Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cops Say Citizen Oversight Won't Work Part 2

Why Cops Say It Won't Work Part 1
Why Cops Say It Won't Work Part 3
Why Cops Say It Won't Work Part 4

#2-A Citizen Review Board With Teeth Violate Police Policy

Cops love their policy. It comforts them when challenged. It protects them in time of need. Or malfeasance. Or misconduct. Or dishonesty. But what the hell is it?

It is a manifesto of sorts. Self-conceived, self-declared, self-applied, and self-insured. To put it another way, it is a personally created quasi-reality that puts cops in the position of “winner”, and citizen “loser”. Show me a police policy where the arrestee is right and I will show you a typo. What is mystifying about the declared policy is how it can say one thing, and be interpreted as the opposite.

What Are The Cop Policies, Really?
Police policy, as we have come to know it, has featured cop-heavy advantages and citizen-light rights, all wrapped in language that serves to prove the lofty intentions and goals of the department. They read very well, if you can go through hundreds of pages, and they say everything the citizen would like to believe their tax-funded police department is about. Problem is, cops can assert that every move they make is within those policies. They always claim they are right, even when policy says doing it is wrong. Then cops arrest citizens for the very crimes they commit themselves. It is a one-sided force majeure.

But every cop, every Chief, every police union will swear that we citizens cannot understand policy, so cannot make any decisions about whether policy was followed during any cop activity. But magically, other cops can, and with unerring perfection. It’s all in the interpretation.

Let’s use their philosophical foundation as an example, from two cities:

Lawrence, Kansas --- “The officer is committed to the welfare of the public through the rule of law and professional service, places high value on objectivity and integrity, and maintains the highest standard in providing service.”

Madison, Wisconsin --- “Law Enforcement Code Of Ethics-- As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property, to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence and disorder, and to respect the Constitutional rights of all persons to liberty, equality, and justice.”

Madison and many other cities adapted their ethics policy from the International Association of Chiefs of Police Law Enforcement Code of Ethics, 1957.

With these attributes stated, a phony sense of righteousness takes hold as soon as the cop is sworn in, right up there with mom and apple pie. This sort of statement always begins the policy manual, and functions as an extension and reinforcement of the Academy’s message that cops are always right, must always win, and with the added layer of belief that cops always stand for justice, and they have been trained to insure the delivery of it. So, for a cop to be convinced that he is serving mankind and protecting the weak is to believe being wrong is a physical and mental impossibility for him, and losing is for citizens.

Now What?
With that psychology in place and a recruit’s ego at full speed, the rest comes automatically. If a cop stops an innocent motorist on a pretext, (a lie), it is all in the name of public safety, the very thing the code of ethics requires him to uphold. If evidence is gathered on a ruse, (lie), instead of a search warrant which leads to a legitimate arrest, the end justified the means and the Constitution can take a hike. Public safety takes precedence. If one cop gets into a possible legal bind, other cops must rescue him (alter evidence, falsify a report), because they may need the favor returned some day, and a unified front is the most effective crime fighting method. And if a cop mistakes a bottle of Mountain Dew for a weapon, and beats an 18-year-old viola player’s face in, it was all done in the name of “officer safety”, while they are keeping the citizens of the city free of crime. Jordan Miles of Pittsburgh would appreciate that. I am sure he feels “free” of crime with a beat-in face. But the cop is fulfilling the stated philosophical foundation of his profession, because his can’t be wrong. That leaves those non-cops out there, (citizens), to be wrong. It is all in the interpretation.

Clarity Is Needed
This moves us to the problem with Police Policy. So, what is it again? It is not the law as written and passed by the state legislature, it is not the word of the people who instructed their PD to carry it out, and it is not part of any federal or state Constitution. It is just a manifesto, conceived by cops who want a getouttajailfree card. While the reading of the manual makes the PD sound like the distillation of every positive character trait ever possessed, the execution of the police policy confirms the real foundation of cop training: “There are only two kinds of people, cops and assholes.”

An effective CRB will dissolve this policy fa├žade in short order. When the manual is understood and practiced in the literal terms with which it was written, all is well. When the seeds of perfection from the Academy and the oath cops take are dismantled and replaced, we will start to get somewhere.

How? When the literal terms are violated, that cop is off-duty and his case is reviewed by the CRB, and discipline is handed out. It won’t take many episodes like that for the manual to be revised by the PD. With each revision, it will look more like what the citizens want their PD to be, and that is the only goal. Good for the people, good for honest cops whose hearts and minds are responding to an honest calling. All it takes to achieve this is a willing public. Form a Citizen Review Board, and we can put some perfume on this stinker.

Why Cops Say It Won't Work Part 1
Why Cops Say It Won't Work Part 3
Why Cops Say It Won't Work Part 4

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