Is it moral for police to not enforce laws they believe are unjust?

In Nazi Germany it was the police’s (by any other name) job to arrest Jews and send them to their deaths. Even though the police made a vow to uphold the law, no reasonable person would argue that the Nazi police were morally bound to uphold that law because it was blatantly unjust.

In modern day America the police take a vow to uphold the law as well, and the law says that smoking or selling marijuana is illegal. I would argue that calling the police on your neighbor for smoking or selling marijuana is one moral step down from calling the Gestapo on your neighbor for being Jewish. Likewise, any police officer who enforces unjust laws is one moral step down from the Gestapo especially considering the inhumane conditions American prisons force the humans inside them to endure. Convicts may not get gassed, but they’ll be stripped of their humanity and get beat, raped or even killed. If they’re released with a felony conviction on their record they’ll be lucky to ever get a job again. For some ex-cons it would have been a mercy if they were just gassed the day they got caught with marijuana.

This is what American police are ordered to do to the civilian population, and they wash their hands of the blood of the civilians they sacrifice to the industrial prison system by saying, “It’s not our place to question the law, only to enforce it.”

Well that’s not good enough. Where do all those laws the police vow to uphold come from and what gives them validity? The laws were written by politicians and hold validity for the same reason money holds value: By active or passive consent, the majority of the population has made a social contract with each other to agree to give politicians the authority to pass laws and assign value to money.

The Gestapo had their orders that came down the chain of command from the highest level politicians in their government too, but no reasonable person would argue that every rule Hitler told his police to follow was automatically and unquestionably valid simply because the leader of the government said so. People are just people no matter what man-made rank they wear. Things people say or write are just things people say or write. The American Declaration of Independence said the rights of man are self-evident and exist regardless of any laws written by men, even if those men are kings. The only way we can know these unwritten rules is by reason, not faith. Thus it’s up to the individual to think for themselves to determine whether or not the laws of their land are just.

This is all good and well for the average citizen who isn’t in any position to push their morals on other people, but the point becomes poignant for police who are charged with the responsibility of enforcing a canned version of morality on all the citizens within their jurisdiction. This issue becomes even more poignant the more power the police have to fine, detain, imprison, black list, beat and kill citizens without facing any repercussions.

The American people have already told their government they want Marijuana legalized, and the president literally laughed at them.  If elected politicians won’t honor the social contract then who else is there to stand up for the citizens who have to suffer the indignity and danger of unjust laws and an inhumane prison system? The only people standing between the citizens and the unjust laws are the police who enforce those laws. The police are the first line of defense against tyranny, and by rights the police should serve the interests of the public over the interests of politicians. Police officers’ pay checks come from taxes, and their authority comes from the social contract they have with the people they’re charged to protect. Politicians are simply servants who try to manage the affairs of the nation. They’re not masters or gods.

You still may not be convinced though. You still may be saying, “But you simply can’t make it a categorical imperative that every cop should enforce whatever laws they personally feel are just, because that would just result in anarchy.” As true as that may be, what’s the alternative? If we make it a categorical imperative that cops should never be able to exercise their own judgment then that literally makes them slaves, and that gives their leaders unlimited power to oppress the civilian herd. That doesn’t immediately make civilians slaves, but if the executive and judicial branches of government can use thugs to force civilians to follow rules they don’t believe in then you can’t say those civilians are free.

We don’t have to choose between a praetorian slave state or anarchy, but if civil servants aren’t allowed to question the morality of their actions then we’re well on our way to a police state.

However you felt about this post, you’ll probably feel the same way about these:

Police and the Law

Occupy Wall Street

3 responses to “Is it moral for police to not enforce laws they believe are unjust?




  • also known as: Brian

    The term “marijuana” is disparaging; it is a word that was manufactured in the 1930′s to create confusion between a “new deadly drug” and the cannabis plant’s flowers that had been well known and used for thousands of years. The term is also racist, as it was also created to demonize its use in the minority groups (to make the white majority fearful of what the other races might do while ‘high’ from it). Please edit this post to remove the derogatory word. If you stand for truth and lifting the veil of ignorance, then please help educate others on this common blight… and please never use the ‘mj’ word again – it’s just as bad as any other racial slur, except for the fact that it is directed at a plant instead of a person. The poor plant can not defend itself alone. We must protect it from all harm.


    There is a tiny organization called LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. It’s nice that a few current and ex cops were not completely brainwashed by our corrupt education system and their official training. But it’s really not enough. Isn’t it ironic that the prohibition of alcohol, which makes people violent, was fought for and won by gangsters… but cannabis, which makes people peaceful, is continually beat up like the nerd on the school playground? Wars aren’t won by words; but with action. How could we peacefully reverse the war on this natural medicine? We can’t. So then, who will fight our war for us? LEAP? NORML? ASA? Talk is cheap, and ununified groups are even cheaper.


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