Corrupt police, limited government and our sin nature

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. — Romans 3:10-12

Conservatives should read Kevin Williamson’s editorial about police corruption and apply our suspicion of big government to law enforcement as we apply that suspicion to agencies such as the EPA and IRS. Christian conservatives then need to go back to Scripture and read Romans 3:10-12, which I have helpfully quoted above, because we need to recognize a very important (indeed undeniable) fact: There are corrupt cops.

There are corrupt cops because humanity is stained by sin, by nature and by choice. There are corrupt cops just like there are corrupt accounting representatives, corrupt payroll clerks, corrupt pastors, corrupt janitors, corrupt judges, corrupt waitresses, corrupt cooks, and corrupt everything else. There is not something magical about being a police officer that excludes people who are corrupt, or people who are brutal, or authoritarian jerks, or just plain old bullies. We all have a sin nature and we are all prone to wickedness.

I understand the conservative knee-jerk reaction to defend police, especially having grown up in the tough-on-crime 1980’s and come of age in the 1990’s. After all, cops protect us from the worst of society, so how can some of them actually be evil? And to be sure, there are plenty of good, honorable police officers trying to serve the public as well as they possible can. I believe these represent the majority. But there are police officers who commit horrific abuses of power, framing innocent people for crimes while knowingly letting the guilty go free to commit more crimes.

We can respect and support the police while recognizing that there are not only bad apples, but there are actually entire departments that are utterly corrupt all the way to the core. This is why conservatives should support oversight and transparency, as well as meaningful reforms that protect due process and civil liberties while allowing the police to do their jobs without being micromanaged.

We should view the police as an agency that is necessary to protect the innocent, preserve public order and punish the guilty while still recognizing that police officers are human beings every bit as prone to sin as we are and therefore in need of oversight and limits on their authority.

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