Who really are the ‘good guys?’ Who are the courageous seekers of justice? The ones fighting to right wrongs? Is it those who are defending actions of the police or the persons who are challenging the police? I’m sure many of you won’t like my choice…I say it’s the members of the public who are fighting the uphill legal battle to right wrongs!
It may be strategically correct from a legal standpoint, but is it the right thing to do when the agency’s defense team digs up dirt to tarnish the personal reputation of the public person seeking a redress for what they believe is a governmental wrong? That was the case recently in Baltimore where a Federal judge blasts the City for trashing a plaintiff in a civil rights case. Sometimes those protecting the pocketbook of government forget what impact these types of tactics will have on the people in our communities who already question our motives. So you win the immediate court case; but have you won the eventual conflict in your community. Challenging the facts of the case is proper. But how far will you allow your representatives to go to ‘win’ the case? It may be won in the darkened halls of the courthouse; but will it be a win on the street corners, Starbucks, lunch wagons and schools?
Three years ago during 2013 I was involved in a civil case in Los Angeles. A local, prominent businessman became involved in an incident with a couple of LAPD officers and sustained very serious injuries to his face and head. The officers contended he fell as he ran from them. He alleged they beat him with batons and fists. This certainly is a rightful issue for litigation.
I became involved not in the use of force incident, but in what occurred afterwards. His incident and serious injuries were broadcast widely on TMZ…the scandal media source for Los Angeles. Then the LAPD began its systematic public and private campaign to destroy this businessman’s personal and professional life.
Central to the incident was one of the officers involved in the contact/force encounter. Beginning in 2008 and continuing into 2011 there were numerous allegations that this officer, with another, engaged in sexual misconduct with persons under their control, specifically informants. In these types of cases credibility is always a problem and vulnerable victims can be easily written off, as they were in these incidents. But during the civil litigation of the businessman, the LAPD languished without movement against this one officer. Was it purposeful? Was it a legal strategy? Would the officer’s credibility be adversely affected?
Between court rulings and the trial in 2014, on the underlying use of force issues, the businessman’s case was lost. His attorneys were not allowed to bring in the evidence of the officer’s sexual misconduct. Now he’s struggling to rebuild his personal and professional life. Today news surfaces about the involved officer…http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-lapd-officers-sexual-assault-20160217-story.html This short news article scratches the surface on the lumbering, bungling, bureaucratic handling of the administrative side of the involved officer’s case. A large agency, like the LAPD, can effectively keep an officer on ‘the beach’ or not working for a long time without affecting day-to-day operations. But it was not until after the businessman’s civil trial did the LAPD suspend and eventually terminate the officer for his sexual misconduct.
Was this a conscious decision to forestall the information on the sexual misconduct and the officer’s credibility from being used against the City in the civil trial? I don’t know for certain, but I certainly have my suspicions. Is it always right to be right? Could there be more than just one right? Are we in law enforcement truly the ‘good guys’ riding the white horse searching for justice?