“Weren’t you once a police officer? Don’t you recall the oath you swore?” is a tweet from Peter Hitchens posted during a discussion about drug law reform. I assume that Mr Hitchens seeks to point out that my stance on drug law reform amounts to a breach of that oath (attestation) and is therefore not only wrong but dishonourable.
Here is that oath:
I (name) do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady the Queen in the office of Constable, without favour or affection, malice or ill will; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved, and prevent all offences against the persons and properties of Her Majesty’s subjects and that while I continue to hold the said office I will, to the best of my skill and knowledge, discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law.
I must say that when I first reflected on that oath (without reading it again) I thought that there might indeed be a conflict between it and my belief in drug law reform. I believe that prosecuting the drug law causes more harm than good and that the law should be changed to minimise harm from drug use and from laws designed properly to control and regulate their use. A prima facie case for the prosecution?
On further reflection, after reading the detail, I am content that I did and continue to honour that oath; for three reasons. First, while I agree that preventing “all offences against the persons and properties of Her Majesty’s subjects” is quite proper and reflects the “malum in se” nature of those offences, the act of drug taking is not evil in itself, only declared “evil” by the choice to make it illegal (“malum prohibitum”). The same applies to homosexuality or religious observance, for example. It would be wrong to prosecute people based on prejudice.
Second, if you think that explanation is no more than a quibble, after all the decision to make possessing drugs illegal has been made through due process, then I would invoke a second reason; it is wrong to uphold unjust laws and it behoves us all to change them.
Last, in order “to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved, and prevent all offences against the persons and properties of Her Majesty’s subjects” my judgement, backed up by considerable evidence, is that I can best achieve this by helping to end drug prohibition and create a fairer, more effective and less harmful system that is properly controlled and regulated.
I don’t expect everybody to agree with me, for example those who think drug taking is morally wrong and nothing but illegality will right that supposed wrong, or those who disagree with my analysis, but at least I have answered the questions (including the implicit one).
My conscience is clear.