Letter of the Law vs. Spirit of the Law

Are you using, “Letter of the law vs. Spirit of the law” while working in law enforcement? Most of you who are officers learned this term in the academy or perhaps while in the military. Either way, it is important each officer grow and develop in their job and hone the level of equilibrium needed while dealing with people or situations.  Yes, you may have the authority to enforce the law….to the letter,  but eventually you will be questioned not only by your administration but most likely in court by judges and lawyers over your decision to enforce the letter of the law.  Meaning, if as an example you stop a motorist for driving to slow on the freeway, in where the maximum posted speed limit is 55 M.P.H. and they were traveling 45 M.P.H.

If you cite the motorist for driving to slow and the motorist files a complaint on you, your sergeant will likely call you in the office.  Your sergeant will question you, it is called “letter of the law vs. spirit of the law” when making the decision to take action.  In the above example, it calls for using “spirit of the law vs. letter of the law” in most circumstances.  Now then, some may disagree with me here but it is merely an example and I am not telling you that  you may not cite a motorist for traveling to slow on a freeway.

What I am trying to say here is, when enforcing the law it is important to make good sound judgement decisions prior to taking enforcement action.  You see my friends, most people love the police like no tomorrow but…. they get pissed off when poor decisions are made by over zealous officers.  The way society looks at it is the police are busy and do not have time to enforce silly infractions.  Moreover, most people want the police to go out there and get the bad guys and give warnings to low level infractions.  I have to agree and would say law officers should focus on getting the bad guys and felony criminals if at all possible. Most departments have a traffic department and it is those traffic officers who play the big part of traffic enforcement.  Even so, the traffic department should use good balance and go by spirit of the law if at the time it fits.  Remember, if we do not have balance in police work things will work against us as society ultimately controls are very moves in law enforcement.

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