“For city/state/federal prosecutors the change must be their mindset of ‘win at all cost’. The law is not a game to keep score and further your career. “
Prosecutorial and police misconduct are often dismissed as just a few bad apples doing a few bad apple-ish things. But what happens when it’s entrenched and systemic and goes unchecked for years? That looks to be the case in Orange County, California, where the situation got so completely out of hand this spring that Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals issued an order disqualifying the entire Orange County District Attorney’s Office (that’s all 250 prosecutors) from continuing to prosecute a major death penalty case.
In an explosive moment following a hearing last year, Sanders revealed that the Orange County Sheriffs Department has maintained a massive, secret, 25-year-old computerized record-keeping system called TRED. These TRED documents were full of potentially exculpatory data, but the agency officials had systematically refused to turn any of them over, or even acknowledge their very existence, to defense counsel.
What is this ‘mentality’? Without bogging down into the history of US Naval Aviation’s (needed) ‘Come To Jesus Meeting’, US Carrier Pilots had developed a sense of entitlement: That they were an elite, small cadre, with command-inspired esprit-de-corps, doing a dangerous job, fighting for justice against the bad guys, that the officer on the line ‘knew what was going on’ and how to do the job. “Old-guys” ‘flying desks’ did not know what was really happening.
Outside advice and unwanted intrusions to the units were dismissed and discounted. Officers of the line banded together with unofficial codes of conduct to protect the group. These ideas and actions are corrosive and the Navy instituted a systemic change, to correct these problems.
We should be ecstatic there is not a single-point National Police Command that would bring change to police forces like the Navy/DoD was able to enact. This would be a very different country with a singular police command and I never want to see that happen in the United States. Using the word “Police” is referring to all US law enforcement agencies—Federal, State, Local. As seen in the news lately Federal enforcement are having internal problems with discipline and integrity. This is not an indictment of all officers, agents, departments, and agencies. This is a general public perceptions and public relations problem.
How will change come to:
- 12,501 local police departments
- 3,063 sheriffs’ offices
- 50 primary state law enforcement agencies
- 1,733 special jurisdiction agencies
- 683 other agencies, primarily county constable offices in Texas.
Except for the Feds, it will not and cannot come from Washington. ‘Proclamations from High’ would be in form of a written notice/paper that would be read, acknowledged and initialed by each officer, placed in their admin jacket and promptly forgotten. Even for the Federal agencies the same boilerplate would be followed/filed/forgotten.
How to make the changes to all these departments?
On the city/town level the city leaders have to change their mindset of using police officers as revenue generators/tax collectors for city coffers. This is not just a small town issue of parking tickets, expired plates, licenses. Teaming with federal agencies allows agencies to ‘arrest’ someone’s money (and split it 80/20 with the Feds) declare the monies/property guilty, hold an administrative hearing, find the property guilty and take it. Even without the properties’ owner being charged with a crime. This creates a perverse incentive for the cities to continue to act in this repugnant (to the Constitution) manner. If your city budget will not support all of those AFSCME administrative drones it is time to cut back on ‘guaranteed’ city jobs.
Taxpayers, this is where your say (vote) comes in to play. It is time to pay attention to the bloat in the Courthouse. With less ‘professional administrators’ to support, funding for policing duties and efforts can be adjusted to concentrate on front-line safety-of-the-public issues.
For city/state/federal prosecutors the change must be their mindset of ‘win at all cost’. The law is not a game to keep score and further your career. This leads to unsaid collusion with officers to NOT “tell the truth, the whole truth, so help me god.” The must win mentality is destructive, causing prosecutors to expect (if not demand) that the police always be on the side of the state.
For police departments and Field Office levels the change will only come though committed Leadership. Not though any management principals—Leadership. There is a difference and it does matter. These leaders must obligate themselves to changing the mindset of the officers they command. If the command hierarchy will not change, the city/town/taxpayers must demand new leadership.
Once the institutional conversion begins it will take consistent actions and words to make the officers on the line understand that the old order of business is not acceptable. Individual officers should not have to be afraid of speaking out to curtail egregious and illegal behaviors. Even as simple as, ‘The guy is in handcuffs you should stop hitting him now.’ These ideas of common sense, of restraint when danger to the officer(s) is no longer a factor, are missing from many police departments. The impression to the pubic of, “I don’t take no lip, with this cannon on my hip.” has to end. Yes it is a cliché, but generalizations do not appear out of a vacuum.
Not demanding change to these problems, though leadership, will cost the taxpayer’s money; directly, though lawsuits against rogue officers/Departments and indirectly from mob violence and riots. Cities, States and Federal law enforcement that do not effect these much needed changes in leadership will find their officers continuing to act in a manner that is detrimental to the public good and public opinion.
If your citizens do not support the police, are afraid of the police, and do not respect the police–officers on the line will continue to think “Us vs. Them” and will not support, respect and defend the constitutional rights of the citizens.