Copacetic
October 25, 2012 6:22 AM   Subscribe

Unlike a member of the public, the officer gets a "cooling off" period before he has to respond to any questions. Unlike a member of the public, the officer under investigation is privy to the names of his complainants and their testimony against him before he is ever interrogated. Unlike a member of the public, the officer under investigation is to be interrogated "at a reasonable hour," with a union member present. Unlike a member of the public, the officer can only be questioned by one person during his interrogation. Unlike a member of the public, the officer can be interrogated only "for reasonable periods," which "shall be timed to allow for such personal necessities and rest periods as are reasonably necessary." Unlike a member of the public, the officer under investigation cannot be "threatened with disciplinary action" at any point during his interrogation. If he is threatened with punishment, whatever he says following the threat cannot be used against him. Why firing a cop is damn near impossible. Via.
posted by unSane (80 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Who will guard the guards themselves?
posted by SnuffyMcDuffy at 6:28 AM on October 25, 2012


A lot of these sound pretty reasonable. They just need to apply it to members of the public. No need to go union-busting.
posted by DU at 6:30 AM on October 25, 2012 [53 favorites]


Just to put the an entirely anecdotal counter-argument to my own post, I should say that I've actually sat in on a police internal affairs interview in London, England. My presence with a film crew obviously changed the nature of it enormously, but it was painstaking and forensically thorough. The office under investigation (for assault during a melee in the back of a police van) stood to lose his career, pension, and home. I had got to know him quite well and had interviewed both him and the (much bigger, brawler) bloke he had truncheoned and I was fairly convinced he was innocent. But in any case, he was absolutely petrified of the interview -- so much so that that morning on the way to the cop shop he had to pull the car over to puke.

On the other other hand, the guys in the Tactical Support Group absolutely terrified me and I wouldn't have put anything past them.

posted by unSane at 6:30 AM on October 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


The existence of a few good apples doesn't prove the system works.
posted by DU at 6:37 AM on October 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


I live in Rhode Island and none of this surprised me. When I was a teenager two of my friends and I decided to celebrate his father giving him a redone Chevy Nova by picking up a six pack of Jolt Cola and driving around after work. When we drove into Lincoln the caffeine got to us and we pulled into the abandoned Lincoln drive in theater. Five Lincoln police cars followed us. After searching us repeatedly and finding nothing, one of the Lincoln officers who refused to accept that we didn't have an weed or booze in frustration slammed my head repeatedly onto the hood of my friends car. I never touched him, I was handcuffed. When Edward Krawetz was convicted I felt a bit redeemed about the experience. Despite his trial making the front page of our local paper the Projo, most of the information in this article about Krawetz not being removed from his position hasn't been commonly reported here in RI.
posted by Jernau at 6:38 AM on October 25, 2012 [12 favorites]


An officer doesn't get a "cooling off period." I'd been a lawyer 12 weeks when I got my first shooting case. Like everyone else, him and the other officers were given the right to an attorney immediately and like everyone else, they could stop the questioning at any time. We saw forward looking-video and agreed to talk, because the person shot (an elderly man) was getting medical attention and pulled a huge chrome plated .45 on the officers and pointed it right at them.

This guy has zero first hand knowledge of the subject.

Finally, if you are for union rights you are for union rights. This guy mixes up criminal and other liability to confuse. If an officer is believed to commit a criminal act, he gets no "cooling off" period. They question him as a criminal suspect and the officer can invoke his right to counsel like any other citizen.

If the complaint is merely administrative, then the investigation proceeds at the rate IA can get to the case.

Finally, trial boards are far older than the legislation he cites. These are public workers and they have a due process right to their jobs. A janitor gets a fucking hearing as a public employee.

Remember, this is Reason magazine, whose definition is that a government or corporation can flex its muscle but unions and due process rights for individuals who combine together are wrong. This is simply liberal-baiting--take something liberals like, such as workers rights, and taint it by association with something liberals don't like, police. And if cops don't get that right, janitors and teachers don't get it either.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:40 AM on October 25, 2012 [95 favorites]


Unlike a member of the public, the officer gets a "cooling off" period before he has to respond to any questions.

Are citizens really so ignorant of their rights?
posted by exogenous at 6:41 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just to put the an entirely anecdotal counter-argument to my own post, I should say that I've actually sat in on a police internal affairs interview in London, England. My presence with a film crew obviously changed the nature of it enormously, but it was painstaking and forensically thorough.

Internal affairs detectives are cops. They want arrests. They want a high clearance rate. They will go after cops any day of the week.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:42 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the other other hand, the guys in the Tactical Support Group absolutely terrified me and I wouldn't have put anything past them.

That's the Territorial Support Group. Tw*ts with Steroids and Guns to their many Met fans, I am told.
posted by jaduncan at 6:47 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Internal affairs detectives are cops. They want arrests. They want a high clearance rate. They will go after cops any day of the week."

This does not mean they will recieve proper prosecutorial support
posted by Blasdelb at 6:50 AM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]



Finally, if you are for union rights you are for union rights.


You realize that shit like this will make the average pro-labor citizen wonder if he is for union rights?
posted by ocschwar at 6:53 AM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why? Answer: cops have unions.

How do we fix this terrible situation, that cops have unions and are therefore not disciplined for criminal conduct?

Handle police misbehavior as a criminal matter, not a job discipline manner. Then the existence of unions and the attendant job protections are irrelevant and don't become a threat to the public.

Or else we could just go on a union-busting crusade. I guess either way works, and if you're Reason magazine, the choice is obvious.
posted by edheil at 6:54 AM on October 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


Why? Answer: cops have unions.


Unions are for setting fair compensation and working conditions.

They are not there to protect misconduct. If a union does decide that its job is to protect the bad apples, then it's time to bust the union.
posted by ocschwar at 6:58 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


They are not there to protect misconduct. If a union does decide that its job is to protect the bad apples, then it's time to bust the union.

The problem is that these protections protect both the guilty and the innocent. Increased protections for the innocent require increased protections for the guilty. Defending the those protections for the innocent requires defending them for the guilty to avoid setting contrary precedents.
posted by Jahaza at 7:02 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Unions are for setting fair compensation and working conditions.

They are not there to protect misconduct. If a union does decide that its job is to protect the bad apples, then it's time to bust the union.


This is question begging. Unions "protect" bad apples by requiring misconduct to be proved, but of course you don't know whether or not an apple is bad until it's proved. The protections listed in the article are essentially about requiring that misconduct be proved.

Also, the distinction between working conditions and protecting employees from being summarily dismissed is entirely non-existent.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:03 AM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


The union is also responsible for making sure any disciplinary actions follow the guidelines set out in the collective bargaining agreement. This includes "bad apples" that the union might be happy to be rid of. If the union fails to do this it opens itself up for litigation from the employee in question.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 7:05 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


They are not there to protect misconduct.

Unions are to protect workers, whether through setting fair compensation, good working conditions, or insuring due process in disciplinary matters. The latter does not equate to protecting misconduct, it equates to making sure misconduct is not only in the eye of the beholder (or the pen of the overzealous supervisor).
posted by OmieWise at 7:09 AM on October 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


Fuck the police.

-NWA
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:15 AM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Finally, if you are for union rights you are for union rights.

Well there's union rights and then there are the privileges enjoyed by public sector employees which are the result of asymmetrical negotiations between politicians beholden to public sector unions and the unions themselves. Privileges which which very few private citizens enjoy, but which are paid for by the taxes private citizens are forced to pay.

You realize that shit like this will make the average pro-labor citizen wonder if he is for union rights?

The Democratic Party seems absolutely tone deaf to this. Especially since Citizen's United, the Democrats have become even more dependent on the financial support of public sector unions.

Fuck the police.

Tha. Fuck tha police.
posted by three blind mice at 7:19 AM on October 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


Tha above comment favorited for tha spelling correction. Not sure about tha rest.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:22 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I strongly agree with Ironmouth and everyone else who doesn't like this piece. Wilfully conflating criminal investigations with dismissal/misconduct ones is just trying to bang the stick against unions in general. The police are entitled to a fair hearing before being dismissed. They're entitled to questioning that is reasonable and allows them bathroom breaks. They're entitled to pay during the investigation. They're entitled not to have it publicly disclosed that they're being investigated during the investigation.

So is everyone else, in my books.

That being said, the mention of a ban on civilian review boards is fair game to me. CRBs are a good way to get out of some of the problems that can come up from internal investigations, they show a willingness to be accountable, and they don't change the procedural safeguards that should exist for the investigated person.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:23 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fuck the police Koch and Scaife funded libertarian rag that this article comes from.
posted by octothorpe at 7:24 AM on October 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


"...I was fairly convinced he was innocent. But in any case, he was absolutely petrified of the interview..."

He knew how innocent people get treated by the police and the system. And he wasn't looking forward to it.

I am always bemused by these police union horror stories. Much like feral kids being raised by wolves, I was reared by conservatives. I grew up hearing horror stories about unions, union violence, horrible union employees who lived to game the system. I grew up and out of that mindset, but I certainly haven't forgotten those stories. I support unions now, simply because it's obviously a lesser evil than the unscrupulous behavior of many employers.

