Policy Change During Crisis

Presently, government programs require much flexibility based on existing law, policy, procedure and practice. Standard operating procedure follows these principles pretty well. It is when an emergency strikes that government is tested. As we have seen during recent weeks, violence has taken its toll. Law enforcement, the courts and elected officials struggle to respond to many demands.

Crisis, whether it be civil, regional or international, brings considerable challenge to our public institutions. Recent decades demonstrate military, law enforcement, national security and clandestine operations, responding to our safety. There has been an outcry and outing of international Internet tracking by federal agencies as empowered by the Patriot Act and executive authority. In God we trust and in our protectors.

Yet when the public raises up in protest, how do governments respond and how quickly? We have witnessed some broad reactions to crisis that some argue overstepped our need such as World War Internments, martial law during labor unrest and far-reaching terrorist arrests. Perhaps existing law alone is preferred because at least we all know the due processes, for better or worse.

So how do we respond to current calls for policy change due to crisis? Some tools exist for quick response such as Executive Order, emergency legislative sessions, and a host of administrative powers. Yet must we separate immediate policy changes from the precedent setting? Do we welcome crisis driven change with its likely errors and omissions or must we “muddle through” while Rome burns?

What have you experienced? What do you suggest?

Submitted by Geoff McLennan


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