I have never been a cop, but I truly admire them. It is a great career. And anyone that is willing to run toward the danger is to be respected. But what I want to write about here is investigative work. In my mind, this is the highest level of police work. I suspect that most people that go into police work aspire to be investigators.
The latest scandals involving the FBI, the DEA, the NSA, and the ATF, trouble me greatly. Especially since three of those agencies are domestic policing agencies. The time was, and it was not too long ago, that when a crime happened or if it was suspected that a crime was being planned, the proper investigative machinery got into gear and did their job. They put people on the street. They sought out informants. They turned forensic scientists loose with all of the solid evidence that they could find. When and if they found that they had reasonable cause, they would go before a judge asking for the appropriate warrants.
Once the warrants were issued, they could bring the investigation to the next level with wire taps, search and seizure, tracking and who knows what all else. Conclusions would be reached by those most qualified. These conclusions would be brought before a grand jury. If the case was made, indictments would be handed down. Arrests would be made. Finally all involved would be brought to a trial by a jury of their peers. That system may be complicated and slow, but protections were in place and the Constitution was respected.
Today there are many more powerful tools available. We are facing, not only domestic crime, but also international terrorism so the pressure is on to prevent or prosecute both. Wide nets and shortcuts are appealing. There seems to be an attitude of "whatever it takes to get the job done". It cannot be that way.
Americans are a generally law abiding people who value their privacy and the security of their homes. Their phone calls and emails are inviolable. They are protected against illegal search. The Constitution says so and the Constitution is the highest law of the land. There is nothing in the Constitution that allows the FBI to give a free pass to some criminals to prosecute crimes against Americans just to make the FBI's job easier. The use of snitches is fine, just keep them straight or arrest them.
The NSA doesn't have Constitutional consent to tap everyone's phone and computer, much less to take what they gather and disseminate it to other agencies. Foreign calls and identified enemies of the state, fine. The Patriot Act gives them that right. The rest of us, not so fine.
Get boots on the street, do the research, investigate. Law enforcement agencies shouldn't have to be reminded what the law is. They represent the law. American citizens must not be their victims. There are enough real bad guys out there for them to pick on. And that is the joy of police work.