Officer Greg Anderson of the Port of Seattle Police Department recently posted a video asking law enforcement officers to reconsider enforcing social distancing orders. First off, I offer my thanks to Officer Greg Anderson for his service in the Army and as a cop. I respect his insight as a combat veteran. However, his analysis of the situation here is quite flawed.
You can watch the video above. I will address some of his points. Furthermore, I will counter them where I believe he is wrong. I’ll start at 1:45 into the video.
Officer Greg Anderson appeals to the… Constitution?
He goes on to read from the Declaration of Independence. Your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. However, the Declaration of Independence isn’t part of the Constitution. Hence, those aren’t constitutional rights. Moreover, the document is not legally binding. Therefore it has no significance to his point about the duties of a law enforcement officer.
First Amendment Rights.
He is correct in his point about which rights the first amendment guarantees. However, he is wrong in his analysis. Earlier in his video, he points out that these orders come from mayors and governors. So let’s look at the text of the first amendment.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.First Amendment, United States Constitution
Notice, Congress shall make no law. Hence, the first amendment does not restrict a governor from issuing these orders. Only Congress. Thus, his point on the amendment invalidating state orders is false.
He may have a point on the fourth amendment. It’s not as clear cut here. However, I don’t think he’s accurate. First, you don’t need suspicion of a crime for a traffic stop. Most traffic stops are for civil violations. Speeding, failure to signal, etc. Secondly, cops pull truckers over all the time for paperwork inspections. Log book, bill of lading, and permit books. This is not a violation of the fourth amendment.
Thus, in the case of pulling someone over to check for essential status, the legality would depend on the type of violation. Is it a crime to violate the order? If so, probable cause or reasonable suspicion is necessary. However, if it is merely a civil violation, it likely wouldn’t be unconstitutional.
Officer Greg Anderson means well.
Officer Greg Anderson comes off as a good guy. Furthermore, he has fought for this country. Hence, I like and respect him. Moreover, he clearly means well. It is his intention to block tyrannical governmental overreach. This is a noble goal.
However, his analysis is flawed. His use of the Declaration of Independence as a legally binding document is inaccurate. Furthermore, his understanding of the First Amendment is flat out wrong. I believe that his understanding of the fourth amendment is equally faulty.
I feel badly that he appears to be losing his job. However, if you watch his Instagram video below, they seem to have tried to talk him down. He wouldn’t budge. Again, as we used to say in the Marines, good initiative. Bad judgment.
An officer who refuses to do his job is problematic. One who encourages others to join him in insubordination has to go. Thus, I believe his command made the right decision. Hopefully he lands on his feet. I wish him the best moving forward, but I just can’t agree with him here.