On a Scale

We have all been asked that question in some form or another… On a scale from 1 to 10 how would you rate…? In 1978, I received my first collegiate ring. With a stone of deep blue, it was crested on its center with the scales of justice, reflective of my degree in criminal justice. The scale of justice is held high in the one hand of Lady Justice, who is blindfolded and carrying a sword in her other hand. Blind to preference, to position, status, race or creed, wealth or poverty; she remains in our history as a noble representative of what our system of justice should be. I know many noble minded persons who have dedicated their lives to being certain that the scales of justice are, in fact, balanced before the weight of true and tested evidence can be brought before determiners of guilt or innocence. Her shelforiginal name in the Latin is Justitia, the Roman goddess of justice and she is often accompanied by Prudentia the goddess whose name is contracted from providentia the ability to see the future as a sage might discern how best to proceed.  Representing the ideal of governing and disciplining oneself by reason, Prudentia’s accoutrements of a mirror and a snake allude to careful reflection and caution in moving forward. The Greek’s, whose gods and goddesses aligned with most of the Roman’s, called Prudentia ϕρονησιϛ (https://fellowshipoftheminds.com/tag/prudence-latin-prudentia) which is now usually translated as practical wisdom or rational choice. Together the pair would call for a careful weighing of all evidence upon the merits of each, alone and then choosing the best course for discipline.

What brought me to consider Lady Justice was a set of the scales of justice which I own. I was looking over a few items that adorn the library area of my study when it caught my eye. There sits, front and center the scales of justice and above it is the American and Christian flags, two symbols of my heritage, my faith, and my loyalty. Immediately to the left of the American flag is a copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Immediately to the right of the Christian flag is a Bible from my father, which was given to him by a military chaplain, as he was recovering from wounds received when his ship was sunk off the coast of Normandy, June 6, 1944. Also there, among a few of the memories of my police and military service, stand three American Eagles from a larger set. These three are titled, “Courage Honor Sacrifice”, “Never Surrender” and “Never Forget”. The trio set the tone for what this small display means to me.

Among the books visible in the photograph are ones from the Ohio Retired Police Chiefs’ Association, a book from my time at the FBI National Academy and a book from my basic training days with the United States Air Force. More than my article or the information about me inside these books, each reminds me of people that reflect the titles carried by the three eagle sculptures.

Two retired chiefs, one who was gone before the Ohio Retired Police Chiefs Association was born and another who has been the heartbeat of the organization and the motivation behind many of my writings on honor within our ranks. They represent well Courage, Honor, Sacrifice. One was Chief George Ziga of the Alliance, Ohio Police Department and the other Chief Marion Taylor of the North Olmsted, Ohio Police Department. Near death, Chief Ziga admonished me, a young chief then, to stay true to my God, my values, my family and my profession. Anyone who ever knew Chief Ziga would tell you he represented the model for each of those objectives. Knowing Chief Taylor, his professionalism is informed by his Christian faith.

From the NA came a man, an FBI Special Agent, that I got to know while he was an instructor at Quantico. Now, a plaque and an annual service award commemorate his service which ended while on special assignment in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war in the mid-1990’s; less than ten years since I first met Livio A. Beccaccio. He is the epitome of Never Surrender. The award named for him is inscribed as follows: “The Livio A. Beccaccio Award is a living memorial presented to a FBI National Academy Associate member who has demonstrated exemplary character through an act of heroism, outstanding community service, innovation in law enforcement, or leadership reflective of that by which FBI Special Agent Livio A. Beccaccio lived.”

(http://www.fbinaa.org/FBINAA/About_Us/Awards___Scholarships/FBINAA/Members_Only/Awards_and_Scholarships.aspx?hkey=0346bbf8-a0ce-4a5b-87cc-65f5ffb87148)

Finally, from my days at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas, at the tail-end of the Vietnam War, a SSgt who took on a rag-tag flight of trainees, who had been to hell and back with our first TI who suffered severely with PTSD in the days of Vietnam when such a diagnosis was unknown. He was likely tagged as ‘shell shocked sergeant’ who probably never received any help. Our second TI, SSgt Gillam was a man of character and morals who knew his own true north. He took us from not knowing which end of the rifle the bullets exited to men prepared to move on in training and ready to head into harm’s way, if so ordered. He had seen and understood the cost of Vietnam and he stands strong as a model airman to never forget our POWs & MIAs, all our veterans, but particularly those from Vietnam; nor would SSgt. Gillam ever expect us to forget 9-11. Four men who represent the strength of the U.S.A.’s justice.

