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Without Law Enforcement There is No Law, and Without Law There is No Civilization

Rep. Tom McClintock: Thoughts on Police Reform

By Tom McClintock, June 12, 2020 12:13 pm

‘The doctrine of qualified immunity as currently applied has no place in a nation ruled by law.’


We have recently suffered multiple failures of law enforcement, beginning with the killing of George Floyd.  He died because a rogue cop who, despite multiple misconduct complaints, remained on a police force, as did one of his accomplices.  This has become an intolerable pattern in big city police forces, and we need to ask how politically powerful police unions and the politicians they maintain in office protect the bullies in the system, that inevitably lead to atrocities like this.

The other failure was the decision to withhold police protection from their citizens by mayors and their appointed police chiefs.  That failure killed Pat Underwood, David Dorn, and so many other innocent victims in the ensuing riots.  Withdrawing police protection from our streets, abandoning police stations to rioters, turning a blind eye to looting, arson and mayhem, all have an incendiary effect on insurrections.    Without law enforcement there is no law, and without law there is no civilization.   An accounting of the deaths and destruction caused by these acts of dereliction of duty is yet to be tallied – but it will be staggering.

We meet today to chart a course forward.  We can look to no better guide than Sir Robert Peel, the father of modern policing, who set forth principles of law enforcement for a free society nearly two centuries ago.  When you read them, you realize how far we have drifted from these moorings.

Central to our discussion is his seventh principle: “To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police ARE the public and that the public ARE the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

How do we get back to these principles?  There are many reforms proposed in the House that merit support. 

First, the doctrine of qualified immunity as currently applied has no place in a nation ruled by law.  For every right there must be a remedy, and qualified immunity prevents a remedy for those whose rights have been violated by officials holding a public trust.  This reform should apply as much to the rogue cop who targets people because of their race as it does to IRS or Justice Department officials who target people because of their politics.  Reforming qualified immunity simply holds public officials to the same standards as any other citizen exercising the same powers.

Second, police records must be open to the public.  It is a well-established principle that public servants work for the public and the public has a right to know what they’re doing with the authority the public has loaned them.  And police departments should be able to dismiss bad officers without interference from their unions.  By preventing the public from access to these records – and by preventing departments from acting on them – we destroy the very foundations of successful policing in a free society – public trust and accountability. 

Third, turning police departments into para-military organizations is antithetical to the 6th principle laid down by Peel, “(to) use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.”  Weapons unique to the battlefield need to be limited to the battlefield.

Fourth, no-knock warrants have proven to be lethal to citizens and police officers, for an obvious reason.  The invasion of a person’s home is one of the most terrifying powers government possesses.  Every person in a free society has the right to take arms against an intruder in their homes, and the authority of the police to make such an intrusion must be announced BEFORE it takes place.   To do otherwise places every one of us in mortal peril.

These four reforms are legitimate powers of the federal government to uphold the constitutional rights of its citizens.  It is not within our legitimate powers to dictate training and procedures for every community in the country.  As Peel counsels us, effective law enforcement is a community endeavor and every community has different needs and different circumstances which require different standards.  One-size-fits-all bromides are at best ineffective and at worst dangerous.

Finally, lest we forget, when faithful, dedicated and honest police officers – the overwhelming majority of those who serve — are attacked, degraded, disrespected, demoralized, hamstrung and withdrawn, those most at risk are the poor and defenseless who live and work in our inner cities.

Congressman Tom McClintock delivered these remarks at the House Judiciary Committee Oversight Hearing on Policing Practices and Law Enforcement Accountability. The hearing was held on June 10, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

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10 thoughts on “Without Law Enforcement There is No Law, and Without Law There is No Civilization

    1. After Gray Davis was recalled Californians had the opportunity to send McClintock to the Governor’s mansion. Instead, we got the Governator. THIS time let’s send McClintock to replace Newsom. Can we get it right, this time? THIS

  1. He fails to mention the following:

    -Settlements to be paid out of the Police Pension Fund, and not by the taxpayers, thus encouraging the rank and file to police their own inasmuch as their bad behaviour directly affects their pocketbooks
    -Drug testing of Police, esp. with regards to steroid use, i.e. roid rage.
    -Revising training to eliminate its paramilitary boot-camp aspects courtesy of Chief Parker.
    -Increasing the IQ requirements for Police to at least a 110 level.
    -Requiring at a minimum a genuine 4 year degree from a recognized institution, and not one ending in the word “Studies”.
    -A minimum hiring age of 25-30 years old so as to have some certainty that the candidate possess a degree of maturity and moral sense, as well as some real life experience working a regular job.
    -No direct hires from the military inasmuch as combat skills aren’t the same as policing; a five year cooling down unlearning period from date of discharge mandatory.
    -Change in police language, E.G the public no longer being referred to as “Civilians”. The Cops must realize that they are part of the Public as well.
    -Body cams at all times and without exception. Cam footage available to any interested parties at any time without charge, and without bureaucratic delays or obstacles. Deletion of cam footage would result in A) all charges dropped and B) mandatory discipline including firing.
    -Post crime interview rules apply equally to both cops and criminals vs the softball favouritism granted by present police contracts.
    -Community policing: get out of the damned cars and get to know the people you serve.
    -Per the suggestion of a Sheriff, new hires serve in low intensity areas such as Airports first rather than first in high intensity crime areas requiring more experience and maturity.
    -Police to live in the areas they serve, and not in some distant “Copland” as is the present practice.
    -Weed out those with cultural phobias, E.G a willingness to shoot dogs because the candidate might not be from a centric dog culture. There’s too much Puppycide happening, reflecting both a mainstream cultural gap as well as psychopathic tendencies.
    -No free military surplus anything. if Police Department feel that they can’t make it through the day without an armoured vehicle, then let them buy one and pay full rate for it.
    -Severely restrict or better yet eliminate entirely SWAT teams, inasmuch as they are overused and inculcate an adversarial us vs them attitude towards the public
    -Encourage the public to have guns. As it stands now with a disarmed public, the only result is the creation of an armed elite with two sets of rules: one for you and another for them, and theirs are better.

    Clearly, this is something that can be a topic for endless discussion and debate. Feel free to add to the list or offer up your thoughts.

    Just a thought.


  2. Hamstringing the police is little different than eliminating them. If the left cannot have one, they will have the other.

  3. Law-abiding citizens want effective law-enforcement officers. It is always those who are trying to get around the
    law that look at them as a threat. And so it should be.
    Our law-enforcement officers should have the weapons they need for any situation they may have to face. They should also have legal protection to insure that they can carry out the law without the threat of corrupt lawyers, judges or politicians who are colluding with the criminals.
    It is high time that we remember all the lives that have been saved from injury or death because of our effective
    law-enforcement officers. Thank you to those who have protected me.

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