Law Enforcement or Lawless Thuggery?

From the AP, we learn about two men who were arrested in a drug sting in New York City.  The problem?  The two men arrested committed no crime and the officers who falsified the report and prompted the arrest were, themselves, arrested.

A case of a few bad apples?  Not anymore…

Police Departments, especially the larger departments, have routinely been shown to be infected with corrupt leaders and officers.  New York City.  Atlanta.  Los Angeles.  But, the list goes on and on, from large metropolitan departments to the small municipal departments.  From municipal to federal jurisdiction level.

The reason for this corruption is clear; power corrupts.  The higher a corrupt officer climbs the ladder, the more corrupt the department becomes.  Yes, there are “bad apples” in law enforcement, but, those individuals should have been identified and removed by supervisors early into their careers.  Yes, in larger departments, it is easy to “get lost”, ie, for the officer to go unnoticed by anyone but their immediate supervisor and co-workers.  But, these situations do not address the issue of why there are so many bad cops and so few good ones.  The reason for that is longevity.  

Few good cops want to fight the constant battle of being a police officer.  That battle isn’t on the street, it’s in the department itself.  In any department, the higher you get, the more political your job becomes.  It is the lower ranking officers that have to contend with the result of that political environment.  Write tickets in a rich neighborhood?  What were you thinking!  Why weren’t you patrolling this other area!  The good officers apply the law equally, and, that premise in and of itself puts them at odds with most departments.  Frankly, fewer and fewer good cops are putting up with the strain for any length of time and simply leave the profession.

Add to this situation the low salary of police officers.  If you wish to see the poverty level of any city, in any state, you merely have to look at the salary paid to a brand new police officer.  That salary is right at the poverty level for that area.  Most police officers, especially new officers, simply have to “moonlight”, ie, work two jobs, in order to make ends meet.  Working two jobs, however, isn’t really viable for a police officer.  You work a 12-hour shift.  Your court days can, and usually are, scheduled for a day you are off work so that the shift isn’t short as you spend all day in court.  Your training days are scheduled for your day off.  You still have to have “family time” in between getting sleep.  So, it isn’t hard to understand why some officers turn to committing crimes to make more money.  It’s easy, and, you have a badge.

Yes, the war on drugs is part of this, as well.  You make a bust, you confiscate the drugs and the money.  You can; a) put those drugs worth thousands and that $5,000 dollars into evidence for your case, or, b) you can pocket the cash, dump or sell the drugs, and get an extra paycheck that month.  Unfortunately, the latter is what some officers choose to do.  Some departments run one-man cars, so, who is around to dispute a drug-dealer who claims you robbed him?  Nobody.  For the departments that run two-man cars, it gets even worse.  Yes, now we enter “Serpico” territory and that “code of silence.”  

It usually doesn’t start out as criminal behavior.  Maybe your partner did “rough up” a drug dealer a bit.  Who really cares?  Let it slide.  It’s a war out there and if bad people get roughed up a bit, so what.  The only people we can count on are each other out here.  But, with that decision, that good cop is already on the path to worse with that initial silence.  Cussing people out?  So what.  This isn’t a playground on the street that you patrol for 12-hours, besides, you just got off a “hot call” and you’re partner is still stressed out.  Cut him/her a break.  By the time the real criminal activity starts, you have now covered up so much that you are as neck-deep as they are.  Even if you are in one-man cars, you’ve probably already covered up for other officers when they’ve done these things.

All you want to do is provide for your family.  You can’t risk getting fired because you’re a “trouble maker”, or, worse, killed by bad officers leaving your wife/husband a widow.  It’s hard enough keeping your family together being a police officer.

No, this isn’t about justifying the actions.  It’s about explaining how our police departments, and officers, have become the thugs they have been, and, still are today.  You only have to watch this Oklahoma State Trooper, a veteran who recently returned from Middle East duty, attacking a paramedic to see just how thuggish cops have become.  

I’m going to harp on this incident.

James said Martin had a legal right to pull over the ambulance for failing to yield the right of way when the patrol unit tried to pass it moments earlier. He also said White escalated the situation by challenging the trooper.

Now, what this means is that the Trooper was responding to a call with his emergency lights and siren activated.  Because the ambulance didn’t pull out of the way of the Trooper, the officer called himself off of that call, and stopped the ambulance for failing to get out of his way.

James said Martin is a decorated veteran who recently returned from military service in the Middle East.

“There’s a lot of things that people ought to know about him,” James said. “He’s not this ogre, this depriver of people’s rights.”

First of all, “recently returned from the Middle East” is only relevant in the fact that it is obvious this Trooper has no clue who his friends are in America and who isn’t.  And, I am here to tell you, paramedics are an officer’s friend, not someone to pull over in a hissy fit because they didn’t pull over for you while you are on a call for whatever reason they didn’t do it.  Much less that gives you the right to choke the paramedic because he “challenged you”!

White’s attorney, Richard O’Carroll, said Martin was out of control during the incident. He wants his client’s name cleared and “significant” remedial action taken against the trooper.

If this kind of thing could happen to another professional, imagine what would happen to a suspected criminal in a dark alley,” he said.

Absolutely correct!  This Trooper called off of a call to pull over the ambulance because he was pissed off at the ambulance driver.  We know he was pissed off, and went into it pissed off, simply because of how attacked the paramedic.  And, if this Trooper would attack a paramedic, what the hell would he do to someone who he thought was a “bad guy”???  Regardless of what he did, or how he acted, while in the Middle East, we now see exactly the mentality he is bringing to the road as a Trooper.  This is not simply a “bad apple.”  It shows us exactly what the mentality of officers today has become.