The bedrock of our criminal justice system, here in America, rests upon the scales of Lady Justice. Our honor is passed as a torch from those chiefs who took their oath with their hand upon the Bible and their hearts indwelt by the God of that Bible. Our freedom comes from the sacrifices like Livio Beccaccio, thousands of other fallen officers and even more men and women who don the shield every day and stand that thin blue line. Our heritage is passed to our next generations when we remember those who fought valiantly on foreign shores and here at home to keep the flag of America flying high.

Just as the banner of red and white stripes and shining white stars on a field of blue continue to fly and represent the most blessed nation on the face of the Earth, so too must our faith in the One Lord God who made us One in Him, compel us to live by faith and not by sight. We will always know times of trouble in our land and often they come from our own actions or our failure to act. But we, as citizens of America and saints of the Kingdom of God can know that Christ has already won the final victory. He calls us to remain faithful to our calling and to take up our cross and follow Him!

I know that there isn’t some fantasy goddess who holds the scales of justice in her hands. God’s Word informs me that it is Christ who brings justice. Isaiah prophesied and Matthew recorded Jesus quoting the prophet, ““Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles.” (Matthew 12:18 NKJV) Speaking of the role of police officers, Jesus also said, “For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4 NKJV)

It should be no wonder to us that, as I thought about those items on my shelf, those men came to mind in such a context. Each one of them were men of faith. They lived out remarkable witnesses because of that faith. Not one would claim any greatness on his own and certainly none would lay any claim to being anything apart from what they are within the Lord.

Law enforcement today is much maligned by the liberal media. Christians are too. Both are in good company since Christ, Himself, was counted among the criminals, scoffed at, beaten and abused. In America, the system may not be perfect, still though, the admonition of John Adams, a founding father and president concerning our legal system is upheld. “Better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man convicted.” The scales of justice balance out pretty well. Compared to other places I have seen firsthand, I’m proud to live and have served in America’s criminal justice system where restoration is possible for those who choose wisely. Likewise, for those who choose unwisely, there are consequences. On a scale of 1 to 10… I’ll score a ten that I’d rather be tried for something I’ve been alleged to do here in the United States than anywhere else in the world. I praise God that my life and my family are under the protection of American police officers and I thank Him daily for every single one of them and pray for their safety.

 

Citizenship 101

Recent events and discussions with persons that one would think would have a reasonable education and thereby an awareness of how the Constitution is to be applied in a nation governed by law have led me to question whether such ideals are truly understood. What seems to be lacking is an understanding of the responsibility, better yet, the obligation or duty that every citizen has to uphold the laws of their nation. Citizens have a duty to change unjust laws by appropriate legislation and see to it that government officials who are alleged to have abused their office are charged in a court of law.  I would expect that reasonably educated people today would understand those principles of citizenship. Experience has shown me that is not necessarily the case. Persons of more than average intelligence and education seem to have become ignorant of the duties of a citizen in a nation that is established by laws. So, to do a small part to try to alleviate the ignorance that so easily besets us as a people here in the United States, I offer this primer on citizenship.

A good place to begin, I think, is the oath that someone who is becoming a citizen of the United States is required to take. Certainly, it is taken voluntarily.  Simply put, if they do not wish to take the oath or abide by the law of the land then, they are free to live somewhere else on the globe but not in the United States of America. That is a refreshing notion for those who have been born citizens of the USA and have little esteem for our Constitution or our laws. They should be free to, in fact encouraged to, find someplace else on the globe where they would like to live.

Here is the oath. It is simple yet, of great depth.

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

Since this is a primer, I won’t assume that the oath was completely clear to the reader. Here are the basic points. The citizen-to-be declares that they will:

  1. Support the Constitution;
  2. Renounce and abjure absolutely and entirely all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which the applicant was before a subject or citizen;
  3. Support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;
  4. Bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and
  5. Bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; or
    B. Perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; or
    C. Perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law.

