The counter productive protection of the US Police.
wednesday June 17th 2020
How often do we hear about a Police Officer shooting an unarmed Black person and not being charged? Philando Castille, Eric Garner, LaQuan McDonald are just a few of the high profile cases, where Officers have walked free, even though it’s quite clear what went down.
So, why? Why does this happen? How deeply rooted is this systemic problem?
Well, there are at least FOUR factors that can come into play and protect “Bad Cops”
Unions as we know them exist to protect employee rights. For example Unions have been fighting to protect British Airways employees from redundancy during the Covid 19 Crisis. But, in the case of the US Police, Unions play a much more pivotal role in Police misconduct.
Police Unions effectively work as a middle man between independent Police agencies and the Police to ensure a number of things, but most importantly their contractual agreements. Within these contracts there can be a number of terms, such as in cases of misconduct, their right to have 24 hours before giving a statement. In other words, they are given the opportunity to collate their story and even collude with other Officers before even having to speak about the incident in any legal capacity. Other contract terms could be that an Officer’s record must be scrubbed every 90 days. That means every 3 months, any case of wrong doing on their part could be completely erased from their record.
2. Qualified Immunity
Qualified Immunity has been a big talking point this week, as the US Supreme Court has declined to take up several cases on the issue, and instead passed the buck to Congress, who will now have to dispute the matter. But, what is Qualified Immunity?
It is possibly the most mind boggling law regarding Police out there. It basically makes it completely impossible to sue a Police Officer. Effectively, this means that you have to prove that the Officer in question has violated a right that has been “clearly established”. This means that the case has to be almost identical to one that has happened before. And not just that, the Officer in the previous case must’ve been charged with the crime.
So basically, if the Officer can prove originality in their misconduct, they will most likely not be held accountable.
3. Law Enforcement Bill Of Rights
This is when Unions work with individual states to effectively pass Collective Bargaining Rights laws that protect Officers. For example, in Florida, an Officer can invoke a Bill of Rights and demand to “be informed of the nature of the investigation before any interrogation begins” and receive “all witness statements…and all other existing evidence,” So, basically before they even have to give a statement they can review all the evidence gathered so far to cooperate their story around it.
4. Prosecutor/Police relations
Whenever an Officer is accused of misconduct, it’s the District Attorney who will prosecute. The problem with this? The DA relies on Officers for the other cases they are working on. They need them for a number of matters such as testimonials and evidence. So effectively, it’s a catch 22 situation. If the DA prosecutes the Cop they risk dissolving a much needed partnership, not just with that individual Officer, but with the entire precinct.
Ultimately, whichever way you cut it, the protection of Bad Policing is a huge flaw in the system. This incessant need to defend the Officer’s wrong doing, damages the reputation of the entire force and just fractures the communities relationship with them even more. What needs to happen, is for the law to hold them accountable when they are wrong. This will weed out the bad from the good and help towards building up trust in the Police again.