State and local police generally swear an oath to the United States Constitution, as civil service or uniformed service officers, stating: “I, officer name, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” This section does not affect other oaths required by law.
Language may include “… to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States [and of your state] against all enemies, foreign or domestic” so that state agencies are specifically named. This oath may be tested in an officer’s personal and professional life as evidenced by the increases in police brutality claims nationwide.
While the Constitutional framework addresses the exercises of power permitted under it, it has been assuming more powers that are not constitutionally-based in response to public demands for “action” to specific instances. Without the adaptation of spelled out amendments, these requested powers may not be legitimate and serve purposes that were never intended by the original legislation, based in part on the mechanisms of court outcomes that may be biased. As an officer of the law, any order received that is contrary to the Constitution of the U.S. or of your State is illegal. Compliance with such an order is not required, but may be and probably is illegal, and the issuance of such an order may be a crime, which obligates a law enforcement officer to make an arrest of the person issuing it.
Under federal law, 18 USC 242, it is illegal for anyone under the color of law to deprive any person of the rights, privileges or immunities secured by the U.S. Constitution, and under 18 USC 241 it is illegal to conspire to violate such rights. It is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. This could be applied to local, state, or federal law enforcement or military personnel who abuse the rights of citizens. Every state has a similar law.
If officers were to act in accordance with the oath they take when being sworn into civil service positions, the incidence of police misconduct and brutality might be decreased, in consideration of criminal prosecution for violations of U.S. Constitutional law that include police action against a citizen’s:
- 4thAmendment right to be free from unreasonable government searches and seizures;
- 8thAmendment right for inmates to live free from cruel and unusual punishments;
- 14thAmendment right to live free from excessive force while detained by the police.
Police brutality attorneys are well-versed in constitutional law and are often a good resource when citizens feel that a law officer has acted with brutality or in a way that constitutes misconduct against the oath they swore to uphold as police.