When the public believes the police acted inappropriately or with too much force, they are told for the investigation to be completed so all the facts are known. Once the investigation is completed, the public is told the report is not available to the public.
I consider this a serious abuse of power…and one that we continue to ignore because we have an unfounded belief that the police can do no wrong. Well, I’m here to tell you…they absolutely can, and they have.
In Steven Greenhut’s book, PLUNDER!, he cites an incident in Huntington Beach, California in 2006. While responding to a DUI accident the Huntington Beach police planted evidence in the suspect’s car by tossing a loaded revolver into the trunk. Cops, prosecutors and city officials tried to seal the records and stall the release of related documents. Eventually, cops “were forced to admit under oath that a snub-nosed handgun had been tossed like a Frisbee about four feet into the trunk…belonging to Tom Cox, the suspect.”
Even though the gun bounced around in the trunk, it didn’t go off…luckily.
When Cox went after the cops for evidence planting, the cops stated that it was simply a training exercise and the police chief said that he would create new procedures to ban such exercises in the future.
A training exercise? Unbelievable.
I don’t know about you, but I will be terrified the next time a cop pulls me over. Not because of the ticket I’ll get for a rolling stop but because if I upset his delicate sensitivities in any way, he is completely protected from anything he feels like doing to make my life significantly more difficult.
In Greenhut’s Dec. 17, 2006 column, he wrote, “Huntington Beach officers Shawn Randell and Read Parker fired 15 shots at Ashley MacDonald in September, killing the distraught teen as she held a…knife in a nearly empty city park.” He goes on to say, “You meant two male officers could come up with no better way to subdue a young girl than to shoot her to death?”
The police chief, police union and unthinking defenders of anything the police do urged Greenhut not to rush to conclusions and wait for the official investigation, which is handled internally, but the way, by the Sheriff’s Department.
In response, Greenhut returned to an older case 2-1/2 years ago from Huntington Beach involving Steven Hills, a distraught man who called 911 and made threatening statements. He was shot by cops 29 times. 29 times!? Is Huntington Beach in Afghanistan? I used to live there, and it’s a very quiet middle/upper class community.
The investigation on that case is complete. Plenty of time has passed. Greenhut requested the internal investigative report on this older case and guess what? The police department and the Sheriff’s department won’t release it. It is exempt from the public records act.
I find this frightening. The cops can swiss cheese a teenager armed with only a knife, as well as a man armed only with words and the entire investigation is done internally, with the results sealed from the public.
I remember the teenage shooting in HB when it happened. I think I know why the cops like to first say, “wait until all the facts are in.” First off, as time goes by, the public forgets the incident and the public wants to give the police the benefit of the doubt anyway. Secondly, if anyone in the public does remember it after time has passed, they are simply told they can’t have the investigative report.
Only totalitarian regimes have this kind of unilateral authority to kill at will and not have their actions held up for public review or face any sort of punishment.
As a society, what the hell are we thinking? Why do we allow this?
Cops are just people, and subject to the same influences as people…greed, ego and power. The system must allow us to hold those that succumb to these human weaknesses accountable.
Not all cops are going to be like Barney Fife. Some are going to be corrupt, dirty and on abusive ego-trips. We can not allow a system that holds Barney Fife and an abusive ego-trip cop to the same above-the-law protections.
In fact, like moths to a flame, a system that offers unlimited impunity to its members will attract those that act in such a way that unlimited impunity is what they need, and want.
It won’t be long before these types of individuals make up the majority of the police force…or maybe we’re already there.