountable in court either criminally or civilly — was the very evil that the Founders sought to remedy in the late eighteenth century.374


But immunities follow duties, and duties placed upon police by lawmakers have exploded since 1791.375 Immunities grew slowly, beginning with a slight deference to officer conduct so long as there was no bad faith, corruption, malice or "misbehavior,"376 and ending with broad qualified immunity.377 When the practice of professional policing arrived from England upon American shores (for the second time, actually, if we consider modern police to be akin to the "standing armies" of the Founders' generation), cases began to enunciate a general deference to police conduct, permitting that the actions of officers in carrying out their duties "not to be harshly judged."378 Appellate courts began to reverse jury verdicts against officers upon new rules of law granting privileges unknown to private individuals.379


Probable cause for the issuance of warrants has also become less strict.380 The Supreme Court regarded hearsay evidence as insufficient to constitute probable cause for seventeen years in the first half of the twentieth century,381 but has since given police free reign to construct probable cause in whatever way they deem proper. Instead of probability that a crime has been committed, the courts now require only some possibility, a relaxed standard that "robs [probable cause] of virtually all operative significance."382 This watered-down "probable cause" for the issuance of ex parte warrants would have shocked the Founders.383

At common law, one could sue and recover damages from a private person who swore out a false or misleading search warrant affidavit.384 In contrast, few modern officers will ever have to account for lies on warrant applications so long as they couch their "probable cause" in unprovables. "Anonymous citizen informants,"385 material omissions and misrepresentations,386 irrelevant or prejudicial information,387 and even outright falsities are now common fixtures of police-written search warrant applications.388 For years, Boston police simply made up imaginary informants to justify searches and seizures.389 Police themselves refer to the phenomenon as "testilying" — an aspect of normal police work regarded as "an open secret" among principle players of the criminal justice systern.390


The courts have been particularly unkind to Fourth Amendment protections in the context of motor vehicle travel. Since the 1920s, Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has allowed for a gaping and ever-widening exception to the warrant requirement with regard to the nation's roadways.391 Today, police force untold millions of motorists off the roads each year to be searched or scrutinized without judicial warrant of any kind.392 Any police officer can generally find some pretext to justify a stop of any automobile.393 In effect, road travel itself is subject to a near total level of police control,394 a phenomenon that would have confounded the Framers, who treated seizures of wagons, horses and buggies as subject to the same constraints as seizures of other property.395

The courts have laid down such a malleable latticework of exceptions in favor of modern police that virtually any cop worth his mettle can adjust his explanations for a search to qualify under one exception or another. When no exception applies, police simply lie about the facts.396 "Judges regularly choose to accept even blatantly unbelievable police testimony."397 The practice on the streets has long been for police to follow their hunches, seek entrance at every door, and then attempt to justify searches after the fact.398 Justice Robert Jackson observed in 1949 that many unlawful searches of homes and automobiles are never revealed to the courts or the public because the searches turn up nothing.399


Conventional wisdom suggests there is one important exception to the long decline of Fourth Amendment protections: the exclusionary rule. Since 1914, the Supreme Court has required the exclusion of evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment from being used against a defendant in federal court.400 In 1961, this rule was applied to the states in Mapp v. Ohio.401 Shortly thereafter, the Supreme Court expanded the exclusionary rule to other protections such as the Fifth and Sixth Amendments in cases such as Miranda v. Arizona.402

Textualists and originalists have lobbed a steady stream of vitriol against the exclusionary rule for decades. No enunciation of such a rule, say these critics, can be found in the writings or statements of the Framers.403 Moreover, say such critics, the rule places a heavy burden on the efficiency of police (but simultaneously, somehow, fails to deter them in any way), and unfairly frees a small but not insignificant percentage of "guilty" offenders.404 So-called "conservative" legal scholars remember the Warren Court's imposition of the exclusionary rule upon the states in the 1960s as a bare-knuckled act of judicial activism405 and argue that the Court "[took] it upon itself, without constitutional authorization, to police the police."406

The Miranda and Mapp decisions provoked an onslaught of hostility by police organizations and their sympathizers that has not subsided decades later. High-ranking authorities (not the least of which were Justices Harlan and White, who dissented in Miranda) wrote that such decisions put society at risk from criminals.407 The Miranda rule, according to Justice White, would force "those who rely on the public authority for protection" to "engage in violent self-help with guns, knives and the help of their neighbors similarly inclined."408 Even more outraged was the chief of police of Garland, Texas, who responded, "We might as well close up shop."409

Yet the dire predictions that followed the Miranda and Mapp decisions were ultimately proved false.410 Rather than returning to what Justice White decried as "violent self-help" (as the Constitution's framers truly intended), America continued its slide into increased dependence upon police for the most mundane aspects of law enforcement. If anything, reliance upon police for personal protection has increased since the 1960s.

I propose an altogether different interpretation of Mapp, Miranda, and some of the Warren Court's other criminal procedure decisions. While I concede that this jurisprudence grossly violated certain constitutional principles (most importantly, principles of federalism), I submit that such rulings were attempts to bring constitutional law into accord with the alien threat posed by modern policing. Professional policing's arrival upon the American scene required that the Court's Bill of Rights jurisprudence splinter a dozen ways to accommodate it. Thus, Mapp and Miranda were an application of brakes to a foreign element (modern policing) that is itself without constitutional authorization.

In many ways, the Warren Court was the first U.S. Supreme Court to face criminal procedural questions squarely in light of the advent of professional policing. The Miranda and Mapp decisions, according to noted criminal law expert David Rudovsky, "at least implicitly acknowledged widespread police and prosecutorial abuse,"411 a phenomenon that would have bedeviled the Framers. Mapp's holding was brought on more by the need to make the criminal justice system work fairly than by any other consideration.412 The same realities gave way to the rule of Bivens v. Six Narcotics Agents, in 1971, in which the Court conceded that an agent acting illegally in the name of the government possesses a far greater capacity for harm than any individual trespasser exercising his own authority (as prevailed as the common form of law enforcement in 1791).413

Furthermore, the notion that exclusion cannot be justified under an originalist approach is not nearly as well-founded as its harshest critics suggest.414 Critics of the rule point to the 1914 case of Weeks v. United States415 as the rule's debut in Supreme Court jurisprudence.416 However, the rule actually debuted in dicta in the 1886 case of Boyd v. United States.417 Even this seemingly late date of the rule's debut can be attributed to the Court's lack of criminal appellate jurisdiction until the end of the nineteenth century.418 The reality is that Boyd, the Court's first suggestion of the rule, represents, for practical purposes, the very first Fourth Amendment case decided by the Supreme Court. The exclusionary rule thus has a better pedigree than it is credited with.419


In a previous article, I described the limitation of common law grand jury powers by Rule 6 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure as an unconstitutional infringement of the Fifth Amendment Grand Jury Clause.420 The fact that most criminal charges are now initiated not by crime victims but by armed state agents who serve the state's interests represents a drastic alteration of Founding-era criminal procedure.421 The suppression of grand jurors' lawful powers belies the intent of the Constitution that law enforcement officials be subject to stringent oversight by the citizenry through grand juries. Modern policing, in effect, acts as a middleman between the people and the judicial branch of government that was never contemplated by the Framers.

The Fifth Amendment also prohibits the compulsion of self-incriminating testimony.422 Various competing interpretations ebbed and flowed from this provision until 1966, when the Supreme Court held that police are required to actually tell suspects about the Fifth and Sixth Amendments' protections before interrogating them.423 The sheer volume of criticism by police organizations of the Miranda ruling over the next three decades indicates the strong state interest in keeping the Constitution's protections concealed from the American public.

Modem police interrogation could scarcely have been imagined by the Framers who met in Philadelphia in the late eighteenth century. Police tactics such as falsifying physical evidence, faking identification lineups, administering fake lie detector tests and falsifying laboratory reports to obtain confessions are methods developed by the professionals of the twentieth century. 424 Against such methods a modern suspect stands little chance of keeping his tongue. Like the exclusionary rule and the entrapment defense, the Miranda rule operates as an awkward leveling device between the rights of American citizens and their now-leviathanic government.