There is at least one website that tracks police misconduct - at least the incidents that make it to the press. A number of these incidents show that some LEO offenders are pattern abusers who have been protected by the union. In some cases, officers are actually fired, but the departments are forced to rehire the offender. I can't imagine how awkward that would be.

Anyways, maybe take a page out of my conservative dad's book - put the union on the hook, financially, for any future misconduct by officers protected by the union in past administrative or legal issues.
posted by Xoebe at 7:26 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The problem isn't that it's too hard to fire cops.

The problem is the lack of due process and transparency for the victims of police corruption and abuse.

If we could deal with the second point then it seems to me most of the contention about the first point goes away on its own.
posted by cotterpin at 7:28 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh yay, the old "private sector employees don't get gold plated Cadillacs!" argument. Yes, and working in the private sector really fucking sucks for a lot of people.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:39 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


26.1% of Americans are involved in "Guard Labour"

This paper is from 2002, so presumably that percentage has risen with your TSA state-employment-by-the-backdoor experiment. A far better question would probably be, "Why is such a large part of our labour force employed specifically to prevent other citizens from breaking our system?"

The title post seems a little naive; if you are part of the system, of course you're going to use it to your maximal benefit, and there will be special considerations. This includes knowing the checks-and-balances part of the cycle. (I'm reminded of a quote about a FBI sting "I was playing patter-cakes in the mud, they were playing Chess").


I'd be interested in the procedure for what happens if an American police personnel is facing an Internal Affairs investigation, not facing an external challenge. It could very well be that the former defines the latter procedure, and is why the process is so formalised / "sympathetic" to said personnel, and as such, the outrage of the piece is missing the actual reasons for what's going on.
posted by Cheradenine Zakalwe at 7:49 AM on October 25, 2012


He knew how innocent people get treated by the police and the system. And he wasn't looking forward to it.

VS how the guilty get treated?

The problem is the lack of due process and transparency for the victims of police corruption and abuse.

Remember when Presidential candidates were telling the rubes^H^H^H^H^Hvoters how there was hope for change and how his administration was going to be the most transparent?

Why should the people at the bottom be transparent when the top isn't and doesn't suffer for it?
posted by rough ashlar at 7:51 AM on October 25, 2012


The problem is that many, many complaints that on their face should be criminal matters instead turn into job-performance reviews subject to the contract protections. If I walk up to someone unprovoked and hit them in the face with a stick, or shoot their dog, I get arrested for assault, animal cruelty, or whatnot. If a police officer does it, they go before a review board.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:51 AM on October 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


The problem isn't that it's too hard to fire cops.


Sure it is.

Cops are issued weapons and given great leeway to use them. Getting them off the streets and off the payroll should be easier than firing a hotel housekeeper for short-sheeting a guest.

But I guess no matter how much money I give to the SEIU strike fund, I'm "not for unions" because I think this is fucked up.
posted by ocschwar at 7:55 AM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Unlike a member of the public... not represented by a union or in a position with bargaining rights.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:00 AM on October 25, 2012


But I guess no matter how much money I give to the SEIU strike fund, I'm "not for unions" because I think this is fucked up.

Well, I don't know how much money you give to SEIU, and I don't know if you're pro- or anti-union, but I know that your comments in this thread about the purposes of unions, suggest that you would limit those purposes in ways that weaken the role of unions in favor of corporations and managers. There are ways to solve the problems identified here, as others have suggested, which do not gut union protections in order to achieve them.
posted by OmieWise at 8:05 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


One thing I think people aren't considering here is that for government employees generally, and for police especially, the line between "criminal matter," and "job discipline manner" is sometimes very fine.

If you write some half-assed report glossing over some honest mistake of yours, that's a job discipline matter. A cop does the same, and he's committing a crime. If a cop uses excessive force, at what point does that become an illegal assault? If a cop is racially insensitive, at what point does that stop being a performance and public relations issue and become a criminal civil rights violation?

So, even an honest cop is going to skim the edges of being accused of criminal conduct much more than the average worker. Of course he wants his union to protect him, because it works both ways: It's very very easy for a boss to turn "discipline" matters into "criminal" matters to try and get rid of an honest cop for any number of unworthy reasons: to get rid of someone a city councilman doesn't like, to fire a union agitator, or to make room for a brother-in-law.
posted by tyllwin at 8:08 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why? Answer: cops have unions.

How do we fix this terrible situation, that cops have unions and are therefore not disciplined for criminal conduct?

Handle police misbehavior as a criminal matter, not a job discipline manner. Then the existence of unions and the attendant job protections are irrelevant and don't become a threat to the public.

Or else we could just go on a union-busting crusade. I guess either way works, and if you're Reason magazine, the choice is obvious.


