Good Officers and the Maintenance of Societal Trust
I want to talk about this from a personal and societal perspective. I'm a big big believer in the good that law enforcement does. They protect us from crime, investigate wrong doing, help children, and put themselves in harm's way way to keep the rest of us safe. Most officers I've met in the course of my profession and life are good people trying to do good things. Yet, a "bad apple" is a "bad apple" and we need a better job of removing/restricting them to ensure that they are not committing harm to people in the community.
We know that we have the beginnings of more serious civil unrest. People are angry and they are upset that their rights have been violated and few have made the necessary steps to change it. While the unrest may eventually simmer down and temporarily move away from media awareness it will likely come back over and over in our history until we have secured the mechanisms needed to restore trust in justice. Officers have a duty to protect the public from wrongdoing and in the circumstance where they are the problem then change and accountability must occur.
"Bad Apples", Bigotry and Criminality
Lets give an example situation. Let us say for a moment an officer coached his friends on how to get someone arrested under false pretenses. No actual crime was committed and there was no legal justification for such action. The victim became aware of previous wrong doing and tried to protect his family through boundaries creation to thwart coordinated bullying and harassment. The officer used his knowledge of the law to indicate that if the person is a danger to himself or to others they can be arrested. The group worked on creating the context through provoking and triangulating of others.
Let's say you honestly believe someone is "crazy" and unable to take care of themselves then wouldn't you be empathetic, kind, and considerate? Calling names, endangering children, spreading rumors, public mocking, and much more is not a sign that the group had any positive intention. At the time this game was being played the party set up a lynching spot and invited some investigators to witness. I'm not going to blame those investigators. They had no idea this group was engaged in criminal activity and I believe they became aware and were utterly confused. Just by looking at their faces they knew something going on was very wrong and they halted from making an arrest.
One of the perpetrators kept calling the "ring leader" on what the most appropriate direction they should take. Calling names, saying their son is an addict, grabbing their drink to throw it (which they barely held themselves), saying very clearly to a direct question of why they are acting this way she retorted, "Because you are Muslims". Part of the reason why this conflict occurred was because of the term "niggar" was used loosely in the group and intentional directly directed at the parent of mixed raced children. Instead of getting angry the target in this case took the opposite approach. He felt sad for the perpetrators and the behavior they were engaged in and softened his heart. I feel the investigators felt they were dooped.
I'm not sure what legal and illegal is but I would suspect some of this behavior is illegal. If it isn't illegal it is highly unethical, a moral lapse, and destroys trust in the system.
Ignorance, Lack of Education, and Lack of Self-Reflection
I do feel some sadness over the behavior of this group. Normally, they are good people but that appears highly dependent on who we are talking about and whether or not they fit within the "clan". They don't have a high education, travel much, or experience other cultures on a deeper level. With education, exposure to different types of people, and opportunities to self-reflect we may never have never caused this problem. Unfortunately, in this context there was a dysfunctional social culture mixed with an absence of that little conscious bell that dings, "Something about this doesn't seem right".
To make a good point about this groups lack of knowledge and understanding of different people and religions. I'm only part Muslim, part Catholic, and believe in much of the Torah. Thus my culture is Catholic but I have learned to value and incorporate the essential messages of different religious. I adhere to the insightful belief in the universality of religion and how each of the philosophies can teach us about how we should be and act in our society. Its a little like reading multiple authors and authorities on a particular topic to better understand the bigger picture. I suspect that isn't illegal and there are protections in place for freedom of religion and speech. Perhaps I'm wrong!
History of Misconduct
I do not believe such behavior is a one time isolated incident whereby the officer had a bad day and a single lapse of judgement. I do not believe this because there is much more to this story. While a mistake may be isolated and the officer learns from the experience and becomes better the use of intentional misconduct to further one's agenda then this is not an accident. It was thought out and intentional in nature and thus comes from mental outlook about the value of human life.
What I can say in this case is that we exist in a small community and with that comes more personalized knowledge of each other. That officer had behavioral issues related to bullying and attention seeking behavior going back to his childhood (Junior High to be exact). No idea how they passed a psyche test and made it onto a police force. Personality influences our perceptions and choices in life and thus creates the potential for reoccuring misconduct. The past sometimes predicts goal directed futures.
What I can say is that there are others in the community that have experienced concerning behaviors by this officer that can be considered abusive and illegal in nature. These behaviors relate to sexual misconduct, misrepresenting facts, and using their authority of arrest to bully others. While it is not my place at the moment to spell those out in detail from the multiple people that brought forward those concerns I will say that it is precisely that history and the need to protect the public from further misconduct that leads to this series of writing.
The Need for Misconduct Review
Every person has the right to be treated fairly and have an opportunity to explain their side of the story. The review helps law enforcement departments to go back through the history and look for themes in complaints as it relates to this officer (or any other officer). In my professional experience, I have learned that not every hire is going to be a successful match with the organization a few years down the road. It is important to review fairly and objectively (from the outside if necessary) a person's record to 1.) protect the public from further misconduct and 2.) improve upon the policing system for greater effectiveness.
That review also should include talking to other officers, people who have submitted complaints, and gain a "feel" for what the community is saying. Assuming that these concerns are true, or have a piece of truth in them, then it is important to talk to the other officers that have worked with the perpetrator to understand their perspective. Some of the older officers may be aware of the "chip on shoulder" issues as it relates to this person's behavior and perspectives. There is likely a lot of non documented information that can be discovered through interviews.
The Need for Stronger Internal Affairs
Internal affairs is needed to control and understand poor behavior to make recommendations on further investigations and policy improvements. Unfortunately, these systems are often inadequate because they are not insulated enough and work too closely with some of the officers to be objective. I've even heard that when misconduct is reported sometimes the information of who and when gets back to the officer and in turn those officers refuse to help the whistle blower when they need it. While it I'm not privy to whether or not that applies in this example I can say that it can develop a culture of bullying that is dangerous for those officers that may be aware of misconduct. A culture of "silence" for fear of rejection and slow response to emergency assistance is not only dangerous but also perpetuates the problem.
Thus it is helpful to create the right culture and internal controls so officers can speak out when misconduct occurs to create a stronger and more effective policing systems. Without doing so the culture continues to decline and people within the community lose trust. The ultimate goal of any law enforcement agency is to protect and serve the community and thus they should take precedence in all decision making. Sometimes there are people who do not have that same belief in the function of law enforcement in society and are negligent in duty. If officers that work with the perpetrator know of other misconduct then it is incumbent on them to act. By extension they are then partially at fault for the harm this officer has done to the public. Thus, if I was an officer who knew something I would come forward immediately to Internal Affairs and/or leadership to ensure they are on the right side of justice. When and if that isn't possible they can move to the state and federal level. I'm not aware of whether justice will come or not but I will say that I believe that when we put out bad int he world it comes back to us like karma.
What Is Our Duty?
I'm a believer that each person in this country has the responsibility to do their part to make a better nation. We do that not only for ourselves, and our own children, but also for other people's children as well. Our nation is an experiment in freedom and choice. Misconduct takes away from that freedom and puts people's rights in jeopardy. These are the rights that our forefathers/mothers fought for and died for and to whisk them away just because we want to "fit in" is morally and ethically defunct. If there are other actions of misconduct as they relate to children and people in the community then we would be morally bankrupt to not ask for a misconduct review of this officer to ensure each life is viewed as sacred. It is an essential duty and a creed many people like me swore an allegiance to. Our oaths are bonds that tie the past to the present in our struggles to fulfill our American destiny. Where does your loyalties lay? I only hope it lays on the right side of history.