Are Cops Constitutional?


Earlier this month, Politech passed along a link to this provocative law review article. The abstract:

Police work is often lionized by jurists and scholars who claim to employ "textualist" and "originalist" methods of constitutional interpretation. Yet professional police were unknown to the United States in 1789, and first appeared in America almost a half-century after the Constitution's ratification. The Framers contemplated law enforcement as the duty of mostly private citizens, along with a few constables and sheriffs who could be called upon when necessary. This article marshals extensive historical and legal evidence to show that modern policing is in many ways inconsistent with the original intent of America's founding documents. The author argues that the growth of modern policing has substantially empowered the state in a way the Framers would regard as abhorrent to their foremost principles.

NEXT: Barbarian Gatekeepers

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  1. I don’t see much difference between that and being forced to pay taxes to pay someone else to do it. You may think both are wrong, but I generally don’t. I think it would be a good thing for the republic if ordinary citizens were allowed more responsibility and greater role in its preservation.

  2. Well, the law’s not gonna enforce itself keith. Either everyone is an agent or you pay someone else to do it. Either way, you need law enforcement to be accountable to every citizen. That can be accomplished by conscription (as you described) or by having law enforcement paid for out of a collective pool. You can’t have a situation where a police officer won’t listen to you because you didn’t hire him.

  3. Can’t we just all get along?

    Of course not.

    I was looking at our local police’s crime map, and it is amazing that for a relatively ‘safe,’ city, the number of crimes committed. A sure way to elliminate a sizable chunk of these crimes is end the Drug War … but that law-enforcement sugar daddy isn’t going away anytime soon.

  4. Steve, you must be in Colorado Springs…

    I look at that crime map every once in a while too =)

  5. Late,

    Yep, good old Colorado Springs… got a lot of LP folk here, but we are often confused for liberals, being how we don’t support draconian police-state practices against minorities and gays (ala Focus on the Family and the like).



  6. It is more reasonable to rely on volunteer police when the laws are 1789 simple. Start passing legislation to ensure your wealth and position, and soon you’ll have to hire goon squads to protect “the state’s” interests and integrity.

    Responsibility is learned over lifetimes and passed along through generations of a society. The citizens of today would make lousy police because we have come to expect somebody else to handle it. A sudden return to the 18th century is not possible, but gradually perhaps the state would let us learn to take greater charge of our own affairs.

  7. To the originator of this thread: What have you done with Julian Sanchez? Lacking some kind of Barney Fife or Steven Bochco reference, I must assume you’ve locked him in his treehouse while you surf on his computer.

  8. Cops are Dumbo’s feather.

  9. Mark Fox said:
    “The citizens of today would make lousy police because we have come to expect somebody else to handle it.”

    In the olden days, people made their own sausage.
    Police are a sign of how wealthy we’ve become. We hire them to do the “dirty work.” Now, surprise, they GENERATE most of the dirty work for job security.

  10. EMAIL:
    DATE: 01/26/2004 12:06:52
    Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.

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