Some recent incidents in the news have brought to the forefront the subject of selective enforcement by law enforcement agencies. Selective enforcement simply means deciding which laws to enforce in a given situation. Since there are just too many laws, and too many violations, it is not possible to enforce all laws all the time. So, selective enforcement decisions have to be made. The potential for problems lies in the reasoning behind the decisions.
Selective enforcement should always be done based upon the context of the particular law and the circumstances present. It should never be done based upon the identity or any other factor concerning the person committing the violation. One prime example of this problem is that the police have long been accused of practicing selective enforcement based on race. While I believe this to rarely be true, the accusation alone gives it validity in some people’s minds.
An example of selective enforcement gone wrong is present in large, politically controlled police departments such as Los Angeles and New York City, where “courtesy cards” are issued to prominent people and friends of those in charge. These cards, when shown to an officer stopping them, particularly for a minor violation, result in the cardholder walking away without a ticket because the officer fears retaliation from the person issuing the card.
Selective enforcement at its very worst has surfaced recently in the actions of federal law enforcement agencies. The Jan. 6 “attack” on the Capitol building has resulted in hundreds of arrests, and stringent enforcement of numerous laws against people upset with the current leadership in Washington. In many cases, the violators were obviously wrong, although there is photographic evidence showing that many of them were actually motioned inside by security personnel.
The big problem arises in the fact that the arrestees in that incident can be described as right-wing in their political beliefs. Why did the feds, who have spent untold man hours tracking down the Jan. 6 miscreants, have no apparent interest in identifying those responsible for millions of dollars in damage in the riots in Portland and other cities, committed by people who can be politically identified as left-wing? It certainly appears that the decision to arrest or not arrest in these cases is being based on the political beliefs of the offenders.
Probably the worst incident of selective enforcement just took place at Donald Trump’s Florida estate. The raid has been described ad infinitum in the media, so I don’t need to repeat the details.
This raid has absolutely no historical precedent, would not have been staged by this administration against anyone but Trump and was obviously done for the sole purpose of influencing Trump’s ability to run again. In other words, selective enforcement is being used to attempt to influence the next presidential election.
The Justice Department knew where the papers were — safely held in a building guarded around the clock by Secret Service agents — so why didn’t they just request that the documents be returned? Without such a request being made, and subsequently ignored, it becomes obvious that the seizure was nothing more than political theater.
This is selective enforcement at its worst. Obviously, no one showed up at Hillary’s house when she was known to have sensitive documents on her laptop and her phone, and no one seems to be worried about Hunter Biden’s laptop. It’s obvious that this administration is misusing law enforcement agencies to punish its enemies. The fact that anyone in power would do this is astounding and comparable to something that would be done by a banana republic dictator or a complete despot.
To be clear, my own position is that I would prefer that Trump not run again, although I would not be upset if he did. The Democrats’ actions may very well backfire on them and assure that he will win if he does run again, propelled into office by the public’s disgust with the actions and inactions of the current administration and its politically motivated law enforcement branches.
Regardless, it is imperative that public outcry or subsequent legal maneuvers make it impossible for such actions to be repeated.
Don Stratton is a retired inspector for the Lima Police Department. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.