13 October 2005

Police Forces Coddle Bad Cops

Talk Left has picked up the story. A quote in their post states:

In 1992, Gannett News Service examined 100 civil lawsuits that had been filed against police officers in 22 states. In each instance, awards of $100,000 or more were made to victims between 1986 and 1991; the total was nearly $92 million. Of the 185 officers involved in the cases, no disciplinary action was taken against 160, eight were disciplined and 17 were promoted. In other words, a cop accused of police brutality was two times more likely to get promoted than disciplined.

When losing a civil lawsuit for your department is more likely to get you promoted than disciplined, and has a 96% chance of not having negative conseqeunces for you, why should cops care about obeying the law.

Disciplining an employee does not require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It doesn't even require clear and convincing evidence. When a jury finds that an officer violated someone's rights that should be a presumptive ground for serious discipline, and in most cases, for firing the officer. Clearly, however, the leadership in police departments around the country don't care. Any example of a police officer not being disciplined in a case like these should be prima facie evidence that rights violations are a policy and practice of the government that hired that person. The way the civil rights laws are supposed to work is that a government has a choice. It can agree with what the officer did, and subject itself to liabilty, or it can throw the officer under a bus and avoid liability. Governments should, at least, under our existing flawed system, be forced to truly make that choice.

In the same vein, it should come as no suprise that cops often lie about sobriety tests, that prosecutors often push baseless criminal accusations (such as a DUI charge against someone with a 0.03 BAC when the legal limit is 0.08 BAC), and that police departments often have unlawful policies (such as a policy of arresting 45 year olds with 0.01 BAC when it isn't a crime to have 0.01 BAC, and hence, there is no probable cause to believe that a crime was commited). Liberals don't have a jaded view of the honesty and honor of the major players in the criminal justice system for no good reason. We need a criminal justice system that works, but police officers and prosecutors in cases like this one need to be taken to the woodshed, not supported in the press.

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