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Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely seems to be the
new law enforcement motto. From the highest law enforcement office down
to the street cop corruption is rampant. From Los Angeles to New York
City examples of rogue cops are becoming the rule rather than the
exception. In addition to the daily surprises of lying and cover-ups
from the Department of Justice, other federal agencies are equally
arrogant and contemptuous. Anthony
Lewis

writes about a pregnant American citizen who has been held in jail since
June by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) due to a
dispute concerning her citizenship.

The problem of corrupt, ruthless, or inept law enforcement at every
level of government is a recurring problem in society. Police certainly
don’t disturb the skeletons in their own closets, while politicians live
in awe and fear of the police establishment. According to Amnesty
International, “Most U.S. police departments have strict guidelines on
the use of deadly force. … However, it is clear that these standards
are frequently breached and that too often the authorities have turned a
blind eye to abuses.”

In 1993 after the tragedies at Ruby Ridge and the Mount Carmel Center
under the auspices of the FBI, a coalition of the American Civil
Liberties Union, the National Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National
Rifle Association, the Second Amendment Foundation, and others began
building a case for ineptitude, disregard for civil rights and bad law
enforcement on the part of federal law enforcement. New leadership in
Congress and a strong push by the coalition led to initiation and
funding for the Commission on the Advancement of Federal Law
Enforcement. The commission will issue its final report next week.

The final recommendations in the Draft Staff document is a
disappointment. I hoped that the commission would not only make
recommendations for improving the current organizational structure of
federal law enforcement agencies, but would also review their abysmal
civil rights legacy and put together strong recommendations to ensure
civil liberties. Although I have not seen the entire report, it appears
that only the final recommendation, “Focus on Professionalism,
Integrity, and Accountability,” which covers issues such as recruitment,
training, rules of engagement, and the use of force, even touches on the
question of law enforcement abuses.

It’s probably just too much to ask any law enforcement agency or a
commission headed by a former FBI director to properly address
shortcomings and abuses. After all, when local police need oversight,
local leaders either turn to a civilian review board or ask the
Department of Justice to review the allegations.

It was over seven months ago when I
wrote,

“The pattern is the same: a hail of bullets, police promises of a swift
and fair investigation, community activists call for federal
involvement, community leaders asking for calm and patience, and then a
long silence pending the results of an investigation.” The geography may
change, but the incidents begin to blend one into the other. In that
article I called for a return to a civilian focus for police training
rather than military Rambo-type training. At least the commission
recommends that annual training in the use of deadly force, which
“should not be confused with firearms re-qualification,” be required for
all federal law enforcement personnel.

But again the new military-attack mindset of the police rears its
ugly head. The latest revelations of criminal activity in the Los
Angeles Police Department (LAPD) appear to be just the tip of a corrupt
group of cops with a Rambo-style attitude. In fact the Los Angeles Times
says they emulated the style of the gangs they were policing. According
to yesterday’s Los Angeles Times:

    Justice Department (DOJ) officials have been monitoring the LAPD
    for the last several years to determine whether there is any pattern of
    use of excessive force. The purpose of such “pattern and practice”
    reviews, authorized by federal law in 1994, is to ensure proper
    management and oversight at police departments and, if needed, to bring
    federal lawsuits to pressure local authorities into cleaning up their
    operations.

    The Justice Department official said the latest allegations,
    involving falsified police reports and framed suspects, go well beyond
    the issues that the federal government previously had been examining at
    the LAPD.

The pattern that DOJ officials have been monitoring includes
cases where cops shot and killed a frail mentally ill Margaret Mitchell,
holding nothing more than a screwdriver; a broomstick waving Efrain
Lopez; and a ballpoint pen wielding Daniel Zarraga, felled by nine
bullets. An officer from the same Rampart precinct cost the city
$250,000 when it settled a case on the use of excessive force several
years ago.

But it is not only LAPD. It is happening in Chicago where officers
have used excessive force and shooting at inappropriate targets. In New
York City the incidents keep occurring. In Manhattan it’s the case of
Amadou Diallo shot to death in a hail of 41 bullets; in the Bronx
where an unarmed Kareem McDonald, 20, was killed in another hail of nine
bullets and the officers involved were only reprimanded after an
“internal review”; and in a Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish neighborhood that
Gidone Busch with a hammer in his hand was shot by police in a hail of
12 bullets.

In Houston a drug raid without a warrant that left Pedro Oregon dead
in a hail of 33 bullets, a grand jury indicted the two officers who
failed to get the warrant, while not addressing the officers who killed
Mr. Oregon. All six officers were fired by the Houston Police Department
after the raid. But this military attack mindset is costing the lives of
police officers as well. In Atlanta last month a SWAT team burst into a
home only to have two officers fatally wounded by the man they were
seeking. A military mindset that leads to a tragic waste of life.

Is it any wonder that more and more Americans are eyeing someone in a
uniform with a measure of distrust? It’s not the officer we personally
know or who lives next door; it’s the cop who drives up behind you with
blue lights flashing, who knocks on your door at night, or who
officiously directs you onto a detour. When you read the stories in the
newspapers about the wrong house being assaulted, an innocent person
being in the wrong place at the wrong time, an arrogant rogue cop, or
the lies and cover-ups by the FBI; it’s a travesty on the concept of
innocent until proven guilty. It’s very sad that we are becoming more
and more conditioned to think: there but for the grace of God, go I.

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