By David Tulis
Once I made an effort to quit the newsroom and learn other parts of the newspaper business in which I’d worked two decades. In an interview with the head of the Times Free Press circulation department, I treaded into unfamiliar territory. The question over which I stumbled was, “How would you want to be managed?”
Matt Salada the personnel director later tut-tutted over my blunder and said he would do what he could to minimize the damage. My answer had been: “With grace.”
The question as asked had come from a world in which souls are human resources. More humanely it might have asked, “If your boss has a problem with you and he intends to correct or admonish you, how would you want him to treat you?” The world of the question and that of my answer are in conflict. Seeing “personnel management” in terms of grace is an employment faux-pas.
How do you want to be stripped?
Among those to go through Chattanooga Police Department’s new Community Immersion Project is cadet Trevor Creighton of Naples, Fla. His group studied a large group that causes distinct law enforcement problems — namely “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community,” as a news report redundantly puts it. The police training program breeds tolerance, and Mr. Creighton said “that it is important to him that everyone be policed the same way and feel safe — regardless of what community they come from,” the report says.
Evidently in the theory of community policing the citizenry — each and every member of the general public — has a right “to be policed.”
The 50-hour program in community policing highlights the extremity of the divide between Tennesseans and the uniforms of corporate government. Widening the gap are the slayings of black men in Ferguson, Mo., and New York. Racial animus exacerbates the public sense of outrage, but to frame the uproar over police killings as racial is to misdiagnose the problem. A better way of accounting for “police violence” is to see the superiority of police as a nobility over the reduced status of us plebeians.
Aristocracy in blue
Police are a relatively new phenomenon. They arose in the 1850s as distinct social and political entities, and expanded in the progressive era in the 1890s. They have become a group of people whose code is law enforcement, or “us vs. them.” Cops are rich in pay and retirements, are boosted in power by the lobby Fraternal Order of Police, partake of remarkable immunities and privileges in law and enjoy exclusive rights to use lethal force — rights that once belonged to the American commoner. Though their jobs are many times less dangerous than that of taxi driver, they are allowed hair triggers to shoot unarmed fleeing parole violators between the shoulder blades — with the support of courts.
That we should have a preference as to how we are policed suggests our antique conception of constitutional rights stands in error. In the view held by free and partly free men, members of the public and citizens are presumptively innocent, and no peace officer or law enforcer dare approach, search, invade, threaten, arrest or otherwise seize this person without a proper warrant or probable cause.
Tennessee’s bill of rights at Article 1, section 2, should be read in light of the constitutional right to resist arrest — a right we learn about only in reading histories such as that of Roger Roots, a scholar and legal reformer, in his work, “Are Cops Constitutional?” (Seton Hall Constitutional Law Journal, 2001).
That government being instituted for the common benefit, the doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.
This provision oft quoted by earnest patriots refers to the rights of people to overturn government, reshape it politically or throw out corrupt parties by vote. More to the point, it refers to the right to resist lawless arrest, Mr. Roots says. In other words, the right is personal, not abstract; it attaches to the citizen on the roadway and in on the stoop of his house.
“As recently as one hundred years ago, but with a tone that seems as if from some other, more distant age,” Mr. Roots says, “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. 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. Well into the twentieth century, violent resistance was considered a lawful remedy for Fourth Amendment violations.”
Being a belligerent claimant in person
We should feel chagrined that it is supposed we have a preference as to how we want to be policed. To ask how we want to be roadblocked, surveiled, searched, prodded, questioned, thrown to the tarmac, kicked and billy-clubbed is to concede to a status of subject in a modern nation-state. We are not free; we are under occupation. Still, to preserve rights we must become what in law is called a “belligerent claimant in person.” Bankrupt corporate states such as that of the U.S. may be in late stages of senescence and loss of legitimacy. But we are stuck with them. Until their national economy funding mechanisms collapse, we must tolerate these agencies that reject our state’s and the nation’s founding ideals.
— David Tulis hosts Nooganomics.com 1 to 3 p.m. weekdays at Hot News Talk Radio 1240 910 an 1190 AM, covering local economy in Chattanooga and beyond.