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I for one question the morality of applying greater penalties to assailants of police than to assailants of other citizens.

That is a very intriguing question! I can't think of any reason why assault against an officer should carry a heavier penalty than any other assault (aside from making the officers' jobs easier, of course). But is "ease" is clearly not a sufficient condition for a law...

What are everyone's thoughts on this?

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As you know, within the boundaries of morality the law can be whatever the citizens decide. Clearly having higher penalties for assaulting police officers is not immoral. The citizens (personified by the governmental institutions) at this point can decide whether it carries merely practical benefits; and it does, having many benefits other than merely making the officers' jobs easier (keeping anarchic sentiments low, making a police officer's job safer and thus more lucrative for potential applicants, etc), so I'm all for it.

Edited by Free Capitalist

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Within the context of a moral legal system, citizens should decide things like this. In terms of whether it actually is the rational decision, I think Free Capitalist also gives a few good reasons.

It is more interesting when a similar issue is considered from the perspective of an immoral system (the U.S., or any other that exists): at what point does it become immoral to harm an officer of the law, insofar that officer represents an immoral system and has sworn to protect against any changes to that system brought about by illegal means. At what point do you draw the line between officer-as-"protection from rights violators" and officer-as-"storm trooping statist thug"; offhand, I would say it depends on the context of an officer's actions.

This, however, is a bit off topic, so if anyone is interested I'm sure it would be more appropriate to start a different thread. I just find interesting the many issues that arise concerning hypothetical moral and legal questions within an immoral system.

Edited by Currence

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As you know, within the boundaries of morality the law can be whatever the citizens decide.

Well, I think it is within the boundaries of morality that this discussion is being held, and the issue is whether it is moral to punish assaults on some persons more severely than assaults on other persons. If we agree that it is, why then shouldn’t society (or government) punish those who beat up geniuses more severely than retards, capitalists more severely than low wage workers, Objectivists more severely than statists?

Clearly having higher penalties for assaulting police officers is not immoral. The citizens (personified by the governmental institutions) at this point can decide whether it carries merely practical benefits; and it does, having many benefits other than merely making the officers' jobs easier (keeping anarchic sentiments low, making a police officer's job safer and thus more lucrative for potential applicants, etc), so I'm all for it.

And just as surely there must be “practical benefits” in discouraging more strongly the killing of a skilled surgeon than a homeless man, of a 26-year old mother of three than an 86-year old on Social Security.

It is more interesting when a similar issue is considered from the perspective of an immoral system (the U.S., or any other that exists):  at what point does it become immoral to harm an officer of the law, insofar that officer represents an immoral system and has sworn to protect against any changes to that system brought about by illegal means.  At what point do you draw the line between officer-as-"protection from rights violators" and officer-as-"storm trooping statist thug"; offhand, I would say it depends on the context of an officer's actions.

This, however, is a bit off topic, so if anyone is interested I'm sure it would be more appropriate to start a different thread. 

Actually, I think your point is very much on-topic. In today’s statist milieu, clearly it does not advance the cause of liberty to call for draconian penalties for any and all using retaliatory force against law enforcers, among whom we must include tax thieves, anti-drug goons, gun confiscators and the anti-sex Gestapo. And you are right to raise the importance of context. For if proper respect is given to context, it can seen that raising the police to the status of Official Victims Group is just as misguided as taking the same action with regard to blacks, gays, women, Native Americans, etc.

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I'll throw some of my thoughts into the ring from my perspective on the "inside".

First, I don't think treating police officers differently as victims of assault creates a special class of victim's in the same sense as hate crimes. Hate crimes exist under the premise that the type of intent is different from "normal" assaults. Increased penalties exist for assaults against police officers primarily because of the nature of their jobs and how they have to have physical contact with people in order to affect arrests. Secondarily, intent may be an issue with regard to a deliberate defiance of authority and order. Authority, assuming that it is being properly and lawfully administered, should be followed. Believe it or not, some states do have laws that allow for citizens to use force against police officers if they are resisting UNLAWFUL ARRESTS. For practical purposes I will state, you do so at your own risk, and I would suggest that you really know what you are doing before attempting to resist arrest or use force against an officer. Thinking an arrest is unlawful, and the arrest actually being unlawful are two different animals.

In order for a police officer to protect individual rights by apprehending criminals and bringing them before courts, we have to place ourselves in situations on a daily basis which give rise to people resisting arrest and assaulting us. This creates a context that changes the situation from that of "normal" assaults. Yes, I know police officers choose their occupations and consequently the potential risks involved. That doesn't make bruises and broken bones any easier to deal with, and I have experienced both. While Tom Robinson stated he thought it made police officer's jobs easier (in the other thread), I tend to side with Free Capitalist's assessment that it attempts to make the job safer.

