Power tends to corrupt, wrote the editor of the Cambridge Modern History Lord Acton, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The secret police force established by the United States government in the course of the First World War, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was just granted control over a part of the Portland Police Bureau by a City Council resolution that was decided by the swing vote of Charlie Hales, the mayor. The remarks by our Mayor on that occasion revealed a total misapprehension of what happened in the recent bombing of the Boston Marathon [Mayor Hales appeared to be ignorant of the fact that the Joint Terrorism Task Force shutdown of the metropolitan Boston area cost millions, and helped not one whit in finding or taking into custody the bombers] — but that jumbling of facts and opinion is what we have come to expect from an elected official who when standing for election could not state accurately where he lived.
No, the worrisome part of Charlie Hales’s speech accompanying his vote to consign PPB officers to the Joint Terrorism Task Force run by the FBI under conditions withheld from the Police Commissioner of the City of Portland — at present, a position held by Mayor Hales (and so in effect allowing the federal government control over Portland Police officers without oversight by their titular chief) — is that in explaining his vote Charlie Hales denied the operative principle of what the nineteenth-century German political scientists dubbed the Rechtstaat: the government by law rather than men.
Our Constitution has written into it safeguards against power being entrusted to individuals on account of their personal charisma; we learn and recite them in junior high and subsequently, terming them “checks and balances.” The Framers explicitly and at length explained their arrangement as a precaution against the corruption brought by power. To this Charlie Hales seems quite oblivious, as he announced his vote to allow the FBI to use Portland Police officers in investigating, secretly, without reporting to the Police Commissioner, politically suspicious individuals in our city (here’s a current example: Black Lives Matter). He told the people of our city that he was voting to strip oversight of his own police officers assigned to the JTTF because he “trusted” the individuals who were to direct said secret investigations.
So, this morning, when the news arrived that the U.S. Attorney for Oregon who requested the assignment to the JTTF before the City Council is under investigation for (possibly sexually) harassing her subordinate, the intelligent observer can only reflect on the banal consequences of historical ignorance among present-day politicians in the U.S., as exemplified vividly by Charlie Hales and his “vote of confidence” in Amanda Marshall.
Alas. You know what you get when you devote allegiance to an individual leader, independent of any restraint of civil law? You could call it tyranny, you could call it fascism, or whatever pejorative noun you like. You get corrupt government. Which is what Charlie Hales has brought us.
Update: 14 May 2016 The Charlie Hales Administration has acted on the question of the protection of Human Rights in the depressingly long list of police human rights abuses in the last decade.
It has dissolved the Human Rights Commission, together with all its subcommittees, in particular the Citizens Police Relations Committee.
So much for our Mr Hales’ devotion to the rights of the homeless, the oppressed, the transients, and those harassed by the police in Portland.