Words From A Sheriff in South Carolina

"Liberals call me and tell me the chain-gang form of justice isn't working. Well, let me inform you, your form of justice isn't working either."

"I want you to get a concealed weapons permit."

"I'm tired of looking at victims saying, 'There's life after this' … I'm tired of saying, 'We're sorry, we can't keep them in jail.'"
Some will be tempted to scold Sheriff Wright for these remarks, on the grounds that preventing crime is his job.  I am of course not inclined to agree, because the defense of the common peace and lawful order is all of our jobs.  It is the right and the duty of every citizen to defend that peace and order.

Wright seems to suggest that we face a double threat to that peace and order.  The predators are not the only threat, and perhaps not the main threat, from Wright's perspective.  What he's really angry about is the oversight that the justice system places on his enforcement of the law.  That is, he's mad that violent criminals he catches are being turned loose -- and he wishes that we could avoid the system by just having the civilians do what he can't do, which is shoot the criminal dead in the first place.

We didn't think much of the idea of the police passing off to citizens unconstitutional searches, so we might be suspicious of attempts to pass the whole process from trial to conviction to execution.  We might, except that a violent criminal engaged in his crime has little reference to any claim to privacy as related to his actions.  The laws of the fifty states differ on whether they endorse a lethal response -- I don't know about South Carolina, but Georgia certainly endorses lethal force in order to prevent death or grievous bodily harm being caused by a criminal to an innocent.  Thus, the sheriff isn't asking anyone to do anything illegal or improper (which law he would then decline to enforce); he's asking people to do what the law permits them to do, for the common good.

Our system of justice faces several severe threats, and at least two of them are internal -- I mean the explosion of laws and regulations governing individual behavior, so that we can no longer reasonably be expected to understand the law, and the removal of mens rea from a number of these new laws and regulations.  

I'm not sure how sympathetic I am with Sheriff Wright's claim that it's too hard to keep people in jail:  we seem to have a very large prison population, if that is indeed a difficulty.  I do believe that it is important for citizens to be prepared to do their duty for the common peace and lawful order -- at least if we understand "the lawful order" to mean something like "the reasonable and traditional laws of the land" and not "every last rule or regulation someone thought up and slapped through an unaccountable Federal bureaucracy, or that Congress passed unread."  I am certainly sympathetic with the claim that rapists ought to be shot, and that the common good is advanced every time one is killed in the pursuit of his evils.


E Hines said...

My only quibble with the Sheriff's remarks is that, in his first one, I would not have said "either."

I am of course not inclined to agree, because the defense of the common peace and lawful order is all of our jobs.

There's more to this, though. It is, in fact, not the policeman's job to prevent crime, by design, beyond the deterrent effect of patrolling (and engaging a suspicious character in conversation), and the hazy aspect of "conspiracy" arrests. In particular, they generally cannot arrest preemptively; a crime must be in progress (though as you point out, what is a crime is becoming entirely too broad). The bulk of the responsibility for preventing crime lies on us citizens.

Taking the "conspiracy" matter as an example, this is a very broad grey area in which a plethora of laws have attempted to facilitate what is, at bottom, a mind reading attempt. Certainly, at one end of a spectrum there is clear and present danger from actively plotting a crime, while at the other end, there is nothing but idle musing, even if in anger or suspicion, or.... To me, though, that broad grey area simply puts a premium on us citizens doing our own duty in prevention, including the deterrent effect implied by the Sheriff's suggestion that more of us should arm ourselves.

I'm not sure how sympathetic I am with Sheriff Wright's claim that it's too hard to keep people in jail: we seem to have a very large prison population....

We need to know the turn-over rates of the prison population, not just the static population, before we can assess the difficulty of keeping people in jail. As well as the difficulty of getting the innocent promptly released. I think the latter is not so much of a problem, but this back side of the coin shouldn't be neglected.

Eric Hines

Texan99 said...

Calling the cops should be like calling in reinforcements, not like fainting on the couch.

Capt S (ret) said...

A couple of quick comments. The cops are not there to prevent crime although they do what they can. Cops are reactionary. People call 911 after a crime has been committed. They can't arrest someone because they might commit a crime at some future date. Their purpose is to catch criminals who have already committed a crime.

Flathead County, MT has issued twice as many concealed weapons permits as any other county in the state,including the larger counties. To my knowledge,their has never been a gun crime committed in this county by someone who was carrying a lawful concealed weapon, but there are numerous times when crimes were prevented by someone who was legally carrying. The Sheriff is spot on.