After I think more on this, and have more time, I may add some more to this thread.

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I agree with the earlier statements that context must be established, so there are a few questions that need to be raised in each case to determine whether higher punishment is ok.

Is the officer on duty at the time of the assault? If he is off duty, then there is no reason the assault differs from any other assault. Even if the officer is assaulted BECAUSE he is a policeman, this would fall under the same category as any other hate crime.

If the officer IS on duty, is the assault a response to that officer's actions qua officer. If yes, then were that officer's actions lawful? If a man assaults a police officer as a method of resisting a lawful arrest, then not only is he assaulting someone, he is also attempting to evade responsiblity for some unlawful action he has taken; I submit that this DOES deserve additional punishment, even if it is given under two separate charges. If the officer is on duty and the assault is not in response to any of his actions, but IS instigated because of the assaulters hatred of police officers, is there any difference between this assault and any other hate crime?

I think there are some cases when an additional punishment for assaulting an officer of the law would be unjustified, and others where it may be perfectly justified. But there are many questions that need to be answered before we can really decide what the criteria is. I'm sure there are others besides the ones I peresented above.

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Ideally, a police officer is acting to protect the rights of another, so by assaulting an officer in the execution of his duty, you are facilitating a rights violation, i.e. are contributing to the initiation of force. You could try to reduce this to two separate offenses, namely your assault on the officer, and contributing to the escape of a burglar. But the latter charge is less tenable, because it would have to be proven that your assault actually materially contributed to the escape of the burglar. So a special extra penalty should be attached to assaulting an officer (at least in the line of duty -- when he's not acting as a cop, it's simple assault). This falls in the same category as "killing or threatening to kill" -- even though actually killing and threatening to kill are very different things, they should be treated the same because we cannot see the future and determine that the threat will not actually be realized, and you should assume that the threat will be carried out. Similarly, in assaulting an officer on duty, you cannot know that you aren't hindering the protection of rights, and you should assume that (by assaulting the officer) you are by that act enabling a criminal.

Unless the cop is acting illegally, and you are absolutely sure of that.

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Positions of authority require higher standards, both of the people holding the authority, and of those who do not have equal or higher authority. They are not on a level playing ground, where as civilians of different colors or sexual persuasions are. Hate Crime laws are wrong because they attempt to elevate one group unfairly, and without grounds. They treat that class as the weaker child who needs extra protection.

In the military, disobeying or certainly assaulting a superior officer is a greater offense than the same action taken against someone of the same rank. Police on the other hand, along with military and government officials, *are* in a different class by nature of the responsibilities of their professions. It is an *earned* distinction.

Also, there is a neccessary decorum for weilding authority. Students get in more trouble if they assault a teacher than a student, a principle than a teacher, etc. This is necessary to maintain the heirarchy, for it to be understood and respected. However, I think the biggest distinction, is between the earned and unearned positions.

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There is also the issue that when one assaults a police officer, one is usually assaulting an armed officer. Presumably, such an assault would have as its goal to disarm the officer, and arm the assaulter (or at least it should be presumed).

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There is also the issue that when one assaults a police officer, one is usually assaulting an armed officer. Presumably, such an assault would have as its goal to disarm the officer, and arm the assaulter (or at least it should be presumed).

I wouldn't presume that you could just be hitting him out of spite. And unless your seriously trying to hurt the guy I dought he's going to risk his freedom by wrongly shooting you.

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Some of this is on topic, some is not (so fair warning :) ). I do hope many of you find it informative and give it the consideration you think it deserves, though I offer critique as usual.

In my experience thus far, 19+ years, the majority of assaults that occur on officers are attempts to elude custody. (i.e. a push, a shove, or a punch followed by running away, etc.) However, there are those cases when a person actually squares off with the officer with more of an intent to do the officer harm. Those are generally the times when the officer is concerned with the potential loss of his sidearm.

