Ex-DEA agent discusses role of cops

MARQUETTE – How important are individual freedoms when faced with the task of effectively policing the public?

That’s a question with no easy answer, as Northern Michigan University students discovered Tuesday afternoon, when former Drug Enforcement Administration agent Judy McCarver guest spoke in their criminal justice class.

“Any civilized country has limits on your behavior,” she told the class. “There’s things we just can’t do.”

McCarver cited laws concerning jaywalking or taking a pet dog certain places within the city as examples of restrictions on behavior.

But when do those restrictive laws go over the line?

McCarver said a delicate balance between the protection of freedoms and enforcing the law will be a daily challenge for those students planning on entering law enforcement at any level.

And as legislators and policy makers continue to make changes to laws, she said it’s important for everyone to come together.

“All too often, all the parties come to the table ready to rumble,” McCarver said. “There are highly explosive controversial issues. … We’re talking about some more really difficult decisions we’re dealing with in policy making today in organizations across the country and in the world. … Somewhere, we have to have a starting point.”

The class covered several topics Tuesday, ranging from a Netherlands policy of providing drugs to heroin addicts in an effort to keep them off the streets to the handling of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Tsarnaev was not read his Miranda rights upon his arrest, and many made the case he should be handled as an enemy combatant – a designation never before given to a United States citizen.

For criminal justice professor Kevin Waters, whose class McCarver spoke to, the bombings brought back memories of Oklahoma City.

Waters, also a former DEA agent, was working with McCarver in Oklahoma City in 1995 when Timothy McVeigh set off a truckload of explosives outside the Alfred P . Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people, including 19 children under the age of 6.

“For some reason, (Boston) really reminded me a lot of Oklahoma City,” Waters said.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.