How ‘police powers’ cover activities outside scope of law

Deputies serving Sheriff Jim Hammond in Hamilton County enforce laws, as it were, outside the scope of the law, particularly the state vehicle and motor vehicle statute, upon private citizens who are not shippers nor involved in transportation. (Photo David Tulis)

Police powers are easily defended by state actors on the grounds that the mass of people constitute a public interest, and that thereby any one particular member of the citizenry might be regulated and subject to police power.

By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio

You may have individual rights to travel by car, you might suppose. But the state and state actors will say that thousands of people like you on the roads means that there is a public interest subject to police power and that the mass of people in combination, and taken as awhole and as a mass, thereby require this subjection of any one individual to the deputy or the officer under police power theory.

This rationale now explains why there is no internal dissonance among sheriffs such as Jim Hammond or police chiefs such as David Roddy in forcing Tenn. Code Ann. § Title 55 beyond its scope. Title 55 is a foot wide law that is being enforced as if it were a yard wide.

The officials see triple and scoop up into the commercial enforcement mechanism of traffic stops, roadblocks and other means of surveillance and entrapment the common private user of the road who is not involved in commerce, who is not subject to the scope of Title 55. This common, private user may be engaged in a taxable privileged activity, namely the calling or occupation that uses the road as its place of business (shipping). But, as it often turns out in traffic arrests, the common private user often isn’t a commercial user at all. But he has a revoked driver license. He has no insurance required of commercial carriers. He has an expired tag. And the whole of this brought to his attention at a traffic arrest by an officer who saw a dead taillight.

More people = fewer rights, cops say

Title 55 is the commercial motor vehicle statute that covers vehicles and motor vehicles. Because in 2018 there were 1,047 traffic fatalities in Tennessee, police power is called on to surveil the highway and use police power against every user (with, of course, probable cause). The death toll is up 2.2 percent, so this year expect a heavier hand of state regulation. (Dread to hear this fact: 42 percent of those in crashes weren’t wearing seatbelts, subject of a Title 55 rule of the road.)

The expansive definition of police power requires the de-individualization of rights of the individual Tennessee resident and the individual person in Tennessee who is protected by the constitution. One need not be a citizen of the state or resident of the state to have the protection of the Constitution.

The police position is effectively that the more people there are, say, on the road, the fewer rights any one of them have because their aggregate constitutes a police power interest, a regulable activity subject to police power. That’s how cops see no evil in roadside arrests. It’s their job to impose law on the mass of users, one person at a time. They see no violation of their oath in such harassment and abuse.

But that’s not how it works. A collectivist view doesn’t control. Constitutional rights control.

And important review of police powers is found and the Tennessee encyclopedia called Tennessee Jurisprudence.

The essay on police powers runs about 25 pages. It explains that the police powers originate and the alleged sovereignty of the state “by which the public policy is preserved and promoted.” And what is public policy? “[T]he present concept of public welfare or general good.”

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