Employment rights permeate MPD case
In this country, the government cannot confiscate your property or take you into custody without giving you a chance to confront your accuser and argue your case. That, of course, is the heart of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads in part:
“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Those rights are protected for all of us, and the occasional abuses are outweighed by the importance of maintaining these bedrocks of personal freedoms in America. The storied history of the 14th Amendment, dating back to 1868, is interwoven among issues ranging from slavery to voting rights, from racial segregation to women’s athletics, from political freedom of speech to today’s gay marriage movement.
All well and good, you say, and rightfully so. But for law enforcement and the justice system, accommodating 14th Amendment rights is a demanding responsibility. At times, it seems that criminals have more rights than their victims, and the resulting frustration for citizens runs just as deep, if not deeper, within the justice system.
We all recognize the tensions, and can debate the pros and cons of this situation. What we forget, at times, is that these same 14th Amendment protections are extended in various ways to rights of public employment.
Legal theories supported by solid case law grant “property rights” and “liberty rights” related to public employee jobs. The government, in general, cannot demote or terminate a public employee without “due process,” a catch-all term that has been extended to include protection from public exposure. And again, there are frustrations among citizens and the government itself.
This is not, as you might have guessed, just idle contemplation of complex and little-understood areas of public employment law. Rather, it is added context to the current controversy surrounding McMinnville Police Department and its high-profile case alleging excessive force by an officer.
Since law enforcement is where daily applications of the 14th Amendment occur, it’s no surprise that rights related to public employment are taken seriously by that system. That’s something to remember while waiting for what the late Paul Harvey called “The Rest of the Story.”
Jeb Bladine can be reached at email@example.com or 503-687-1223.