Jonah Goldberg

Now, I agree that cops should follow the law just like everyone else. I just don't understand how Reynolds and so many others get from there to the idea that punishing cops requires rewarding people like Herring. According to the exclusionary rule, a cop who breaks the rules to arrest a serial child rapist should be "punished" by having the rapist released back into the general public. (Or as Benjamin Cordozo put it in 1926 when he was a New York state judge, "The criminal is to go free because the constable has blundered.")

But the officer, while frustrated, isn't really punished. The people punished are the subsequent victims and their families.

Reynolds and others say police should be subject to the same laws as other citizens and public servants. I agree. But if a husband runs a red light to get his pregnant wife to the hospital, she's not turned away because he broke the law. Or, imagine if a health inspector had the wrong address on his paperwork and rummaged around the wrong restaurant, only to find a roach and vermin infestation the likes of which are rarely seen outside of an Indiana Jones movie. According to the logic of the exclusionary rule, the public should keep eating roach burgers and rat droppings because the eatery was illegitimately searched. That's cuckoo for cocoa puffs.

One answer -- really the only answer -- you hear about why we should treat criminals with more respect is that it's the only way to make government respect the rights of the innocent. I'm all for respecting the rights of the innocent, and I think police should be required to follow strict rules, have warrants and all the rest. But I don't see why cops who break the rules intentionally or unintentionally should be "punished" by having objectively guilty criminals let loose on society. I don't think zookeepers should abuse their animals, but nor do I think a zookeeper's abused polar bear should be set free in Midtown Manhattan. If Special Forces troops break the rules while capturing Osama bin Laden, I don't see why that should require letting bin Laden go and giving him a do-over.

If zookeepers, soldiers or cops break the rules, punish them -- criminally, civilly or administratively. But don't reward the scum of the earth with a get-out-of-jail-free card, particularly when that will result in truly innocent people being punished. Criminals didn't do anything right just because the cops did something wrong.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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