Sunday, 12 June 2011

Law for all

Whole cities in Mexico can’t hire a police chief because he (or she in a few cases) will be promptly sliced and quartered by the drug traffickers and the pieces placed on the town battlements for all to see. That is, unless he is willing to accept a huge bribe to look the other way and help keep out the competition. Hm, that’s a tough one: would you like 20 thousand dollars or to have your nuts doused in alcohol and set on fire?

We may shudder at these stories of awful things occurring far away, but the protection of what we enjoy as a modicum of rule of law closer to home is also under sustained assault, albeit on a far lesser scale. General indifference to lawful/lawlessness is a deeply-held biped trait, as far as I can tell, unless and until said injustice touches one personally as the torture debate has re-proven. But there are a few faint signs of resistance that are encouraging.

Here in New York we are regularly witness to all sorts of police misconduct, which just as regularly results in no punishment for the official perps. However, the latest scandal involving ticket-fixing threatens to do the boys in blue some serious damage, not because any one is particularly surprised or even incensed at the practice, but because it finally undermines a precious enforcement commodity—trust.

A Bronx jury recently acquitted a guy [above] charged with drunk driving after learning that the charging officers regularly fixed traffic tickets for their friends. So much for the ticket-fixing = ‘professional courtesy’ theory bruited about by defenders of the practice—a jury quite reasonably concluded that if police can make a legitimate charge go away with a wave of the wand, they could also drum up an illegitimate one for someone they don’t like quite as well.

Some of the juror comments were devastating: ‘completely corrupt’; ‘They have no integrity’. ‘They don’t even deserve a badge’. This development must be sending chills up and down prosecutorial spines all over town. How easy it will be for defense lawyers to discover that the testifying cop has engaged in this routine practice and blow virtually any case out of the water?

The Daily News says the Bronx DA’s office is frantically offering plea deals to keep ticket-fixing cops off the stand. At least one murder case has been lost over the suddenly un-credible cops problem.

It is also no accident that surprising love-bomb from a jury occurred in the Bronx, a majority black and Hispanic district. That’s where the youngsters bear the brunt of the city’s 600 thousand annual ‘stop and frisk’ actions in which cops since Giuliani have been permitted to harass minority men relentlessly as part of the over-played ‘broken windows’ theory of crime prevention. One result is that the city has racked up vast numbers of marihuana arrests, which saddle minority youth with a criminal record for life.

One lesson, if anyone at NYPD is in the mood for higher ed, seems to be that official impunity, two-tiered justice and effective policing don’t really mix.

No comments: