In a typical state, the police department should be a law enforcement agency responsible for providing security, besides promoting peace within the community and amongst its citizens. However, research shows that the department has, over the course of history, and at one time, remained unsatisfactory and substandard. The shortcomings and weaknesses have affected key areas like civil rights, constitutional due process, abuse of discretion, corruption, use of deadly force and police brutality, and police-community relations. In this paper, will chew over the constitutional due process as the main area regarding the history of the police department and stipulate how and when the police can go out of order in their duties.
Constitutional Due Process
Also considered as a substantive due process, it is a principle of constitutional law that allows courts to protect specific rights that are viewed fundamentally from government interference. Due process clauses of both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution are main sources of court’s authority for such protection. These clauses prohibit state and federal governments from depriving any citizen of “life, liberty, or property, without the application of law processes” (Gaines et al., 2001, p.90).As such, the due process clause prohibits the government from acting unfairly or arbitrarily. The government should never rely on impulse and individual judgment in the decision-making process. Rather, it must stay confined within the boundaries of reason and law.
So as to understand the due process, one must consider the substantive due process and the procedural due process. In line with procedural due process, the law must be carried out in a fair and orderly method. Certain procedures have to be followed when administering or executing a law to avoid the violation of an individual’s freedom. These procedures, nevertheless, cannot be of useful use if the laws are not reasonable themselves. Accordingly, the substantive due process takes effect to ensure that the laws are reasonable. It requires that the laws made by the legislature must be reasonable and reflective of public interests.
The police have broad powers to exercise their duties. However, it is evident that the constitution, clearly, places limits on how far they can exercise their powers. The police department has, in its history, occasionally surpassed these limits. For example, the videotaped beating of a motorist Rodney King, in Los Angeles, and other cases in New York illustrated that police have gone too far in enforcing the law(Palumbo et al., 1992). Most of the cases witnessed or reported in the past are an abuse of civil rights laws where the police used false arrest, malicious prosecution, excessive force, or even failed to intervene and protect individuals from constitutional violations by other officers.
In defense, victims of police defectiveness and deficiency regarding the constitutional due process can rely upon Section 1983 statute, which is intended to curb oppressive conduct by government and private individuals in vigilante groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
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