In 2000, the Supreme Court upheld (indeed, "constitutionalized") the Miranda rule in the face of widespread predictions that the police-favoring Rehnquist majority would abandon the rule.425 The Court delivered an opinion recognizing that "the routine practices of [police] interrogation [is] itself a relatively new development."426 The Miranda requirement, according to Justice Rehnquist, was therefore justified as an extension of due process — a far more sustainable course than one extending from the wording of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.427

The Dickerson decision illustrates the increasingly awkward peace between the Bill of Rights and the phenomenon of modern policing. Because the Framers did not contemplate wide-scale execution of government power through paid, full-time agents, modern jurisprudence reconciling the Bill of Rights with today's police practices seems increasingly farfetched. Justices Scalia and Thomas dissented from the Dickerson majority with well-founded textualist objections, arguing that the majority was writing a "prophylactic, extraconstitutional Constitution" to protect the public from police.428 Yet in light of the extraconstitutional nature of modern police, the Dickerson majority opinion is no less consistent with the Framers' constitutional intent.


Due process of law depends upon assurances that a level playing field exists between rival adversaries pitted against each other.429 The constitutional design pitted a citizen defendant against his citizen accuser before a jury of his (the defendant's) peers. The state provided only the venue, the process, and assurances that the rule of law would govern the outcome. By comparison, a modern defendant is hardly pitted in a fair fight, facing the vast treasury and human resources of the state. While the criminal justice system of the Founding era was victim-driven, and thus self-limiting, today's system is fueled by a professional army of police who measure their success in numbers of arrests and convictions.430

Police themselves often ignore standard concepts of fairness, official regulations, and statutes in their war on crime.431 Police agencies have even been known to develop institutional means to circumvent court attempts to equalize the playing field.432 In the face of unwanted publicity or controversy surrounding police brutality cases, police departments have been known to release arrest records to the media to vilify victims of police misconduct.433

The police model of law enforcement tilts the entire system of criminal justice in favor of the state. The police, though supposedly neutral investigators, are in reality an arm of the prosecutor's office.434 Where police secure a crime scene for investigation, they in fact secure it for the prosecution alone and deny access to anyone other than the prosecution. A suspect or his defense attorneys often must obtain court permission to view the scene or search for evidence. Only such exculpatory evidence as by accident falls into the hands of the prosecution need be revealed to the suspect or defendant.435 In cases where police misconduct is an issue, police use their monopoly over the crime scene to prepare the evidence to suit their version of events.436

Mapp, Miranda and Dickerson notwithstanding, the tendency of modern courts to work around police practices, rather than nullify or restrain them, poses the very threat to due process of law the Framers saw as most dangerous to liberty. Instead of viewing the system as a true adversarial contest with neutral rules, judges and lawmakers have decided that catching (nonpolice) lawbreakers is more important than maintaining a code of integrity.437 The "sporting theory of criminal justice," wrote Justice Warren Burger, "has been experiencing a decline in our jurisprudence."438 In its place is a system where the government views the nonpolice lawbreaker as a threat to its authority and places top priority on defeating him in court.439


Abandonment of victim-driven, mostly private prosecution has led to consequences the Framers could never have predicted and would likely never have sanctioned. Even in the most horrific examples of colonial criminal justice (and there were many), defendants were rarely if ever entrapped into criminal activity. The development of modern policing as an omnipotent power of the state, however, has necessitated the simultaneous development of complicated doctrines such as entrapment and "outrageous government conduct" as counterweights.

