World Affairs Brief, February 28, 2003
Copyright Joel Skousen
INCREASED FEDERALIZATION OF STATE LAW ENFORCEMENT
The first state government in the US has bought into the latest plan to federalize
local police forces in support of the war on terror.
Ostensibly in order to facilitate crossing state lines in pursuit of terrorists, North
Carolina became the first state to allow local police forces to become federal
This week in Charlotte, NC, 35 local police officers and sheriff's deputies took the
oath to become federal marshals. All are part of the Mecklenburg County's Advanced
Local Emergency Response Team (ALERT), another seamless Federal/state task force put
into place after Sept 11, 2001.
The blurring of the lines between federal and state law enforcement is occurring in
other areas of the country as well. In Los Angeles, the Police Commission approved a
request to shift 105 police officers to the new homeland security and special
operations units. As we might expect, these officers will conduct surveillance,
investigate federal crimes related to terrorism, and assemble detailed files on
potential terrorist targets, foreign and domestic.
This has ominous implications for civil rights (in the original sense of the term,
denoting the rights of the citizenry). The clear lines of jurisdiction drawn in the
Constitution between federal and states' responsibilities are critical to maintain if
the states are to fulfill their role as a check on excessive federal power. Citizens
need their state governments to stand as a second barrier to swat team take downs and
task force maneuvers that run roughshod over civil rights.
Once local law enforcement becomes a mere extension of various federal agencies, such
secondary safeguards will no longer exist, especially as the local courts become
co-opted by federal rules as well.