Respect for the Abilities of Law Enforcement

Not bringing the administration of law enforcement into disrepute should be a legislator’s consideration

Bringing the administration of justice into disrepute is a phrase much used by the judicial system and a concept entrenched in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It’s the bellwether challenge which has caused the re-writing of laws and is one of the tests all new laws must pass before coming into effect. No one has been unaffected by this far-reaching concept over the Charter’s history. It includes such things as jail house informants arrests and search warrants, to mention but a few.

As a corollary to this I believe the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should prohibit passing legislation that would bring the administration of law enforcement into disrepute. Now there’s a concept that is sure to never come into vogue. All too often law makers at all levels don’t consider this important factor and soon discover they just passed a law which does nothing but encourage law breaking as a routine way of life.

The legal test I suggest is for legislators to simply ask — “is this law enforceable?” Another way to put it; “do police have 1. the resources, 2. the ability, and, 3. the will, to enforce this suggested law?”

This would affect speed limits, traffic regulations and any other prospective federal, provincial or municipal legislation.

One need only point to recent indecision about drug laws, abortion and even fishing rights to find examples that could breach such a concept. Inability for law enforcement to work effectively with these laws has simply put them in a legal purgatory with no real solution as to how to enforce them effectively. Past victims of such lack of consideration are laws aimed at abortion, homosexuality, attempted suicide, adultery and prostitution to name but a few.

Politicians are adept at passing the buck when citizens complain by making or amending existing laws so the problem is shifted to the shoulders of law enforcement. A good example is dropping speed limits to such a ridiculous level that any police officer would be embarrassed to enforce them. A four-lane road with a centre left-turn core lane and two-metre wide boulevards posted at 50km/h, for example, or a cul-de-sac only 50 metres long with a posted 40km/h speed limit.

Then there’s the ubiquitous four-way stop signs posted every 100 metres over an entire subdivision. They are a national disgrace and the problem has become epidemic in many areas. The average motorist simply gives a bumper dipping nod to such intersections and then roars on to the next one. They are, in reality, viewed as a way to check excessive speeding. Something they were never intended to do. So why not make them four-way yield signs and leave stop sign laws for the fewer more dangerous intersections?

If enforcement levels were properly brought to bear, there would be no motorists without at least one ticket; and the tragic thing is that 95 per cent of these offenders feel they did nothing wrong.

We can now move on to the federal stage and look at the drug laws — or lack there of. How the feds handled such issues is a wonder to behold. At first they wanted to permit limited use of marijuana but didn’t want to legalize it. They simply want it to be… well… not legal without being illegal. This leaves officers with a bewildered look and scratching their scalps in disbelief.

In Canada they finally threw in the towel and legalized it nation-wide. But once again the legislators never considered how to enforce the newly controlled substance in any meaningful way. Enforcement and highway safety was never a concern. Legislators basically told cops to “deal with it.” Dumping the costs of control and enforcement to the provincial and mostly municipal level meant their hands were washed and clean of it all.

Any legislation created without the consideration of how it will be enforced is a doomed law from the start. A legislator needs to ensure that a law of convenience or expedience can be enforced before it’s passed. If it can’t pass the simple tests I propose, then perhaps it should be sent back to the drawing board. A little political courage might be in order as well.