Another Reply Too Good to Bury in the Comments Section

This from “Al,” an attorney presumably from Las Vegas;

So, if the police aren’t given cart blanche, they’re all gonna give up?

I think that’s kind of a black-and-white statement, Al. Free reign to do anything, any way police want to is not what anyone is asking for or reasonably expects. I think the expectation is that, when there are an established set of rules with a procedure in place to change those rules as necessary, that we either follow the rules or follow the procedure to change them – not completely disregard the law and facts based on how the public “feels”.

“I think you’re sadly underestimating the overwhelming majority of good officers who aren’t in any way afraid of being judged fairly, since they don’t do anything wrong.”

Nice try, counselor, characterizing officers who refuse to be part of the nonsense as “bad”, and those that ignore it as “good”. The fact of the matter is that nobody is afraid of being judged “fairly” since that isn’t what happens. Not doing anything wrong is no protection from public opinion. Essentially, law enforcement has become American Idol.

Moreover, it’s ridiculous to imply that anyone who is protesting is engaged in an “orgy of cop-hate.” Come on, really?”

Yes, really. Public confidence in law enforcement is at the lowest levels since Vietnam; another development has been the Koch-funded push on the fringe right against law enforcement (
These guys aren’t just upset about the actions of individual officers, but the very institution of enforcement itself. On the left, you have the predictable residue of the 60’s, pining for the “good old days” fighting “the pigs”, plus the usual cast of the “professionally racially aggrieved” throwing gas on the fire. Like Napoleon, law enforcement is fighting a two front war. I don’t want make accusations against so noble a profession as lawyers, but it’s hard to deny that ANYTHING that undermines public confidence in law enforcement is good for defense attorneys.

“If someone protests an incident they find horrifying, are you saying they hate the entire institution?”

It depends on the motive of the protester. Some people are demanding trials for officers where there is no probable cause to believe a crime was committed. Others are demanding convictions before they are satisfied. Some want us to believe that the entire criminal justice system exists to oppress them and want it alternatively abolished (anarchists) or subject to massive Federal oversight.

“So I guess anyone who protests a war must hate the military – or maybe even the USA?”

I saw “Animal House”, too, counselor. “I’m not going to sit here while you bad mouth the United States of America!”

Played for laughs when Otter said it, but you’re trying to claim that I said something that I didn’t. On a practical level, though, I have yet to meet a war protester who, if you get them to let their guard down and be honest, has anything but contempt for both the institution of the military or the individuals who serve in it. But that’s just my experience, and I understand that might not be universal.

“Furthermore, nobody wants officers judged in the court of public opinion.”


That is seriously the most disingenuous thing I have heard all day. Have you ever heard of CNN? Fox News? MSNBC? (Ok, given MSNBC’s ratings, you might not have heard of them). The Daily Kos? Huffpost? The Blaze? There is an entire INDUSTRY dedicated to not only trying cases in the court of public opinion, but working backwards from their own ideological point of view and then DEMANDING an outcome that reflects it – and then screaming from the rooftops when they’re wrong that an “injustice” was done.

“We want them judged impartially, and NOT at the discretion of prosecutors they work with every day.”

You know, if you were talking about Detectives, you might have something there, but the idea that Uniformed Patrol Officers interact with prosecutors on “a daily basis” is silly in the extreme. You might not understand the distinction, but it’s there and it’s real. Letting an elected official – the county prosecutor/district attorney – make the call on prosecution is the epitome of fairness, because they reason that they’re an elected official is to ensure that they are directly accountable to the electorate. If the people of St. Louis or Staten Island are unhappy about the decision not to indict the officers involved in those respective cases, then they should probably head to the to polls and vote them out, or even mount a recall campaign. You know, the established system for expressing dissatisfaction with elected officials. Last I checked, screaming “Burn this bitch down!” on national TV is not the way to accomplish that. Then again, since behavior that is not punished is behavior that is condoned, inciting a riot (that subsequently took place) and then demanding not the be prosecuted by threatening more riots appears to be the new normal, so we have that to look forward to.

“Someone who works with a potential criminal defendant would never be allowed on a jury. Why should they be placed in charge of the prosecution? That’s not cop-hating, it’s just common sense.”

Where I disagree with you is that I think you are overstating the closeness of the relationship between police (as a whole) and elected prosecutors, while VASTLY understating the likelihood of any elected official throwing absolutely anyone under the bus for their own political ends. Do you think Officer Pantaleo grew up dreaming of enforcing a $6 per pack tax on cigarettes? He was forced into taking the action he did by policies generated a LOT higher up the food chain by the very people screwing him over now. I just wish, since it was on video, he had the presence of mind to say, before taking Garner down, “Look, the Mayor wants his six bucks. Cough it up or the Captain says we have to take you in.”

“Finally, comparing becoming a police officer to becoming a lawyer, as if it’s an either/or choice for most people, is just apples and oranges.”

Agreed. One requires an insane vetting process, an extended testing regimen, and a lot of luck. The other requires that you’re not a complete turd as an undergrad, and you can afford pay both tuition and to sit in school for three more years of your mid 20’s. But you’re right, and that’s part of the problem. Given their choice, most police departments would LIKE to be recruiting from the same pool as law school. Truthfully, I know of a couple cities that will give extra civil service points to candidates with a law degree. I also know quite a few lawyers who worked their way through law school as cops.

“They require different skill sets.”

Indeed. One requires you to make split-second, life and death decisions based on, among other things, your knowledge of the relevant constitutional principles and case law.  The other requires you to be capable of talking your way out of anything, avoiding all responsibility if possible, and engaging in EXACTLY the behavior that is the very definition of “corruption” in any other profession. But again, that’s just my experience. We can talk about the % of politicians who are lawyers and the rate of alcoholism in the legal profession that is never, ever discussed openly some other time.

“There are plenty of people qualified to be lawyers who would never make it through the police academy. And there are plenty of great officers who may not have had the grades and test scores to get into law school.” 

I think you would find that there is much more crossover in skills than you think. Then again, I also think that you buy into the subtle class distinctions most often still perpetuated in the legal system – that policing is “blue collar” work, overseen by the better-educated “gentlemen” who are lawyers.

“Moreover, during my three years of law school, I amassed $100,000 in debt — and that was 20 years ago. Someone who went straight into law enforcement after college (assuming they went to college) would probably have EARNED more than that. So maybe some people would rather earn money than rack up debt.”

That’s an individual choice, not a reason why police departments wouldn’t choose to recruit from the same candidate pool as law schools. It’s kind of a good selling point for recruiting, don’t you think? In a tight economy with a surplus of college-educated people and an even bigger surplus of lawyers, I think you would find that people are taking any job they can get. It’s a buyer’s market. While the outcome may be better educated officers, it is likely to be less diverse or talented officers if the primary “gatekeeper” is going to be a college education.

“Thanks for the discussion. I’m just not buying your premise.”

You’re welcome, Al. Thanks for commenting. You might have noticed that I’m not buying many of yours, either. That’s ok, though, we’re all products of our own experiences. Good luck.

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