Written By: Reverend Anton Sawyer
As time progresses, it's becoming more apparent that Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is going to run for president in 2024. And to be honest, I think he stands an excellent chance of winning the party nomination. Between showing his true snowflake center with the WOKE bill, and his manipulation of the Florida education system to ensure that gay people will never have a voice in the classrooms, his ideologies are peak conservative. In fact, because of his loyalty to the party and its causes, many talk show pundits have begun referring to the governor as "Heavy D." Because of his meteoric rise in the ranks, I think it’s crucial that people be aware of what he’s been up to as it could give us a glimpse into what a nation being run by DeSantis would look like.
And the way he’s treating law enforcement should completely terrify everyone.
Though the Republicans like to throw around the catchphrase that they are the “party of law and order,” as you’re about to find out, the laws and orders that DeSantis wants to enforce aren’t based on what is best for his constituents. Rather, the laws which DeSantis is pushing for enforcement are based solely on what will help push the overall party narrative most effectively. From ignoring basic rights all the way to using mafia-like tactics to silence potential “troublemakers,” what DeSantis is allowing is utterly reprehensible. By combining what this potential Republican leader is doing with a Supreme Court whose history has been riddled with removing accountability for police when the actions of law enforcement run afoul of the constitution, you have the potential for a nation of cops running amok to protect and serve an agenda … not you, or the law.
So, let’s see exactly what Heavy D is up to …
In an attempt to maintain complete transparency, all research and statistical fact-checking for all articles can be found in the bibliography linked here.
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In August 2022 DeSantis announced he was suspending Andrew Warren, a Tampa-area elected state prosecutor who had indicated he doesn't intend to prosecute violations of the state's 15-week abortion ban or potential prohibitions on gender-affirming care for teenagers. DeSantis described Warren as "neglecting his duties," even though no such cases have actually been brought to him at this time. But according to the Orlando Sentinel, Warren is far from the only elected law enforcement official in the state making judgments about which laws to enforce. Numerous sheriffs throughout Florida have openly defied the state's gun laws—with no objection from DeSantis whatsoever. "Some elected sheriffs have suggested they wouldn’t enforce gun control measures, tapping into an ideology that sheriffs are the final arbiter of what is constitutional," reported Skyler Swisher. "But that movement hasn’t sparked action from Governor Ron DeSantis, who ordered a statewide review of state attorneys and their policy positions." Many of these sheriffs are part of a group called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which proclaims on its website that “The vertical separation of powers in the Constitution makes it clear that the power of the sheriff even supersedes the powers of the president.” DeSantis' inactions toward this group of Sheriffs show that there is at least one part of this proclamation the governor agrees with.
And this is only the beginning when it comes to DeSantis picking and choosing which sheriff’s actions are viewed as unseemly and worthy of repercussion.
Kimberly Musselman, an assistant state attorney in Brevard County, told Florida Today she was asked by Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey to bow out of her race for county judge and endorse a candidate backed by him. In exchange, the sheriff said he could use his influence to help her become the district’s top prosecutor, she said. After she refused, Ivey urged some of her biggest donors to drop their support, Musselman told Florida Today. “My donors dried up real quick,” Musselman said. In response to an inquiry, Tod Goodyear, a spokesperson for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, said in an email, “We are not commenting at this time.” Two other candidates for public office have made similar allegations to Florida Today.
And these intimidation tactics also extend from fellow officers to school resource employees who may not be toeing the proper line.
Cocoa Beach police officer Chris Hattaway said Ivey asked him to step aside for former state Representative Tom Goodson, another candidate in a county commission race. Shawn Overdorf, a former school resource officer, told a similar story about his race for school board. In exchange, both candidates were offered jobs in Goodson’s office if he won, Florida Today reported. The more you dig into what DeSantis is allowing, the more clearly it becomes that he fully believes in the ideologies presented by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association when it comes to the power of the sheriff.
However, as we’ve seen by the actions of the Supreme Court in the 2020s, a president can only do so much due to the SCOTUS powers of constitutional interpretation. The SCOTUS can undo decades of legal precedent with the flick of a pen and completely re-structure the American legal landscape. Because of this power, it’s important to glimpse into their history when it comes to their rulings involving law enforcement to see which trajectory the court might take in a DeSantis presidency.
