The primary role of any government is the protection of the people and their property. To fulfill this fundamental mission, government at all levels requires public and robust debate, effective enforcement of the law, and a fully functioning judicial system. The failure of government to function at a basic level is detrimental to justice.
The current debate over defunding law enforcement agencies is highly charged on both sides, and it seems that everyone has an opinion. There is no question that decisions concerning proper funding levels for law enforcement are legislative matters to be decided by legislative bodies.
The decisions made by city and county governments to revise their budgets or reallocate resources will certainly impact the administration of justice. Adequately funded law enforcement is a condition precedent to a properly functioning judicial system that protects the innocent, punishes the guilty, and maintains the respect and confidence of the public.
The recruitment, retention, and training of qualified law enforcement officers is critical to the criminal justice system which depends on quality men and women to serve as police officers and sheriffs’ deputies. Departments are seeing an exodus of experienced and knowledgeable law enforcement officers. The loss of these public servants will lead to less-qualified, less-knowledgeable officers on the streets investigating and solving crime.
In addition, fewer resources will likely also mean less training and continuing education. This could lead to the arrest of innocent citizens, criminals not being held accountable for breaking the law, and victims of crime left without justice.
The requirements and regulations imposed on law enforcement are strict, and the responsibility and trust society places in the law enforcement community to protect liberty, preserve constitutional rights, and solve crime demands strict adherence to the law and procedure.
Someone recently said that police officers make more constitutional decisions on a daily basis than any judge. There is a lot of truth in that statement. So, whatever decision is made locally concerning appropriate funding levels, it will eventually affect the court system, the administration of justice, and your rights as a citizen.
Judge Phil Berger, Jr.
North Carolina Court of Appeals