#45 - How To End Police Misconduct Quickly and Forever
Before I even start this discussion, I first want to make it extremely clear that I am vehemently opposed to the "Black Lives Matter" movement. No life matters any more than any other life, yet their very name and their chants leads one to believe that they feel that "black lives" matter more than any others do. All Lives Matter Equally.
As many of you know already, I come from a military and law enforcement background. I served for 17 years in the US Marine Corps as a Military Police Officer, and an additional 10 years in civilian law enforcement, so I have a unique perspective in that I have seen the situations that I will be discussing from both sides of the fence so to speak.
Some of you may be old enough to remember back many years ago when a police officer was respected in their community, because they earned that respect by how they performed their jobs and treated the citizens of their communities. An officer was ready to lay down his life to save the lives of the citizens. They were there to help the citizens as public servants. They treated others with respect and received the same respect back from the public in return. Oh, those were the "good ol' days".
Many things have changed over time, including the attitude of the police officer. No longer are they seen as your friend, there to help you in time of need, but now they are seen by a growing percentage of the population as adversaries who are there to collect revenue for their department, harass, intimidate, and possibly arrest or even murder innocent law-abiding people.
In recent years the incidents of misconduct and civil-rights violations committed by police officers has risen dramatically as more police departments become militarized with armored vehicles and armored assault vehicles, militaristic assault weapons, and training funded by grants provided by the Department of Homeland Security.
A 2017 study found a statistically significant positive relationship between militarization of the police and fatalities from officer-involved shootings. (Reference: 1, 2)
One of the reasons that police officers seemingly get away with murdering innocent civilians, often times in cases of mistaken identity, or relying on unreliable information and lazy police work or tips leading police SWAT teams to raid innocent citizens homes in the middle of the night and shooting the homeowners is because we see over and over again that nothing happens to the officers.
In almost every incident an "internal investigation" determines that the officers did not do anything against the department's policies. This is part of the whole problem, the department's policies.
Instead of an officer willing to lay down his life to protect the citizens that he swore to protect and serve, now the standard mantra is "do whatever it takes to come home tonight". They are now putting their lives above all others, and that includes yours, seeing themselves as more important than you or I.
I often ask police officers what their primary function as a law enforcement officer is, and I often get the same response, to enforce their jurisdiction's laws and protect the public. This is incorrect, an officers primary job is exactly what they swore an oath to do, to uphold the Constitution of the United States and their state. That is every officers primary responsibility. Every other job function comes secondary to that responsibility, and everything they do must conform to that. Yet this is not what we are seeing from their actions.
I had two federal police officers come up to me a while back demanding to see my identification because I chose to something so sinister as to stand on a public sidewalk on a city street next to a base in broad daylight and take photos of a government building on the base. They illegally detained me and even threatened to arrest me for "failure to identify" if I did not give them my identification.
I will not go into detail on the language used in our exchange as I not-so-politely told them exactly what he could do, and very descriptively told them where he could go. Just remember that I was a Marine for 17 years. We have been known to use language that would make a sailor blush when we feel our rights are being violated, which mine were.
This very heated debate went on for about 15 minutes with their continuous threats to arrest me. They finally handcuffed me, removed my sidearm from my holster, and reached into my pocket and took my wallet out to obtain my ID before placing me in the back of a hot patrol car with the windows rolled up and the engine not running for another 30 minutes.
Luckily the supervisor in charge of base security showed up on scene and explained to him that I had committed no crime, and that they did not have any reason to identify me, disarm me, or place me in a patrol car. The supervisor released me and sent the officers on their way while he apologized to me for his officers actions as he returned my pistol to me.
The right of a citizen to take photographs and video of anything that can be seen from a publicly accessible area is protected by the First Amendment, and has been upheld several times in the Federal courts.
All together the officers violated my First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendment protected rights. Since there were two officers there, they can both be charged individually with Conspiracy Against Rights (18 U.S. Code § 241), and Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law (18 U.S. Code § 241), both of which are Federal crimes punishable by fines and or federal prison time.
I have filed a complaint with the Justice Department which is investigating the case now, and I am filing civil suits against each officer, the Department of the Navy, and the Department of Defense because they were Department of Defense Police Officers assigned to a US Navy Base.
The main reason that police feel they can get away with clear violations like this is that they have what is called "qualified immunity" which protects them from civil suits while performing their jobs. Unfortunately for them, Turner vs. Driver just blew a big hole in their qualified immunity now when they violate "clearly established rights".
Even if you are successful in suing a department for a violation or misconduct, the officers do not pay themselves. The taxpayers are responsible for paying the award, which raises taxes to make up for it.
This right here is where changes need to be made that would eliminate quite a lot of the misconduct by officers. The taxpayers should not be responsible for paying these awards.
First off, completely get rid of Qualified Immunity at both the federal and state levels. No one is immune from liability simply because they wear a badge.
Secondly, the officers should have to to carry liability insurance as a requirement for their continued employment, just like s doctor, nurse, architect, gymnastics instructor, or any other professional is required to do.
If they are sued, the insurance company has to pay out on the lawsuit. Once their insurance company has to pay out enough times they will cancel the policy, then the officer is out of a job instead of continuing to be out on the streets violating the rights of others.
Once police officers start losing their jobs because they can no longer provide liability insurance due to their misconduct, the other officers will straighten up quickly. The entire system could be cleaned up within a very short amount of time this way.
Every time an officer goes to do anything, he will have to consider how that action could affect his future employment, just like every other employee in the world does. They are not special because they choose to wear a badge, and wearing that badge should not give them any special "get out of jail free" cards. They screw up, they pay for their choices just like everyone else has to.
Delehanty, Casey; Mewhirter, Jack; Welch, Ryan; Wilks, Jason (2017-04-01). "Militarization and police violence: The case of the 1033 program". Research & Politics. 4 (2): 2053168017712885. doi:10.1177/2053168017712885. ISSN 2053-1680.
"Analysis | Does military equipment lead police officers to be more violent? We did the research". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-06-30.