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Thursday, February 15, 2007
TO SERVE, PROTECT AND....INTIMIDATE?
Walk into any police station in South Florida and ask for papers to file a complaint against a law enforcement officer. And watch what happens next. Better bring the phone number of a good bondsman with you as well.
CBS4 did that and a Rumpole Irregular posted the link to the story last night. It’s worth reading.
This is how we lose the Bill Of Rights. Not with any sweeping law, but with small encroachments every day by those who think the public works for them, not the other way around.
Police Officers are unique in that they go to work every day with the possibility they may not come home at night. For that they should be respected, well paid, and well trained. However, what we often see is that some of them forget what it is they are putting their life on the line to protect. They protect not only people and property, but they also protect the Constitution. In a very real sense, when they intimidate people and create an “us versus them” attitude, they diminish the value of the job they may one day die for.
We applaud the attitude of City of Miami Chief Timoney and his statements of zero tolerance for this behavior. However, actions speak louder than words, so what’ going to happen to those officers under his command who behaved poorly?
As a trial lawyer, we have the occasion to speak to hundreds of jurors each year; thousands over the years we have been picking juries. Even as a defense attorney, the most troubling stories we hear are from those citizens who say they could never be fair to a police officer because of some unfair treatment they received in the past.
Miami has had it’s share of shameful police conduct over the years. And Miami has been blessed with someone of the most dedicated law enforcement officers in the nation. The task for the Prosecutors and Police is to weed out the former, and train more officers to follow in the proud traditions of the latter.
And if we haven’t been clear enough in this post, let us reiterate the point again: for every officer who acts inappropriately like those in the channel 4 story, there are dozens of officers who spend their days helping people, taking a few bucks of their own money and buying a hungry family some food, and hundreds of other small acts of kindness that never get reported. That makes the task of weeding out these bad if not dangerous officers all the more important.
Would you really want one of the officers in that video responding to your home to assist you if you or your family were the victims of a crime? As a prosecutor, would you really want your whole case to rest on the credibility of one of these officers?
There are compelling reasons to avoid having one bad apple spoil the whole bunch.
See You In Court.