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Our Oath of Office: A Solemn Promise

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 78 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2009 Pages: 23-32
Jonathan L. Rudd J.D.
Date Published
September 2009
10 pages
This article discusses the history and purpose of the oath that every law enforcement officer in the Nation has taken upon entering his/her profession, i.e., to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Article VI of the Constitution itself requires that both Federal and State officers of all three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial) take an oath to support the U.S. Constitution. Unlike the presidential oath, the particular wording of the oath is not specified in the Constitution, only the requirement that an oath be taken to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. The exact wording of the oath has been determined by the Federal and State legislatures. Through the U.S. Constitution, the founding fathers sought to create a balanced government based on constitutional principles. The U.S. Constitution consists of only seven articles that embody the fundamental principles of popular sovereignty, separation of powers, and federalism. It allows for a process of amendment and provides a system of checks and balances. This article discusses these principles and how they apply to modern law enforcement. The focus is on the Bill of Rights and the 14th amendment (the due-process clause from which criminal procedure has emerged). Over time, the U.S. Supreme Court has selectively incorporated most of the provisions of the Bill of Rights and applied them to the States, thereby unifying fundamental criminal procedure law throughout the United States. Currently, every law enforcement academy in America provides training in constitutional law, because virtually every aspect of an officer's job pertains to constitutional limitations on the authority of government in relation to the rights of the individual. Also, every time officers prepare an affidavit and request approval of a warrant, they are adhering to the constitutional principle of checks and balances. 36 notes