In both cases, though usually moreso in the later, officers usually experience what they call "the chemical cocktail". The mind and the body react to a huge amount of adrenaline being pumped throughout parts of their body to prepare them for "fight or flight". This reaction is usually in proportion to the level of threat perceived by the officer. This can be very difficult to control for some officers. When this occurs, people generally start acting on auto-pilot, at least initially. This is where good training is crucial for officers so that they act according to what they learned in defensive tactics, under the principle of "minimal force necessary to affect the arrest or stop the threat" which hopefully reduces the likelihood of using excessive force. Factors that can help the officer reduce this auto-pilot reaction are maturity, training/education, combat experience, and general temperment. I don't mention this to excuse all counts of excessive force, but in some cases it is a factor in why officers use excessive force. Their ability to react rationally is diminshed by the physiological activity going on in their mind and body caused during that situation. Obviously this phenomena is not limited to police officers; it can happen to anyone. However, as I mentioned before, we are occupationally drawn to more instances of physical confrontation than most folks.

Why am I explaining all this? I want to relate it to the idea that when one chooses to retaliate against the officer by means of assault because they think the officer is enforcing an immoral law (or for any reason as far as that goes), they are inviting what is commonly (and bluntly) known as "a good ass-whupin". My saying this should not be construed as condoning the officer's actions. Rather, it's a glimpse into reality. True, the citizen may be able to "win" the fight if they are more physically fit or better trained than the officer (and can "outrun" the radio), but more often than not, they'll lose the battle in the long run.

There was a time as recent as 20-30 years ago that the measure of a good arrest was how many stitches a suspect received in his head. (I never entertained that as a useful measure personally) Thankfully, we are considerably removed from those times (at least in the locales I'm familiar with) when such action was largely condoned by other officers and to some degree by the upper echelon. Now, greater scrutiny is placed on the review of police use of force. Yes, I acknowledge things can still improve. As part of my job I conduct the initial review of "use of force" reports. After that, it is reviewed by my Lt., my Capt., Internal Affairs, and potentially an Asst. Chief and the Chief of Police. That process may work differently in other departments.

So, it can be argued that more stringent penalties for assaults on police officers indirectly protects offenders. Discouraging assaults on officers reduces the likelihood of both parties sustaining injury. Is it weak? Perhaps, but no beyond consideration. I endeavor to avoid the use of physical force when making arrests when possible. But when in my judgement a use of physical force becomes necessary, I intend to go home to my family at the end of the shift. There is a saying; "Better to be tried by twelve than carried by six." I have mixed sentiments about how officers use that phrase sometimes but I acknowledge some truth to it.

(minor editing for clarification - RC)

Edited by RationalCop

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RationalCop

You don't just seem like a "rational" cop, but a good one too. If there were more like you I would have a lot more respect for police in general. And if they were all rational and good like you then I would have complete respect for all police. Through out my life though I've seen the bad irrational side of cops too much, I guess. I've been beaten by them and had them put guns to my head for no other reason than being at the wrong place at the wrong time. None of these times was I charged with or committed any crime, except maybe by association by hanging with the wrong crowd. In my state MI police regularly hold stings to ticket drivers without a seat belt on. They drive around looking for drivers that commit minor violations, for the sole purpose of validating their job, and filling the city and states coffers with fine money. I could go on and on. But maybe now you can understand why I only support a police force that goes after *objective* crimes, crimes where a person has in someway violated the rights of others. Because objectively those are the only laws that can be valid.

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I think Plaintext is right on the spot. Because there are people who use violence against others, use of violence to prevent such actions is entrusted to policemen who work for a government chosen by the people. Assaulting a police officer is assaulting the premesis that you should bare the consequences of your violent behaviour.

If you live in a society based on law, you should always try to change the law.

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But maybe now you can understand why I only support a police force that goes after *objective* crimes, crimes where a person has in someway violated the rights of others. Because objectively those are the only laws that can be valid.

I appreciate your kind words. I would much prefer that kind of society too. I am with you on the concept that our laws should be based on objective crimes involving violations of the rights of others. However, I am still of the opinion that things are not so drastically off course that the system should be circumvented in an attempt to address these problems or express our frustration with the system.

I cannot argue against the experiences you state you have had with the police. I don't say that so much as to doubt you as I say it in that I'm not aware of the facts and circumstances surrounding the incidents in which you have been stopped, detained, harrassed, etc. Your assessment of those situations may indeed be 100% correct.

However, I do know from my experiences that people have alleged that I or other officers have stopped them and harrassed them for no reason and didn't charge them with anything, and they were completely erroneous. Instead, I would rather concentrate on a different aspect (as it appears to me) of your concerns with officers in general.