For the sake of brevity in this primer, I will focus on only one point.

“I will support… the Constitution”

The Constitution is not a very long document, even so, let us look just at the Preamble, the introduction if you will, of the document a citizen of the United States has a duty to support. The Preamble reads:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The purposes:

  • to form a more perfect, a better union between the individual sovereign states
  • establish Justice
  • insure domestic Tranquility
  • provide for the common defence (old English spelling)
  • promote the general Welfare
  • secure the Blessing of Liberty
    • to ourselves and our posterity

Notice that certain words are capitalized, not by me but in the document: Justice, Tranquility, Welfare (that doesn’t mean a government check on the first of the month or food stamps) and Blessings of Liberty – One can assume that these are important to our Founding Fathers, of these, perhaps we should take special note.

Justice – everyone equal under the law – meaning that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Sometimes, in the defense of one’s own or another’s life, a person may be killed in the commission of a crime so the actions of the person taking his life will be judged before the court, even if it is a police officer, the court has jurisdiction… and what applies to the perpetrator of the crime also applies to the officer – ‘innocent until proven guilty’ EVERYONE equal under the law.

Tranquility – the ability to live our lives in peace, without fear of coercion from the government or threats of violence from those who do NOT follow the law. Who is to have a tranquil life – if the Constitution is ruling? The answer is EVERY citizen. Every citizen whether they be brown, black, white, gay, straight, Buddhist or Baptist. What may surprise those with whom I cannot apparently communicate well is that EVERY also includes COPS! Every person should be able to go to their work peacefully and expect to return to their homes at the end of their work, peaceably, to retire and live peacefully. Yes, certain professions such as cops have accepted risk but that does not mean to be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. Perhaps an example will make my point better than I can communicate it…

If I am living next to Joe, he and I should EXPECT that we can live in our neighborhood together, peacefully – in Tranquility. But, sometimes things happen. Perhaps Joe does not like the way I mow my grass in circles rather than in strips. So one day, Joe walks over to me and punches me in the nose. He has the right to swing his fist… I mean, it’s his fist! BUT, his right to swing his fist STOPS where my nose BEGINS! My nose has a right, as a part of me, to live my life in Tranquility and that does NOT include Joe’s fist to my nose!

Now, I have been assaulted. Under a nation of LAWS, I have a legal right to swear out a complaint and have Joe arrested. However, if Joe keeps pummeling me and I cannot get away, I have right to self-defense. But, in this case, Joe punches me once in the nose and then goes back home. I do NOT have the right to now walk over to Joe’s house and punch Joe in the nose. In a nation of laws, my DUTY to uphold the law is to follow the procedure and swear out a complaint.

ALSO, I do NOT have the right to go across the street from my house and punch Fred in the nose because Joe punched me in the nose. Fred has a right to his own domestic Tranquility and he doesn’t even mow his lawn so, he has nothing in this dispute between Joe and me. I cannot punch FRED for any reason but I particularly cannot punch FRED for something JOE did – EVEN IF Fred is Joe’s brother!

Someone brings the argument that because Joe goes around punching people in the nose (even though he only did it once to me) that Fred DESERVES to be hit because he is Joe’s brother. In fact, Fred has hundreds of brothers, maybe thousands. Fred and Joe’s father was a very well-liked guy and they have lots and lots of brothers. A few of the brothers are just like Joe. Every once-in-awhile, they punch someone in the nose – at least that’s what someone said to somebody who reported it to a news outlet… We don’t really know for sure how many of Joes’ brothers ever really did punch somebody and we don’t know if it might have been self-defense but, in today’s thinking, that doesn’t matter.