It was not until the late nineteenth century that any English or American case dealt with entrapment as a true defense to a criminal charge.440 (The case law until then had been virtually devoid of police conduct issues altogether).441 Beginning in 1880, English case law slowly became involved with phenomena such as state agents inducing suspects to sell without proper certificates,442 persuading defendants to supply drugs to terminate pregnancy,443 and enticing people to commit other victimless crimes. Dicta in some English cases expressed outrage that police might someday "be told to commit an offense themselves for the purpose of getting evidence against someone."444 Police who commit such offenses, said one English court, "ought also to be convicted and punished, for the order of their superior would afford no defense."445

Entrapment did not arise as a defense in the United States until 1915, when the conduct of government officers for the first time brought the issue before the federal courts. In Woo Wai v. United States, the Ninth Circuit overturned a conviction of a defendant for illegally bringing Chinese persons into the United States upon evidence that government officers had induced the crime.446 Growth in police numbers and "anti-crime" warfare was so rapid that in 1993, the Wyoming Supreme Court wrote that entrapment had "probably replaced ineffectiveness of defense counsel and challenged conduct of prosecutors as the most prevalent issues in current appeals."447

The growth of the use of entrapment by the state raises troubling questions about the nature and purposes of American government. Rather than "serving and protecting" the public, modern police often serve and protect the interests of the state against the liberties and interests of the people. A significant amount of police brutality, for example, seems aimed at mere philosophical, rather than physical, opposition. Police dominance over the civilian (rather than service to or protection of him) is the "only truly iron and inflexible rule" followed by police officers.448 Thus, any person who defies police faces virtually certain negative repercussions, whether a ticket, a legal summons, an arrest, or a bullet.449 One study found nearly half of all illegal force by police occurred in response to mere defiance of an officer rather than a physical threat.450

In the political sphere, police serve the interests of those in power against the rights of the public. New York police of the late nineteenth century were found by the New York legislature to have committed "almost every conceivable crime against the elective franchise," including arresting and brutalizing opposition-party voters, stuffing ballot boxes, and using "oppression, fraud, trickery [and] crime" to ensure the dominant party held the city.451 In the twentieth century, J. Edgar Hoover's FBI agents burglarized hundreds of offices of law-abiding, left-wing political parties and organizations, "often with the active cooperation or tacit consent of local police."452 The FBI has also spent thousands of man-hours surveiling and investigating writers, playwrights, directors and artists whose political views were deemed a threat to the interests of the ruling political establishment.453

Police today are a constant agent on behalf of governmental power. Both in the halls of legislatures and before the courts, police act as lobbyists against individual liberties.454 Police organizations, funded by monies funneled directly from police wages, lobby incessantly against legislative constraints on police conduct.455 Police organizations also file amicus curie briefs in virtually every police procedure case that goes before the Supreme Court, often predicting dire consequences if the Court rules against them. In 2000, for example, the police lobby filed amicus briefs in favor of allowing police to stop and frisk persons upon anonymous tips, warning that if the Court ruled against them, "the consequence for law enforcement and the public could be increased assaults and perhaps even murders."456


The United States of America was founded without professional police. Its earliest traditions and founding documents evidenced no contemplation that the power of the state would be implemented by omnipresent police forces. On the contrary, America's constitutional Framers expressed hostility and contempt for the standing armies of the late eighteenth century, which functioned as law enforcement units in American cities. The advent of modern policing has greatly altered the balance of power between the citizen and the state in a way that would have been seen as constitutionally invalid by the Framers. The implications of this altered balance of power are far-reaching, and should invite consideration by judges and legislators who concern themselves with constitutional questions.

* Roger Isaac Roots, J.D., M.C.J., graduated from Roger Williams University School of Law in 1999, Roger Williams University School of Justice Studies in 2001, and Montana State University-Billings (B.S., Sociology) in 1995. He is a former federal prisoner and founder of the Prison Crisis Project, a not-for-profit law and policy think tank based in Providence, Rhode Island. He is grateful to Duane Horton of Portsmouth, Rhode Island for his scrupulous proof-reading efforts and thoughtful insights.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption
KEYWORDS: constitution; leo; lping; police; standingarmy
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I am not bashing cops.

Also take note that the original article has over 400 footnotes, available at linked URL.

This is for historical understanding and reference.

1 posted on 01/09/2012 10:54:10 AM PST by djf
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To: djf
We also had dueling ~ which presumably made Americans very polite and not at all rambunctious.

I noticed "militia" was referenced only one time ~

Not sure this is good history.

