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May 14, 2022

Law Enforcement is Not a Profession

Well, it’s official. We no longer have to act as professionals on the job. At least, that is what a Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Stephen Hopkins believes. Of course, I am being a bit dramatic and flippant about what he meant. However, here is what he had to say about our “supposed” profession.

“Historically, law enforcement has not been thought of as a ‘profession.'”

If there has ever been a time for the Buzz Lightyear meme “Years of Training, wasted!” I cannot think of a better one. We spend years training and learning more about our chosen profession. Most of us work very diligently to maintain our skill-sets and acquire more. Some of us go to college and earn degrees in Criminal Justice. We learn, hone, study, and become subject matter experts in our craft. We are absolute professionals within our profession.

Judge Hopkins made his damning statement to maintain how Arizona’s Board of Executive Clemency is seated. Clarence Dixon, a death row inmate, and his lawyer filed a petition to suggest that the board is “illegal” due to its having too many law enforcement officers aboard.

Arizona state law clearly states, “No more than two members from the same professional discipline shall be members of the board at the same time.” Which, at first glance, is a good rule. Color me surprised that lawmakers passed a law that makes logical sense. The idea, of course, is that too many people with the same profession will think and respond alike, which can skew what should be an unbiased decision-making process. They are, after all, deciding a man’s life.

The current board has five seats. One of the seats is currently vacant, and three of the remaining four are occupied by career law enforcement officers.

So now we have an interesting legal pickle. A judge is trying to keep the board intact as it stands with more than two law enforcement officers by suggesting law enforcement is not a profession. On the other hand, we have a defense lawyer trying to keep a man off death row by arguing that law enforcement IS a profession. The defense is considering filing an appeal against the judge’s decision. I wish I could be there to see it. 2022 is relentlessly proving just how silly a time in history it can be.

By my calculation, we have law enforcement officers siding with a defense counsel for a death row inmate for the first time in modern history. All over whether or not law enforcement is a profession. What an exciting and contemporary era we live in. (Are you picking up the sarcasm because I am throwing it down pretty thick.)