As Cop Block’s own Adam Mueller recently explained, police who break the law are often protected by their investigation process. A normal person who is seen breaking a law would be arrested, booked, given an arraignment date, and given a trial. He or she might even spend time time in jail. With cops, none of this will happen unless other police officers who conduct an “internal investigation” decide it’s appropriate. Without the go ahead from the offending officer’s co-workers, there will probably be no arrest, no booking process, no arraignment, no judge, no jury, and no justice.
Unfortunately, the accountability problem goes much deeper than the investigation process. Even if a cop is brought to trial and found guilty, there’s no guarantee that he or she will be held accountable. Check out these stories I read over the past couple weeks.
- Judge Pat Murdock decided not to send a man who pleaded no contest on two rape charges to jail because… the rapist in question was a cop: “The impact and the punishment that he would receive in prison would be more than anybody else going to prison for the same allegations,” the judge said. Because the rapes occurred while the officer was on duty, he was protected from his victim’s civil suit when the city he worked for settled with the victim. It sure was nice of those city bureaucrats to spend tax revenue to protect a rapist, wasn’t it? (Source: Crystal Guitierrez, “Ex-cop pleads no-contest in rape case,” KRQE News 13)
- In the next story, New York police conducted approximately 100,000 illegal strip searches on inmates arrested for nonviolent misdemeanors. An attorney representing the inmates said that “[t]hey were subjected to humiliating strip searches that required groups of detainees to fully undress in front of each other and in front of multiple guards.” “The inmates had to lift their genitals and breasts, spread their buttocks, and allow guards to inspect their private cavities in front of other inmates.” These strip searches arguably constitute torture, but guess what: not one of the people responsible is being held accountable. Instead, taxpayers are once again footing the bill for criminal behaviour of law enforcement officers. The price tag: $33 million. (Source: Michael S. Schmidt, “City to Pay $33 Million to Inmates Who Were Illegally Strip Searched,” The New York Times)
- Next, as you may know, Judge Vaughn R. Walker recently ruled that when the NSA (under the Bush administration) violated the law when it wiretapped two lawyers and their client without a warrant. But did you know that “Judge Walker limited liability in the case to the government as an institution, rejecting the lawsuit’s effort to hold Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, personally liable”? Many people consider this case a major victory for civil liberties, but I can’t help but feel that it’s a major defeat as well. Our freedoms are not truly protected unless there is a system in place that actually holds those who violate our rights accountable. (Source: Charlie Savage and James Risen, “Federal Judge Funds N.S.A Wiretaps Were Illegal,” The New York Times)
Remember: without accountability, there is no justice, so get active.