The Proper Exercise of Authority

by Cmdr. John R.”Barney” Barnes (ret.)

“Becoming proficient in the proper exercise of the authority entrusted to you is a function of the merging of the knowledge and understanding of your authority with the will to regularily and properly exercise that authority.” —  John R.”Barney” Barnes

The fundamental role of authority is often misunderstood in our modern culture. This lack of clarity of this role can be the genesis of a lack of understanding/respect for constitutional and moral authority. The resultant corrosive effect upon our society appears in local as well as national headlines on a daily basis.

In my view a root cause of all this cultural malaise is the improper “exercise of authority” by those entrusted to act “under the authority” of their jurisdiction. Perhaps we should start with a couple old fashioned definitions from Webster’s. “Exercise”, in the verb form is “to discharge, wield or exert as in influence or authority; to set in action or employ actively.” Our other operative word “authority” is “legal or rightful power; a right to command or act; jurisdiction.”

As we noted earlier today’s headlines are replete with the chaotic and sometimes tragic episodes of our human kind that have a common back story involving authority. Most folks would agree that for the family, our basic unit of organization, to be successful and have integrity that discrete parental authority functions must be “properly exercised”. The many documented cases of child abuse as well as parental abandonement of basic responsibilities required for child rearing, e.g. to love, to instill values, to set boundaries and to invest quality time is demonstrative of the failure to “properly exercise parental authority”.

A major cause of the weakening of many of our other vital cultural institutions is this same failure of duly constituted authorities to “properly exercise their authority”, their legal and rightful power in their particular jurisdiction. Some of these would include government at all levels, business, finance and we must not forget church and religious organizations. These various foibles (say within the past year or two) clearly demonstrate an improper (careless or arrogant)exercise of authority or a reticent and passive assumption of their essential responsibilities within their respective jurisdictions.

Authority is best understood when we simply view it as delegated power as contained in the principle of “acting under authority”. Earlier in my professional life as a naval officer, aircraft commander and commanding officer it was essential that I have a clear understanding of my authority and its boundaries. Whether in combat, at sea or shore command I could never represent myself because when I acted or failed to act I clearly represented “higher authority”. Ultimately I represented the will of the American people as established by the Constitution, US Naval Regulations, various treaties, directives, and the policies and procedures of that particular command.

I was always aware that a failure “to act” within the boundaries of my authority could endanger lives, weaken my command or bring discredit upon myself and the US Navy. On the other hand I was confident that if I simply exercised my authority then I would have done my duty. This simple maximum could find application in the many realms of our culture today.

Authority is a sacred trust, and endowment if you will, to be exercised with alacrity and confidence in the preservation of things we cherish and hold dear. Some of these would include…a strong America, our individual liberty, peaceful neighborhoods, vibrant economy, thriving families, and a general feeling of goodness the timeless companion of greatness.

Submitted by Eye of the Eagle

Editor’s Note: This article was written by John R.”Barney” Barnes and is reproduced here with permission.

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One thought on “The Proper Exercise of Authority

  1. Pingback: The Classic Challenge to a Police Officer « Police Dynamics Media

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