So – according to today’s reasoning, ANYONE at all, even if they never met me or do not know me at all and never met anyone else who happened to have been punched by another brother of Joe’s – ANYONE has the “right” to not respect ANY of the brothers! In fact, if the brothers who do punch people would stop, then maybe, ANYONE might respect the other brothers too… but since they don’t respect them, even though the other brothers have never punched anything but a timeclock in their whole lives – ANYONE can go out and punch any of the brothers in the nose anytime they want to – it is all the brother’s fault because Joe and some of the others have punched somebody somewhere at some time – we think – at least that is what the media told us, we don’t have any real facts – but we don’t need them –

One of the other things ANYONE who is punching the other brothers’ noses seems to forget is that UNDER A NATION of LAW: 1. Even if Joe is accused of punching me in the nose, he is still innocent until proven guilty and 2. All the other brothers (the non-hitting ones) they have a RIGHT under the LAW to live in domestic Tranquility. They might be Joe’s brother but they are CITIZENS too and THEY HAVE RIGHTS TOO! 3. By punching people’s noses ANYONE is breaking the law! EVERY citizen has a DUTY to NOT break the law. When they do THEY are the criminals.

For the sake of time, let’s look lastly at: secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity. What does that mean? It means, simply, that EVERY citizen of the United States has a right to work hard, strive to learn, achieve some reward for your labor, to be able to travel wherever and whenever one desires (as long as one has the means – that is the money, a car and the privilege to drive that car – without being harassed or abused, to work to save money and retire peacefully – if health permits to enjoy a quiet Tranquil life and that we will pass these same benefits of living in a Nation of Laws to our children and to their children…

Are some people harassed when they drive? – that likely happens though I do not have facts and figures to substantiate it, some things are true in common knowledge even if they aren’t – Accepting that it likely happens, what may be surprising is that it happens not just to people of color but it happens to young people – because of their age, it happens to older people – because of their age; it happens to people of certain sexual inclinations or even religious affiliations – Bad things happen, sadly, all the time; but they can happen to just about ANY citizen. Do some have it happen to them disproportionately? I’m certain they do; but I don’t have numbers to prove it. Here is the point though about being a nation of LAWS.

Those who are harassed in any way whatsoever have a legitimate LEGAL recourse for the settlement of their grievances. In an open court with a trier of the FACTS and with appellate courts to oversee them – their grievances can be redressed. That is a Blessing of Liberty.

The excuses come – the courts are crooked… it costs too much… no one will believe me … Well, in part its true, the system isn’t perfect; but, it is still the LAW and without the LAW there is anarchy. Remember ANYONE from our example? In anarchy, ANYONE who feels that they have been grieved (or even just someone else they don’t even know has been grieved and they somehow feel a kinship to those folks) – can go out in a public street and murder persons who are COPS, LEGAL representatives of the GOVERNMENT that ANYONE has sworn to support. ANYONE is murdering these INDIVIDUALS who are CITIZENS themselves with RIGHTS of their own and HUMAN BEINGS with people who love, need and will greatly miss them.

The Thin Blue Line is the symbol of law enforcement. It’s meaning is very appropriate today. The Thin Blue Line represents that very thin line between civilization and anarchy. Those who are flaunting the law are doing so by trying to destroy the only line that is preventing anarchy from reining in our streets. If injustice is perceived as widespread today just wait until anarchy erases the Thin Blue Line. Who will you call for help then?

For a person who is a citizen of the United States of America to say that another citizen need not obey the law against murder of a fellow human being only because other human beings of a similar job title may have offended, hurt or even killed someone illegally RATHER THAN saying that the citizen who is the aggrieved has a legal remedy and that remedy is the only appropriate avenue for the redress of grievances in a civilized society is, in effect, speaking treason because the ultimate result of such anarchist thinking is the demise of the United States.

In the first century A.D., Rome ruled the known world that is today most of Europe, the Mediterranean, Balkans, through the Middle East. The rulers were cruel and unjust. Local representatives of the government did whatever they pleased to whomever they pleased, including killing anyone who got in their way. A particularly fond target for harassment, threats, assaults, rapes, robberies and murder were Christians. Those who claimed the Name of Christ may as well as hung a target on their back with a death warrant in their pocket. Paul, a missionary and Apostle of the church was an outspoken, driven man. He faced the Roman persecution head-on and was beaten and jailed many times because of it. Paul wrote to the churches, specifically to the church in Rome and rallied them with how they should respond to the ‘open season’ that had been declared against them. Here are his words:

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9-21 NKJV)