Monday, September 15, 2008

The Blue Shield of Silence

To establish that there are, in fact, many corrupt police officers in the United States I'd like to cite some examples;

Last Tuesday a 92 year old woman was shot and killed by Atlanta Police officers.Kathryn Johnson was alone in her home waiting with her gun on Tuesday night when a group of plainclothes officers with a warrant knocked down her door searching for drugs, police said.

She opened fire, wounding three officers before she was shot to death.

Assistant Police Chief Alan Dreher called the killing "tragic and unfortunate" but said the officers were justified in returning fire.
A Teton County, Idaho family is outraged after they say a sheriff's deputy tried to murder their dog in their own front yard.

The Barboza family has owned their dog Bobby for five years. A few days ago they say a Teton County Idaho Sheriff's Deputy knocked on their door demanding to see the dog.

Leonel Barboza, Dog Owner: "He says, 'I'm here to put him down. I'm here to kill him.'"

The officer told Leo Barboza there had been a complaint Bobby had bitten someone.

Barboza: "I said, 'Do you have any proof or anything?' He says, 'I don't need any proof.'"
The city of Seattle has agreed to pay $185,000 to a man who filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the police department after he was beaten, kicked and arrested by officers outside a Capitol Hill nightclub in 2005, according to court documents and an informed source.
A photograph of Alley-Barnes taken in the jail shows him with blood running down his swollen face. An internal investigation later showed that an officer also rammed the handcuffed Alley-Barnes' face into a wall at the police precinct.

Alley-Barnes was charged with assaulting an officer and interfering, but the case was dismissed because the city failed to turn over the video from the arrest.,0,2906787.htmlstory
• Nearly every shooting in last decade 'justified'
• Investigations ignore witnesses, forensics
• Shot-in-back findings raise questions

On a summer night in 2003, two patrol cars pulled over a driver in front of his South Side home for running a stop sign. Thinking police had chased the car earlier that night, four officers drew their guns and ordered the driver out.

The man's mother screamed from the sidewalk: "He can't walk! He's paralyzed! He can't get out of the car!"

When one officer thought the driver raised a gun, he opened fire, shooting the driver five times before reloading and shooting him once more.

Eight hours later, as Cornelius Ware, a 20-year-old paraplegic who drove by pushing the pedals with a wooden cane, lay gravely wounded in the hospital, police supervisors cleared the officer of any wrongdoing.
She [the investigator] also took no notes, she said, committing each witness statement to memory and sometime later recording those words in what would become the main report on the shooting.

Three of Ware's brothers who witnessed the shooting -- a 15-year-old and 13-year-old twins -- all told detectives at the scene that their brother had his hands up.

VanWitzenburg could not be reached for comment.
A cop shoots a Veteran complying with orders.

An Albany woman was stopped for no apparent reason, then, with no apparent probable cause, was subjected to a humiliating public search for drugs in which an officer inserted two fingers into her vagina. They also seized her cell phone, and made a random call to one of her contacts, again without a warrant or probable cause. They found no drugs.

The woman filed a complaint, but it was never forwarded to the city’s civilian review board, whose entire purpose is to investigate complaints against the police. The police chief explained that the police aren’t required to forward every complaint to the board, particularly if the complainant requests that it not be, as the chief says happened in this case. This apparently came as a surprise to the city councilman who actually wrote the review board legislation.

As for the woman not wanting her complaint forwarded to the review board, that’s apparently because an internal affairs officer “persuaded” her to let the complaint be handled internally.

Okay, so there are some bad apples. That's not really the point of contention here, as it's a sentiment almost universally accepted. My friend Chris, when we spoke about this the other night, made a good point. Why penalize or even criticize the majority of police officers for the actions of a fringe minority? After all, if we want police officers to be trained from a pool of civilians (and, as a free society, we definitely do), then there's going to be roughly the same level of corruption and crime as the average civilian community. The problem doesn't really stem from the criminal behavior itself, but rather what happens after the crime.

In other words, the complaint against the police officers is that they cover up and lie about criminal actions of other police officers. Take a look at this case:
A man named Al Unser is arrested and charged, but according to both him and an officer named Sam Costales, the police "were rude to him, refused to tell him why he couldn’t drive home, then pulled him out of his car and tossed him into a thorn bush before arresting him for resisting arrest". Officer Costales testified as such in court, and as a result Al Unser was released, cleared of all charges.

That's how the system is supposed to work with bad apples. Unfortunately, the officers in question were never investigated or even under suspicion of wrong doing. Constales, however, was. The charge was "improperly wearing his uniform while testifying in court". This is particularly cruel when you read that Constales retired three years prior to this event, because he has witnessed too much corruption for him to handle, and was asked back when the police department needed personel very badly. The head of the Police Union in Albuquerque sent a letter to the Bernalillo County Sheriff, which read;
As Secretary of the APOA i feel it is my duty and responsibility to apologize to you and your officers. Ofc. Sam Costales does not represent APD/APOA. The majority of our officers look at the BCSO as our brother and sisters in blue. We are embarrassed and ashamed of Ofc. Costales’s testimony in the Unser trial. If there is anything we can do to rebuild the damage caused by Sam please let me know.
If we continue to let this happen, this "Blue Shield of Silence" threatens to remove any civil protections we have left against police who continue to conduct no knock warrants in which civilians die, execute household pets with no oversight and falsly charge innocent civlians with crimes they did not commit.

1 comment:

Chris Cavazos said...

Jon, shut up.

I just read through this so called "blog" thing you are all in to these days. Anyway what really upsets me is that in all of these blog entries (or at least in the first page, I didn't go past that I'm lazy as hell), my name is never mentioned. I do not like this. I mentioned you in my blog.

That is all for now.