Public servants, who exist to protect the people from violation of their rights, should not themselves behave like thugs. Instead they should treat the general public the way they would want their own family to be treated. Thus, government officers should not:

  • Kick in doors or point guns with no justification.
  • Beat up criminal suspects.
  • Intimidate people, including suspects, with aggressive behavior.
  • Behave as if they are somehow more important than the people they serve.

The best way to ensure proper police behavior is to require officers to wear audio-video recorders while on duty. Video cameras are already used on highway patrol cars to great effect, guaranteeing that officers and those they deal with are both held accountable for their actions.

The requirement that police treat the public with respect does not mean they should treat a fleeing criminal with respect. Nor should they tolerate offensive behavior towards themselves by hooligans. When they are off-duty it is their prerogative to turn the other cheek. However, when they wear the uniform they are officers of the law, and the law must be respected. To harass or assault a police officer is a cry of havoc; it is a signal that the offender feels unbound by the law. Policemen should not be stoic or exercise restraint when someone is swearing at them, drunks are hurling beer bottles at them, or rioters are throwing pavement stones at them. Those who disrespect a police officer should be arrested and charged with offensive behavior, assault, affray, or riot. If they resist arrest, tasers or other appropriate force should be used to quell them.

The requirement that people not swear or abuse policemen is not granting the police extra-legal privileges. Rather when they put on a uniform they are representing the law, and it is the law that must be respected. Police are the people who keep families safe from murderers, burglars, and armed robbers. To attack and insult police officers is to attack and insult the safety and security of every family, every child, and every parent in their own homes.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove