Society can be harmonious only when governmental authority is moral. This is demonstrated when the dignity of every community member is respected.
Legitimate government honors a moral code demonstrated through goodwill toward community members.
Society needs behavior that is moral, reasonable, and just, otherwise authority becomes shameful, abusive, and intrusive.
Positions of trust in every level of American government must have moral principles as the foundation. Respect is the fundamental right of every person and enshrined in our Bill of Rights as:
• freedom of speech, press, and religion
• prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures
• the right to peaceably assemble
• citizenship rights, due process, and equal protection of laws
Government must also dedicate itself to the development of the entire community through family, education, health, employment, housing, security, and culture.
It is government’s role, understood as both politicians and government employees to serve. Government’s dedication to improving the lives of community members—especially those who are marginalized, vulnerable, and oppressed must always be paramount.
A just government dedicates itself to the dignity of the human person. In return, truthfulness, justice, and patriotic participation throughout the community are animated.
Ferguson’s Failure of Community
The tragic chaos that unfolded after the lethal shooting in Ferguson was exacerbated due to the failure of government officials to honor principles of reasonable authority, community policing, and human dignity deserved by each and every community member.
A community cannot be harmonious when members are oppressed and dignity is denied.
Government representatives must have a code of ethics that respects the principles of society, authority, and the common good. When these principles are honored, society flourishes. When they are violated, the results are dysfunction, disparities, and disorder.
Effective policing demands moral courage by law enforcement officials that includes the refusal to be pawns of political leaders who, without a moral code, reprehensibly view community members merely as revenue pawns.
Interaction between the community and police officials demands initiatives that cultivate collaboration. This is summarized in this timeless policing principle of Sir Robert Peel:
• Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police.
When this enduring principle is honored, community harmony is promoted. If violated by politicians, government employees, law enforcement officials, or community members, the outcome—as witnessed in Ferguson—is disorder, contempt, and chaos.
Department of Justice: A Scathing Report
On March 4, the Justice Department (DOJ) released findings of two civil rights investigations related to Ferguson.
The DOJ found that Ferguson Municipal Court has the following patterns or practices:
• Focusing on revenue over public safety, leading to court practices that violate the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection requirements.
• Court practices exacerbating the harm of Ferguson’s unconstitutional police practices and imposing particular hardship upon Ferguson’s most vulnerable residents, especially upon those living in or near poverty. Minor offenses can generate crippling debts, result in jail time because of an inability to pay and result in the loss of a driver’s license, employment, or housing.
The DOJ found that the Ferguson Police Department (FPD) has the following patterns or practices:
• Conducting stops without reasonable suspicion and arrests without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
• Interfering with the right to free expression in violation of the First Amendment.
• Using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The DOJ found a pattern or practice of racial bias in both the FPD and municipal court, with intentional discrimination by direct evidence of racial bias and stereotyping.
Ferguson must rise by rebuilding trust, healing hostilities, and building community. A transformation is possible when the bill of rights is respected, a moral code honored, and community policing principles adhered to.
America, take heed as human rights, morals, and ethics must be the order of the day in every level of government, community, and heart of each person.
Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com