Article first appeared in laprogressive.com
The National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers For Justice Reform & Accountability (NCLEO) is a multi-cultural group of retired and former law enforcement officers. The NCLEO will meet with Rep. John Lewis (D. Alabama) in Washington, DC, next week, to further the discussion started by FBI Director James Comey in his speech on race relations between the police and the black community.
The NAACP urges national reforms & recommendations to address police abuse. Click here to read more.
This historic and unprecedented event will include retirees from police departments across the nation: St. Louis, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC Metro, Albuquerque, East Orange, New Jersey, Brockton, MA and the US Marshal Service as well as family members of Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man whose murder was the subject of the movie Fruitvale.
In addition, we are also supported by Kevin Murphy, former Alabama police chief who bought Representative Lewis to tears when he apologized to the noted civil rights leader for failing to protect the Freedom Riders during a trip to Montgomery in 1961.
There appears to be an ongoing and concerted effort by a some police departments to minimize and mitigate bad behavior on the part of police officers on a national level. It is understood, but not accepted, that court cases generated as a result of police misconduct are often swept under the rug to avoid costly lawsuits.
The belief is that police chiefs and commissioners routinely ‘circle the wagons’ to avoid agency embarrassment and exorbitant litigation. Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole recently “counselled” Officer Cynthia Whitlach after the police car dash-cam proved that Whitlach had falsified an arrest report of a 79-year-old black military veteran, William Wingate. If falsely stripping a citizen of his or her freedom is not grounds for dismissal – what is?
Then we have district attorneys, who at times, appear complicit in shielding bad cops.
Recently in New York, in the case of New York Police Department Officer Mirjan Lolja, the prosecutor used his “discretion” and charged Lolja with a misdemeanor rather than a felony for assaulting the subway conductor. Time for an independent prosecutor to handle police officers accused of criminal activity.
There is an abundance of evidence that police officers are given great deference by grand jurors in the discharge of their duties; most don’t want to second guess a police officer who uses physical violence that results in serious injury or death.
So then, the questions that beg to be asked are:
- Might there be a pattern of excessive force by officers?
- Is anger management an issue having been dismissed?
- Would periodic psychological evaluation help identify those police officers ready to ‘pop like a cork’?
It’s time for real and substantive change in the way police departments discipline errant behavior when discovered. It’s time for prosecutors to shed the appearance of collusion and favoritism with police departments and file the appropriate criminal complaints when officers break the law.
No desk duty when an officer is caught red-handed violating policy. No more counseling when termination should occur. No more resignation in an attempt to hide bad behavior, thus allowing employment on another police department.
Time to deter bad behavior with definitive consequences. Time to hold everyone accountable up and down the chain of command.
A police officer, in my opinion, is only able to commit egregious acts in the field because of a lack of managerial oversight. Where are the patrol sergeants? Where is the station’s watch commander? Who approved that booking of the suspect when there was insufficient probable cause for the initial detention, not to mention the subsequent arrest? Which supervisor signed that “use of force” report without interviewing the alleged suspect to verify the officer’s assertions? Every person along the way who had a hand in commission of an act or omission of supervision should be held personally accountability — officers, sergeants and lieutenants alike.