Through partnerships with federal law enforcement agencies, local cops can essentially obtain a license to kill.

In a recent article, I showed how local, state and federal law enforcement have increasingly morphed into one national police force, an unholy alliance sustained and incentivized by federal dollars, and homogenized through federal training programs.

These partnerships can also make it impossible to prosecute police officers who cross the line and engage in unwarranted acts of violence in the line of duty. Federal deputization of local cops essentially grants them a license to kill.

Under the auspices of the “supremacy clause,” federal courts have granted blanket immunity from prosecution to federal law enforcement agents.

In 1992, FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi gunned down Vicki Weaver during the infamous Ruby Ridge standoff. A confidential DOJ report condemned Horiuchi for taking the shot, but the feds declined to prosecute. In fact, government officials claimed putting Horiuchi on trial would have “an enormously chilling effect on federal operations, especially law enforcement.”

Undeterred, a state prosecutor charged the FBI sniper with manslaughter. But federal judge Edward Lodge ultimately ruled the state could not try Horiuchi because he was acting as a federal agent and therefore immune from prosecution in state courts.

Under normal circumstances, local police officers enjoy no such immunity. While they seldom take action, state prosecutors do have the option of charging state and local cops who use excessive force, or shoot somebody without justification. But federal partnerships completely change the dynamics. A local cop working on a federal task force increasingly enjoys the same blanket immunity from prosecution as federal agents themselves – a license to kill.

Consider the case of Larry Jackson Jr. in Austin, Texas.

Detective Charles Kleinert shot and killed Jackson during the investigation into a bank robbery that happened earlier that day. According to an account published in the Washington Post, Jackson showed up at the bank and gave the manager a false name. That prompted the bank manager to summon Detective Kleinert. After a few minutes of questioning, Jackson took off running, and Kleinert pursued. According to the Post, the officer commandeered a passing vehicle and continued the chase. When Kleinert caught up with the fleeing suspect, his gun discharged during the ensuing scuffle, hitting Jackson in the back of the neck and killing him.

Jackson was unarmed. His family characterized the shooting as an “execution.”

Texas state prosecutors charged the detective with manslaughter. Kleinert’s attorney got the case moved to federal court, and a week before the trial, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel wrote a 30-page ruling dismissing the manslaughter charge. Why? Because Kleinert was acting in his capacity as a member of a federal task force.

“From the time Kleinert began his conversations with Jackson until the time Jackson died, Kleinert was acting in his capacity as a federal officer. At all times, Kleinert was attempting to detain and arrest Jackson for committing federal offenses in Kleinert’s presence — actions that Kleinert was authorized by federal law to perform,” the judge wrote. ““The fact is that [Kleinert] was working in a federal capacity and carrying out his federal duties. So as long as he was acting in good faith, which he was, he is immune from state prosecution.” [Emphasis Added]

This license to kill represents just one more consequence of allowing the federal government to intertwine itself with policing. Police militarization and the evolving warrior mentality we see in our local cops as the feds enlist them more and more as soldiers in their unconstitutional “war on drugs” has led to ever-increasing police violence and dangerous military-style tactics. Now, even the flimsy check offered by the threat of state prosecution is eroding away.

These partnerships shouldn’t exist and they don’t have to. Your local police need to be local police, not agents of the federal government immune from prosecution on whatever they do “in a federal capacity.”

In fact, your state can prohibit them. The anti-commandeering doctrine offers us a powerful pry-bar that can disentangle state and local police from the federal government. Even the federal courts agree that the federal government cannot force states to enforce federal law or implement federal programs.

The direct ties between your local cops and the federal government must be severed. Nobody should have a license to kill.

Mike Maharrey

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