As I’ve said before, it sometimes helps to understand human behavior from a tribal perspective.
When the human animal finds himself in uncertain or stressful situations, his default behavior is to seek refuge with his own kind. The tribe can be an ethnic group, a college fraternity, one’s religious denomination, or even a profession (like law enforcement).
It’s “us” vs. “them,” a mindset reinforced by initiation rituals as well as mandatory loyalty to the group.
Our constitution is a framework of codes designed to protect society from this all-too-natural tendency, especially when it exhibits itself in the institutions of government.
We are a nation of laws, not of men, and the idea of fairness and equality under those laws is the animating ideal that binds us together. It’s why the president swears his fealty to the constitution, and not to the people of the United States.
It is an ideal—not a reality—because men are not perfect. But it is why we feel such a deep sense of wrong when abuses like the recent Hollywood police fabrication occur. The deliberate flouting of our common code is not just an offense to the motorist who was hit by the policeman, but to everyone.
The authority those law enforcement officers wield is conferred by the rest of us. They threw it in our faces in the name of protecting one of their own.