Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Not feeling safer

By Leila Marie Lawler ( articles ) | Jul 24, 2005

Vision Book Cover Prints

I'm no expert, but isn't this why we need the rule of law, that little thing bequeathed to us by Western Civilization but quickly ebbing away?

The police in London had a shoot-to-kill policy, and they made use of it, gunning down a Brazilian electrician, a Roman Catholic who spoke English well and had tripped and fallen. The action and the policy strike me as increasing the ordinary citizen's feeling of being terrorized – not assuaging it.

Some folks argue that laws and policies increasing government's powers enhance our liberty by protecting it.

It all seems to make sense in that "you are getting sleepy" kind of way, as long as we assume that we already know who's innocent and who's not. But self-hypnotism won't remove the reality: that once an innocent person falls into the grip of power, his only defense is the law. Remove that, and you remove his hope, and even his life.

The argument behind the rule of law and due process doesn't ignore danger. The founding fathers, when they put, say, habeas corpus, or the 5th Amendment, in the Constitution, didn't think they were making citizens safer. They understood the risks entailed in hampering law enforcement and the punishment of those suspected of crimes. The idea is that while we may not be safer, we are freer, and we are willing to accept the consequences.

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