2 posted on 01/09/2012 11:01:07 AM PST by muawiyah
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To: djf

The ramblings of a criminal don’t make for real legal scholarship.

(The Courts typically laugh at such ramblings as well: (Redman v. City of Columbus, Ga.) “In support of this contention, Plaintiff cites a law review article: Roger Roots, Are Cops Constitutional?, 11 Seton Hall Const. L.J. 685 (2001). Plaintiff points to no evidence or law to support his position that the Columbus police department is unconstitutional, and the Court thus rejects this claim.”)

3 posted on 01/09/2012 11:01:55 AM PST by willamedwardwallace
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To: djf

The Preamble:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

“establish Justice” “insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence”
Amendment 10(Bill of Rights):The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Seems to me that a local Police Force would fall into this.

4 posted on 01/09/2012 11:07:21 AM PST by US Navy Vet (Go Packers! Go Rockies! Go Boston Bruins! See, I'm "Diverse"!)
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To: djf

The Wild West.

5 posted on 01/09/2012 11:07:49 AM PST by Berlin_Freeper
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To: muawiyah

“Not sure this is good history. “

Yeh...would be terrible at this point if someone else were to lie to us too !!!!!!!!!!

Semper Watching!

6 posted on 01/09/2012 11:08:43 AM PST by gunnyg ("A Constitution changed from Freedom, can never be restored; Liberty, once lost, is lost forever...)
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To: djf

Under the earlier system, I don’t think we could stop Bonnie and Clyde, much less a Latin American style gang.

7 posted on 01/09/2012 11:09:09 AM PST by Dr. Sivana (May Mitt Romney be the Mo Udall of 2012.)
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To: muawiyah

The Constitution does not preclude police forces as it does not prohibit sheriffs or constables which were commonly derived from English traditions. If the Consitution does not specifically address the subject then it is left to the states and/or localities. Without sanctioned law enforcement the citizenry could arrest, detain and/or kill criminals on their own or as groups; would that be better for the criminals or would it mean that they could do what they wanted? It might be more efficient in controlling crime but it is not likely.

8 posted on 01/09/2012 11:09:29 AM PST by RJS1950 (The democrats are the "enemies foreign and domestic" cited in the federal oath)
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To: djf
I heard a radio conversation on this topic last night. The first thought that came to my mind is that police force is not mentioned in the Constitution or the Amendments, and is therefore not a Federal responsibility. The responsibility is a function of local and state governments. We have city police, borough police and State Troopers. The Feds are CIA and FBI, and don't really come to mind when we speak about 'police.'
9 posted on 01/09/2012 11:09:54 AM PST by ArmyTeach (Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain ... USS Iowa BB 61)
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To: Berlin_Freeper

The “Wild West” is a television and novelist created myth. The “Wild West” - excluding the Indian Wars, which had nothing to do with policing - was, on the whole, far tamer than most American cities today. There are articles by the Hoover Institution’s Terry Anderson and others that discuss spontaneous order and the West. Even Louis L’Amour, who for all his shortcomings as a novelist did a lot of research on the West, has commented on the surprising relative safety of the West when it was allegedly “Wild” (e.g. 1865 to 1890).

10 posted on 01/09/2012 11:17:24 AM PST by achilles2000 ("I'll agree to save the whales as long as we can deport the liberals")
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To: Dr. Sivana

Yeah, I’m glad that our “modern” LEOs have MS 13 under control.

11 posted on 01/09/2012 11:21:21 AM PST by achilles2000 ("I'll agree to save the whales as long as we can deport the liberals")
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To: djf

Another issue is that the federal constitution, modeled AFTER earlier state constitutions, was originally intended to ONLY form and regulate the federal government and it’s powers.

Not until the 14th Ammendment, after the Civil War, was even part of the Bill of Rights applied directly to the States. Each state had something like a Bill of Rights built into their state Constitutions....which, if they allowed for Constables, Marshals, Sheriffs and their deputies (and they all do...even back into colonial times)—functionally, also allow for police forces—AT the state and local level.