Why do cops run to the taser?  Because they can taser or shoot, they know nothing else because they haven’t been forced to learn anything else — like talking down suspects.  They haven’t been forced to learn how to do it because the departments and courts have covered for the officers time after time.  The “Use of Force Continuum”, the model of what force to use in response to a situation, has become the “Continue to Use Force Continuum.”

It isn’t that these incidents are few and far between, as many people claim.  It is that rarely these incidents get the attention of the media.  It can be argued that these incidents do not constitute the majority of police responses, but, it cannot be argued that this “use force continuously” mentality hasn’t taken over in law enforcement.

There is a reason that officers started putting dashboard cameras into every car; to curtail false accusations against officers.  There is a reason now why law enforcement is more concerned who is filming an incident than focusing on the incident itself; to curtail true accusations against officers.  And the cases of police misconduct seem to get worse and worse as we go on.

Last weekend, we looked at the case of Bill Dillon, the Brevard County resident imprisoned for 27 years before DNA tests set him free.

That, however, is only part of a bigger story of twisted justice in Central Florida – an unsolved mystery that begs for an ending.

Dillon, after all, was not alone in his wrongful imprisonment. At least two other men suffered the same fate – and another shared link: a dog.

Not just any dog. A wonder dog helped convict all three men: a German shepherd named Harass II, who wowed juries with his amazing ability to place suspects at the scenes of crimes.

Harass could supposedly do things no other dog could: tracking scents months later and even across water, according to his handler, John Preston.

If it sounds hard to believe, there’s a good reason.

After providing prosecutors with testimony for years, Preston was finally discredited by a judge who had the sense to do what others had not: test the dog for himself.

But not until after Preston and his dog had appeared in dozens of cases.

We know that at least three of those cases were overturned – after the defendants collectively spent more than a half-century in prison.

No, this doesn’t seem to be an “urban legend”.  It really happened according to the Orlando Sentinel.  What is so egregious in this case is this fact:

The murder case against Dillon was full of problems.

The state was short on credible witnesses. (Two would later recant their testimony. One had sex with an investigator.) And Dillon was first linked to the murder of James Dvorak by a 16-year-old boy who said he recognized him from a composite sketch.

But investigators needed evidence to tie Dillon to the scene. So they turned to Preston and his wonder dog.

As if on cue, Preston claimed that his dog found Dillon’s scent at the scene of the crime. (A judge would later say: “… Preston was regularly retained to confirm the state’s preconceived notions about cases.”)

Dillon was convicted. And he sat in prison for 27 years – until tests proved that his DNA was not, in fact, on a bloody shirt that prosecutors had said was his.

Translated: When the prosecution needed someone to lie for them, in court, Preston stepped up to the stand and perjured himself.  Repeatedly.  And you simply cannot tell me that nobody in the district attorney’s office didn’t know this was happening.  They knew.  They asked for that perjured testimony.  And they got it.  

But, as I said, this even goes to the federal level.

Remember Dick Cheney shooting his friend in the face during the quail hunt?  

The shooting occurred about 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Kenedy County Sheriff Ray Salinas said. He said his deputies are investigating the shooting but consider it an accident.

Cheney, an avid hunter, was shooting at a covey of quail on the Armstrong Ranch near Kingsville, about 30 miles southwest of Corpus Christi. The ranch’s owner, Katharine Armstrong, said Whittington was about 30 yards from Cheney when the vice president fired.

Ever wonder why it took a day for the story to get out?

WASHINGTON – President Bush knew Saturday evening that Vice President Dick Cheney had accidentally shot a hunting companion, but the information wasn’t made public until the next day by a private citizen, the White House acknowledged Monday.

It’s because of the timeline:

4 p.m.: Vice President Cheney begins an afternoon quail hunt with four other hunters on the private Armstrong Ranch in south Texas. They had been hunting earlier in the day, but took a break for lunch.

6:30 p.m.: Cheney accidentally shoots fellow hunter Harry Whittington while aiming for a bird. Secret Service agents and medical personnel with Cheney tend to wounds on Whittington’s face, neck and chest.

7:20 p.m.: An ambulance takes Whittington to Christus Spohn Hospital Kleburg.

7:30 p.m.: White House chief of staff Andrew Card tells President Bush there was an accident, but Card is unaware Cheney was involved.

7:50 p.m.: The head of the Secret Service office in McAllen, Texas, calls the Kenedy County sheriff to report the accident. The sheriff asks to speak to Cheney, and they schedule an interview for 9 a.m. Sunday. At the White House, presidential aide Karl Rove tells Bush that Cheney was the shooter, after talking to ranch owner Katharine Armstrong.

Why would you wait till the next day to interview someone?  Someone who admits they were drinking during the incident?  Probably because you are worried about Texas law and being intoxicated.

It is unlawful to knowingly or recklessly sell any firearm or ammunition to any person who is intoxicated.

It is unlawful for a handgun license holder to carry a handgun while intoxicated.

It isn’t whether or not the shooting was covered under Texas law.  It was that the Secret Service knew Dick Cheney was intoxicated and the Sheriff allowed a time frame so that Dick Cheney was no longer intoxicated when he sent his deputy to “investigate” the accident.  Whether or not the Secret Service acted wrongly in that instance, they certainly did when guarding the Bush twins.

This mentality in our law enforcement is a serious problem in America.  We see instances where the law is broken and ignored for some, while law enforcement uses excessive force on everyone else.  Are we a classic “police state” yet, where law enforcement has no other purpose than to enforce the will of the government?  No.  But, that doesn’t mean that we can’t slip to the point that the UK has, either.


    • Viet71 on June 18, 2009 at 12:18 am

    I had a general law practice in a small, west-central Illinois country seat that was a college town.

    I wound up defending college students against traffic and drug charges.

    I found out, in every case, that the cops lied.

    I won every case, because the cops planted drugs or otherwise flat-out lied.  

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