Spoiler alert: it’s worse than what DeSantis is doing in 2022.
In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that police officers are NOT required to know the laws they enforce in the case of Heien v. North Carolina. In the case, we find that while following a suspicious vehicle, Sergeant Matt Darisse noticed that only one of the vehicle's brake lights was working and pulled the driver over. While issuing a warning ticket for the broken brake light, Darisse became suspicious of the actions of the two occupants and their answers to his questions. Darisse then searched the vehicle and found cocaine. Heien was arrested and charged with attempted trafficking. At trial in North Carolina state court, the trial court denied Heien's motion to suppress the seized evidence on Fourth Amendment grounds, concluding that the vehicle's faulty brake light gave Darisse reasonable suspicion to initiate the stop. The Court of Appeals of North Carolina reversed, holding that the relevant code provision, which required that a car be "equipped with a stop lamp," N.C. Gen Stat. Ann. § 20-129 (g) required only a single lamp—which Heien's vehicle had—and therefore the justification for the stop was objectively unreasonable. Reversing in turn, the state supreme court held that, even assuming no violation of the state law had occurred, Darisse's mistaken understanding of the law was reasonable, and thus the stop was valid. Heien was granted a writ of certiorari. The Supreme Court agreed that everything coming from an improper stop should be admissible by ruling against Heien.
What this all means in layman’s terms is that as long as the police officer admits in a court of law that they didn’t know the laws they were enforcing, even if the stop isn’t legal, anything and everything from the improper stop is admissible. I cannot imagine ANY moment when the founding fathers were drafting the documents that would comprise the backbone of America and upon their completion, recommending that those who enforce all these new laws don’t have to know them. It is important to remember that the mistake must be considered “reasonable.”
However, given the level that the 2022 ultra-conservative outcome-driven SCOTUS have already reached with upending personal rights, I'm sure their idea of “reasonable” and most everyone else is utterly askew.
Moving on to the next example, we find that in the 2005 case of Castle Rock V. Gonzales police are not required to “protect and serve.”
Several weeks after a state trial court in Colorado had issued Jessica Gonzales a restraining order against her estranged husband (which required him to remain at least 100 yards from the home in which Gonzales and her three daughters resided), Gonzales claimed that the husband allegedly, without notifying Gonzales, took the daughters while they were playing outside the home and killed them. Gonzales filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit alleging that the Town of Castle Rock had violated the Due Process clause of the Federal Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment when the town's police officers, acting pursuant to official policy or custom, had failed to respond to Gonzales’ repeated reports over several hours that her husband had taken the three children in violation of the restraining order. The United States District Court for the District of Colorado, concluding that Gonzales had failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted, granted the town's motion to dismiss.
On appeal, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit found that Gonzales had alleged a cognizable procedural due process claim and reversed the dismissal of her complaint. On rehearing en banc, the Court of Appeals, reaching the same disposition as had the panel, ruled that Gonzales had possessed a protected property interest in the enforcement of her restraining order. The Supreme Court ruled that Gonzales did not, for purposes of the due process clause, have a property interest in police enforcement of the restraining order.
In essence, the police knew there was a restraining order due to a violent ex. They were made aware that he was the primary suspect in the children’s kidnapping. They did nothing and as a result, the children were killed. This SCOTUS ruling shows that police aren’t liable if they do nothing more than enforcing the letter of the law—there is no protect and serve.
Keep in mind that both of these examples were from times when there wasn’t such a massive conservative bent on the Supreme Court—that the court wasn’t hell-bent on outcome-driven rulings. Knowing that the SCOTUS of the 2020s has a 6-3 conservative margin and has already overturned the 50-year precedent set by Roe V Wade, fear should be the only emotion felt by those who can see the writing on the wall when it comes to the future of law enforcement in America.
For years we have seen both police and those who write the laws morph law enforcement into something that is completely unrecognizable from the public image that they try to peddle to the masses. With the levels of non-accountability DeSantis and the Supreme Court have both shown when it comes to them enabling officers through their (in)actions, the thought of him winning the presidency—along with the powers of the highest court in the land backing him—will only further erode the small amount of trust between cops and civilians. In fact, I have a feeling that police will become so enabled by those who live in the highest towers that they will finally adopt an official motto: “shoot first, ask questions later.”
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