As for an FBI or CIA? Well, I’ll leave that to the legal eagles—but if they were unconstitutional (except in some egghead’s mind...) I’d of thunk a super-high-paid Mafia lawyer would of prevailed in court by now...

12 posted on 01/09/2012 11:22:53 AM PST by AnalogReigns (because REALITY is never digital...)
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To: RJS1950
Very good point ~ if you don't like cops I am sure you wouldn't like the natural replacement ~ the armed mob that becomes judge, jury and executioner.

That method has been used in the past in many nations in many different ages.

13 posted on 01/09/2012 11:23:22 AM PST by muawiyah
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To: willamedwardwallace
The ramblings of a criminal don’t make for real legal scholarship.

(The Courts typically laugh at such ramblings as well: (Redman v. City of Columbus, Ga.) “In support of this contention, Plaintiff cites a law review article: Roger Roots, Are Cops Constitutional?, 11 Seton Hall Const. L.J. 685 (2001). Plaintiff points to no evidence or law to support his position that the Columbus police department is unconstitutional, and the Court thus rejects this claim.”)

And conflation, exaggeration and contemptuous disingenuousness don't make for a legitimate rebuttal.

First of all, the rejection of the use of a work of legal research by a defendent does not invalidate that work, becuase the court is not ruling on its legitimacy, only its appropriateness to the case in point. That that distinction escaped you is clear evidence of your inability to grasp both the workings of the court, and the argument behind the work.

Even worse, however, is your attempt to multiply your false claim by pluralizing your deceit, through your implications of multiple courts and a supposedly common ruling against this work - none of which being true.

Above all, you obviously seek to hide in plain side the true nature of this analysis of police legitimacy by citing not only that it was a law review article, yet also quoting the judge as remarking that it provided "no evidence or law" to support the defense contention. How is this possible? Do you even know (it would be worse for you if you did). The fact is that the judge was commenting on the failure of the defense to link this article to the support of a defense of lack of administrative jurisdiction towards himself. The judges ruling, therefore, cited this article to point to that lack of link - not anything wrong with the article. In fact, the judge wasn't commenting on the article at all - do you even comprehend that?

"The courts typically laugh"? No - rather, I laugh at you, and your pretend knowledge of law.

14 posted on 01/09/2012 11:26:35 AM PST by Talisker (Apology accepted, Captain Needa.)
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To: muawiyah
"if you don't like cops I am sure you wouldn't like the natural replacement ~ the armed mob that becomes judge, jury and executioner."

Which is exactly what the OWS crowd is trying to become.

15 posted on 01/09/2012 11:26:35 AM PST by circlecity
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To: ArmyTeach

I found it very telling that he mentioned that there WERE NO “PROFESSIONAL POLICE” until a minimum of 50 years or so after the ratification of the Constitution.

That says a lot as it is.

16 posted on 01/09/2012 11:26:44 AM PST by djf (
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To: djf

Don´t give the resident any ideas.

17 posted on 01/09/2012 11:26:48 AM PST by onedoug
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To: Talisker

1. Where did you get your J.D.?

2. Fringe ramblings are not scholarship.

3. The defendant in the case did attempt to make a claim that the Columbus Police Department was illegal. He failed because there is no basis for such a claim.

18 posted on 01/09/2012 11:29:24 AM PST by willamedwardwallace
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To: djf

Would you rather have a society with lawyers, but no cops. Or peace officers with no lawyers?

19 posted on 01/09/2012 11:32:34 AM PST by DesertRhino (I was standing with a rifle, waiting for soviet paratroopers, but communists just ran for office)
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To: djf
The only Constitutional issue to me is whether there should, or should not, be a Federal Police Force. I wold argue there is no Constitutional basis, therefore, for the FBI.

The Tenth Amendment, IMHO, authorizes the States and/or the People to set up such police structures as suits their perceived needs.

(I also believe that the one and only Federal Crime ought to be Treason, as defined in the Constitution. Not even murder should be a Federal issue.)

20 posted on 01/09/2012 11:34:06 AM PST by ExGeeEye (It will take a revolution to reinstate the constitution. #HT FtP#)
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