consultants are sandburs

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A former public defender authors an op-ed about policing, and civilian control of same.

This Strib link; this excerpt, beginning with naming the three people recently shot dead by police in the main metro area without a single cop body cam having been turned on:

Jamar Clark in Minneapolis. Philando Castile in Falcon Heights. And now Justine Damond — in Minneapolis, again.

For the record, I want it to be known that I object to being policed this way. As between the Minneapolis Police Department and the civilian authorities in my town, it is the civilians who must be in control, [...] It is well past time for our mayor and our City Council to assert their authority. They can start by firing our ineffectual police chief. After that, the City Council should take charge of a complete overhaul of the department.

Since the department can’t seem to hire and train anything but Blue Warriors, the council, rather than the department, should set the rules for what qualifies a person to become and remain a Minneapolis police officer. If the council doesn’t feel it has the expertise to micromanage how cops are qualified and trained, it can hire experts from foreign jurisdictions who don’t think of the citizenry as the people of an occupied country. The council should break up the entire command structure of the department, and demote, fire or reassign everyone in management, because these are the people who have stubbornly failed or refused to reform the culture of our paramilitary Police Department despite scandal after scandal.

[...] I’d like to think that a thorough overhaul of the Minneapolis Police Department and its policies will not be happening just because this time the victim is a white woman who holds citizenship in a predominantly white first-world country and who was shot in an affluent white neighborhood, rather than a black or American Indian person shot in downtrodden north Minneapolis. I’d also like to think that the police and the city won’t try to solve their PR problem by simply throwing the Somali-American police officer who shot Damond under the nearest bus. [...]

I am ashamed of my city, of its arrogant, hypocritical police force, and of its civic leaders [... including] judges and prosecutors of the Hennepin County District Court, who have tortured facts, law and logic to justify almost anything cops chose to do to the people that I spent 28 years bringing before them for justice.

Richard G. Carlson, of Minneapolis, is a retired assistant Hennepin County public defender.

Are there starting and ongoing psychological fitness tests? Could the police union be made responsible for paying from its dues pool the insurance costs for bad cop actions? Give them that kind of incentive to cull. Where an insufficient culling incentive presently seems to exist.

And would not the first step be putting teeth into body cam usage demands? With the second step being to train and require prosecutors to cease regarding the cops as "our clients?"

Then, curbing the rubber stamping of search warrants should be a reform of the bench. Decriminalizing minor drug offenses would eliminate much of snitch-cultivation, which is a perversion of orderly and proper policing. Last, formalizing plea bargaining in some standardized form would eliminate much of the conduct at the prosecutorial and judicial level that rightly has earned reproach.

Noteworthy as to the bargaining dilemma, there is the allegedly common prison comment, "I didn't have a lawyer, I had a public defender." Public defender case loading has led to the bargain-it or face maximum sentences mentality, and suitable funding of public defense would be needed to curb plea bargaining affronts.

Body cam footage in any litigated or prominent case should be a public document, so the citizens could better learn of some dimensions of some police conduct in interacting with the public as well as learning the degree to which police testimony might be rightly trusted during stints of jury service.

Imagine, alone, body cam footage of DWI field sobriety testing. It would not disarm all of the "As I approached the subject I detected the strong smell of alcohol, his speech was slurry and he was red-faced and belligerent" standard litany. A smell of alcohol, if any, could not be documented or discredited by any body cam. However, slurring of speech, facial appearance, and presence or absence of belligerence would be objective evidence which could not "misrecollect" over time. Those would be helpful things, as well as memorializing the conducting and results of field sobriety testing done outside of the subject's vehicle before any custodial detention decision is made.

In short, probable cause considerations would clearly benefit from universally demanded body cam usage.

Finally a former public defender should not be too myopic in casting criticism at others.

Hold up a mirror too.

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