You Fight How You Train

Out in Arizona, bipartisan support destroyed a bill aimed at training the police to respect 1st Amendment rights of free expression and free association.
A handful of Arizona Senate Republicans joined with Democrats Thursday to reject a bill requiring that police be trained about the illegality of pulling over motorcyclists based solely on their clothing or the fact they're riding motorcycles.... Democrats pushed back Thursday, joined by Republican Sen. Steve Yarbrough of Chandler, who argued against creating a new class of protected people and called it the first step toward micromanaging police training.

"Are we going to indeed create a new class of protected persons, and once we do that I can suggest other groups — how about military people, how about young people, how about little old ladies with gray hair?" ...

The bill was opposed by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, known as AzPOST, the entity that oversees police training and certification in the state
Strangely enough, it would also be illegal to pull people over just because they were otherwise-legally operating a vehicle while wearing patches indicating veteran status, or having a bumpersticker expressing political views. This is true even if the views in question are anti-government -- for example, an anti-Obama sticker, or a "I Love My Country But I Fear My Government" sticker (not necessarily a right-wing sentiment only, as Edward Abbey included a version in his collection of aphorisms).

You can even put a Confederate flag sticker on your car, as people around here do just occasionally, even though the Confederacy waged war against the government of the United States. You can express support for utterly odious groups like the KKK. None of this justifies pulling you over, because it is within the lawful rights that the police are supposed to protect.

Nor is this simply a matter of defending abstract rights. In the current environment, encounters with the police are potentially deadly.
Burges urged the full Senate to pass her bill Thursday, saying she did not believe it created a protected class and saying it "is kind of frustrating when you're pulled over and somebody points a gun at you."...

"We're facing situations where they're pointing guns at our heads on a regular basis, and it's getting more intense," [Arizona Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs member] Dreyfus said. "The more often this goes on the greater the chance that somebody's going to end up dead."
The Arizona Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs includes such notorious outlaws as "Bikers for Christ," "Soldiers for Jesus," and "Sober Riders MC."


douglas said...

For some reason, that story is no longer appearing at the link provided. A quick search turned up the AP wire story here.

I dislike the proposed law on the grounds that it's another example of the tendency for legislators to try to fix everything with a law no matter what the problem is. This doesn't require a law, it requires proper civilian supervision of law enforcement, and elected officials who won't do that ought to be voted out of office.

Cass said...

This doesn't require a law, it requires proper civilian supervision of law enforcement, and elected officials who won't do that ought to be voted out of office.

Or just proper training of the police, by the police. Or citizens who are willing to raise hell when something like this happens. Police departments pay attention to that sort of thing - sometimes, too much so.

We keep complaining about there being too many laws. Was this really such a widespread problem that it required a special law to fix?

Grim said...

One of the legitimate uses of the law is for one branch of government to check another. If the executive (in this case, a subset of the executive, AzPOST) refuses to train the police to respect the 1st Amendment, it would be legitimate for the legislature to instruct them to do so or face penalties.

You could also accomplish the same thing, more or less, by suing the state -- although you have to have the permission of the state to file a suit against it in its own courts. As this is a right guaranteed by the 1st and 14th Amendments, you might be able to do so in Federal court.

But then we'd be asking, "Did you really have to file a lawsuit? Why not just go to your representatives? They're there to provide you with representation in the government. Why tie up the courts?" And of course lawsuits are expensive, which limits access to justice compared with being able to go to your legislator.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no more legitimate use of government authority than to restrain overweening government authority. Whether you get there by a good governor cracking the whip, or by a legislature imposing penalties for noncompliance, or by a lawsuit in court, you need to get there.

douglas said...

Yes, but this proposed law is redundant- as you stated:
"None of this justifies pulling you over, because it is within the lawful rights that the police are supposed to protect."
The law required is already on the books. If another law needs be placed on the books to deal with this, it's something other than this- I'm not sure what exactly- refresher training in constitutional rights in general as part of police power's legitimate exercise by the executive branch, or something like that, but not another 'protected class' law, please.

Grim said...

That's right, as far as it goes. There is something like a Federal law -- really, the 1st Amendment and 14th Amendment and their respective precedents of interpretation. Insofar as the police in this particular state won't abide by those, or don't understand them to apply, I don't see the harm in making an explicit law at the state level to reinforce the judicial precedents and amendments.

It would certainly be problematic to have a state law that contradicted Federal amendments or case law. Explaining one way in which that case law applies to a problem specific to the state seems reasonable to me, especially where the executive has refused to take action on its own.

Anonymous said...

The American Motorcyclist Assn had a number of articles about Federal DOT money being supplied to States for the express purpose of setting up motorcyclist only checkpoints- every bike passing through was detained for examination.