Tuesday, May 5, 2009
While the National Police Misconduct NewsFeed project has just begun to give us a glimpse at the possible breadth of America's police misconduct problem, it sometimes fails to show just how deep it runs perhaps.
Sure, when most people think of police departments where corruption and misconduct run deep, we think of big cities like Chicago, Oakland, New York, or Philadelphia. So, does that mean smaller cities and towns are exempt from the problem of deep-seated police corruption and a culture of misconduct?
Furthermore, when we see more than one story of misconduct being reported from a specific location, is this just coincidence, or is this indicative of a deeper, more disconcerting problem?
Still sound confusing? Then consider some of these cases, buried deep within the police misconduct news feed:
Spring Lake Police Department in North Carolina was told it's officers may no longer make felony arrests in 2007. But recently things have gone from bad to worse as two of it's officers have been arrested on multiple felony charges and the state's district attorney is promising even more arrests while also admitting that he has to dismiss a majority of the misdemeanor charges filed against suspects by the department as well.
To sum it up, the department is so corrupt, so inept, that it cannot be trusted to even make a simple misdemeanor arrest, effectively shutting it down and forcing an already thinly stretched county sheriff to pick up the extra slack.
Think of it... an entire department of bad or inept cops. Would that make you feel a bit less secure if you lived there? No? How about this...
Cuyahoga County Sheriff Gerald McFaul left the Sheriff's Department in tatters as he resigned under civil and criminal allegations of nepotism, political favoritism, and a publicized search of his office and home by FBI and IRS agents.
After his departure the county requested an audit of the department and has recently found out that nearly half of their officers were never given civil service exams but instead were hired at the recommendation of friends and family within the department... in fact, many were members of the sheriff's own family or recommended by them without any other real qualifications. But since they've been employed for so long, the county can't fire them.
Still not wondering how entire departments could be problematic like this? Here's some more...
Since the beginning of this year, 1/3 of Smith Township's police department, near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, have been arrested on criminal charges that include burglary, assault, perjury, and drug possession. One officer alone was accused of assaulting a 59 year old man and later accused of attacking a 19 year old fast food worker while on duty, just because he thought the kid was talking about him.
Then last week they found themselves in the crosshairs of a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging excessive force was used when officers arrested a couple after a concert. Smith Township's residents have taken to describing their police officers as incapable of controlling themselves and scary...
Would you be scared living there too? No? Well how about here...
Greece New York's Police Department is missing most of it's command staff, including it's chief, as they are suspended pending criminal and civil charges... in fact, many of the department's police officers are too. Things have gotten so bad in Greece that state officials have come down to do a complete audit of the department that has been in the news, in a bad way. So often, in fact, that the city recently canceled a ceremony that was supposed to honor the department because, well, I guess there wasn't anything left to really celebrate about it.
Does a police department with nothing left to honor make you think twice about how your own police department might operate behind closed doors? No?
Then I have one more place to tell you about... the place where cops like those who end up listed on the news feed go...
Because, if you've ever wondered where all the cops fired for misconduct go when they try to find a new job in law enforcement, wonder no longer... they went to the Maywood Police Department in California where they nicknamed themselves "The Police Department of Second Chances"...
Well, looks like they'll be hoping for third chances now that the effort to cut costs by lowering standards and recruiting officers from disciplinary hearings instead of job fairs and academies has resulted in a blistering audit by the California State Attorney General who found an environment of gross misconduct and widespread abuses against the citizenry.
So, would you want to move your family to Maywood and trust their safety in the hands of a department full of "second chances"?
As I said, the news feed does give us a glimpse into how widespread the problem of police misconduct is... but, just how deep does it run in each police department? Maybe that will become more clear in time as well.
In the meantime, maybe we should all start asking ourselves this question about our own local police force... before your department ends up in my feed too.
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