I work in neighborhoods where the residents are predominantly lower income minorities. The vast majority of encounters I have with these citizens is either of a criminal nature, some negative encounter because they don't like police, or because two or more people are behaving irrationally and call the police to resolve VERY petty problems. I do this day in and day out without exaggeration. It would be easy for me to surmise that the vast majority of people of this minority (or at least lower income folks of this minority) are also subject to these problems and behave in the same manner since that is what my experience shows me. Rather, I realize that there are plenty of honest, decent folks that I am not encountering as frequently so I do not allow myself to fall prey simply to my experiences. I do my best to start any encounter with anyone, minority or not, professionally or not, with a blank slate on that individual. I then let the encounter with that person establish the basis for my judgement of that person.

For some cops, this is a much more difficult task. And likewise, for some people, it's difficult not to lump all cops in the same mold based on their individual experiences.

I was playing online poker the other day. I use the same user name there as I do here. I was asked by a person if I really was a cop and when I answered affirmatively, they began to make jokes about all the crimes they were committing on the other end of our online experience. While this is amusing to some, it's just plain overdone to me. I answered a few questions about illegality of drugs and prostitution and kept my tongue civil and polite throughout the exchange. After I lost all my play money ( :D ) I said, "Been fun, take care all". The response I got back from that person was, "Later pig." When I challenged him on the appropriateness of his comments, he responded by telling me about all the negative encounters he had with police officers. Through further discussion, he eventually offered an apology. I suspect it was more to save face in front of the other players, some of whom were also offended by his comment. However, I accepted his apology and left. Now, instead of answering the question "Are you really a cop?", I respond by asking, "Why don't you ask me if I'm really rational instead?" :)

There are other rational and good cops out there, many in fact. I'm not sure why you encounter only the bad ones. Unfortunately, even amongst the good ones, there are some that suffer from having a poor philosophical foundation, and they think enforcing some of these immoral laws is proper and just. I wouldn't ask of you to just respect them all implicitly, or their character on faith. Rather, I would ask that you give them that blank slate start. If you already do that, then I needn't ask a thing of you. If I have misunderstood your sentiments, please correct me, and I offer my apology in advance.

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RationalCop thanks for your comments, I do try to start with a "blank slate" with everyone, regardless of their occupation. I let their actions lead my judgements of their character with out trying to prejudge him. But to say that I can completely blank my mind to past experience is not possible. It is ingrained in me. Like you said your expierences in the poorer areas are ingrained in you and somewhat "color" your oppinions.

I suppose what I don't like about many officers when they approach me is the attitude you immediately percieve, which is: Obey me whether my demands are rational or not. More than that it's like a cold, impersonal, demanding attitude. I know this is trained into the police, but it just doen't seem like the right attitude to me. The job of a police officer is to serve and protect, protect the rights of citizens. But how it seems now is one is paying out his money in taxes to pay officer, paying him for a service, and he approaches essentially his customers with a negative attitude. I would have no problem with this attitude against a real criminal, say a murderer, thief, or a rapist. But having an attitude like this against a guy he pulled over for doing say five over, an arbitrary speed limit and therefore law, I find this to be nearly insane. This is the guy who pays his paycheck, who the officer is sworn to protect and serve, and the citizen is treated in the same way as a criminal. That is the only thing, that as a lover of Liberty and all that concept entails, makes me dislike many (not all) police right off the back.

I don't like when officer go from the protecters of citizen's rights (their moral job) to one of the chief violators of those rights by enforcing irrational laws. Every officer has a choice, and he can choose not to enforce the irrational and arbitrary, of course he may then lose his job, but if I were him I would choose the moral over any amount of money or benefit that could ever be offered to me. But I guess that's just me.

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Assaulting a person is a violation of his rights.

Assaulting a police officer is a violation of every citizen's rights. It is an attack on the rule of law. It is on principle closer to a violent coup than a mere robbery.

Edited by erandror

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Assaulting a person is a violation of his rights.

Assaulting a police officer is a violation of every citizen's rights. It is an attack on the rule of law. It is on principle closer to a violent coup than a mere robbery.

This all true only if the police force is in a rational society. This is something that does not exist at the present time, or at *any* time in history.

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Naturally I disagree.

The police's job is to protect against criminals, and by and large they are doing a great job.

The rule of law in America is far better than the alternative, which is anarchy. And assaulting an officer is therefore a very serious crime.

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This is the guy who pays his paycheck, who the officer is sworn to protect and serve,

I have to note that I always love this line. There's such a great comeback, though I never use it.

I pay taxes too so that makes me self employed. :huh:

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I have to note that I always love this line.  There's such a great comeback, though I never use it.

I pay taxes too so that makes me self employed.  :huh:

Which is another reason why we need to abolish coersive taxation, and have a police force funded solely by private donation. ;)

Edited by Rational_One

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