I've represented dozens of police officers. I've never seen a single one engage in punishable misconduct and not be punished. I've done trial boards. I've had prosecutors look into my cases. Where there has been misconduct, it has been punished.

Mind you my experience isn't reading newspapers articles. These cases are what I do.

Unlike a member of the public... not represented by a union or in a position with bargaining rights.

A member of the public arrested by the police is being charged criminally. He or she has an immediate right to an attorney and to have an attorney appointed to represent them. What is discussed in this article is the right of all public workers to have a due process hearing on their termination. That's constitutional law.

You confuse criminal law with the right to a hearing on one's job.

The problem isn't that it's too hard to fire cops.


Sure it is.

Cops are issued weapons and given great leeway to use them. Getting them off the streets and off the payroll should be easier than firing a hotel housekeeper for short-sheeting a guest.

But I guess no matter how much money I give to the SEIU strike fund, I'm "not for unions" because I think this is fucked up.


So you're only for union rights when they apply to people you like.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:11 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why are union rights so often conflated with union contracts? I mean, doesn't management share equal responsibility for the terms of the collective bargaining agreement?
posted by klarck at 8:12 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


The problem is that many, many complaints that on their face should be criminal matters instead turn into job-performance reviews subject to the contract protections. If I walk up to someone unprovoked and hit them in the face with a stick, or shoot their dog, I get arrested for assault, animal cruelty, or whatnot. If a police officer does it, they go before a review board.

If you read the article, the officer here was convicted of a crime.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:13 AM on October 25, 2012


Getting them off the streets and off the payroll should be easier than firing a hotel housekeeper for short-sheeting a guest.

Actually, no, that's not true at all. Cops are issued guns and are allowed to use them, as you say; determining whether or not a police officer is justified in using a weapon is a hard question which requires careful consideration of tricky evidence.

Housekeepers aren't supposed to short sheet beds. If a housekeeper short sheets a bed that's a per se failure to do the job. If a police officer shoots someone, knowing that is just step one in figuring out if there's misconduct.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:14 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


So you're only for union rights when they apply to people you like.


Or to people whose conduct isn't a grave matter of public safety.
posted by ocschwar at 8:14 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you read the article, the officer here was convicted of a crime.

Hm, true. Which makes the fact that he kept his job more puzzling.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:19 AM on October 25, 2012


I've represented dozens of police officers. I've never seen a single one engage in punishable misconduct and not be punished. I've done trial boards. I've had prosecutors look into my cases. Where there has been misconduct, it has been punished.


You've just read about a cop who was convicted of a felony, and yet is still demanding to stay on the job.

Do try to keep up, sir.
posted by ocschwar at 8:24 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth: " If you read the article, the officer here was convicted of a crime."

And not fired.

States that have these "bill of rights" laws don't allow for civilian review boards, or non-government oversight of such incidents. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

There's no guarantee that police departments will dismiss (or even convict) cops that abuse their power and harm civilians. There's ample historical (and recent) precedent that certain police departments will protect rather than discipline corrupt cops.
posted by zarq at 8:25 AM on October 25, 2012


Remember, this is Reason magazine, whose definition is that a government or corporation can flex its muscle

When did Reason come out in favor of government flexing its muscles?
posted by 2N2222 at 8:27 AM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you read the article, the officer here was convicted of a crime.

I'm with you that this article is really just an assault on unions, but it's strange to me that a conviction for a violent felony wouldn't either result in automatic dismissal or a completely pro-forma hearing before firing.

Which there wasn't in Kicky McKickhead's case; there seems to have been a pretty extensive de novo investigation and hearing process. In the end, the cop resigned, with some words around it that make it seem like there was an inducement offered.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:27 AM on October 25, 2012



You've just read about a cop who was convicted of a felony, and yet is still demanding to stay on the job.

Do try to keep up, sir.


He is demanding to keep his job, but he hasn't kept it. This is like tort reform supporters freaking out over demands in complaints; I can demand all I want, what matters is what I get. If he keeps his job despite the conviction, then we can talk about that, but talking about what's "demanding" is asinine; of course he's demanding to keep his job, why wouldn't he?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:28 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth: Remember, this is Reason magazine, whose definition is that a government or corporation can flex its muscle but unions and due process rights for individuals who combine together are wrong. . . .

I've represented dozens of police officers. I've never seen a single one engage in punishable misconduct and not be punished. I've done trial boards. I've had prosecutors look into my cases. Where there has been misconduct, it has been punished.


"I defend police officers for a living. By the way, police officers are good people and the system works. You should trust me, unlike those Reason Koch guilt-by-association unionbusters."
posted by grobstein at 8:30 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I say "but he hasn't kept" it, I mean "he hasn't kept it permanently following a disciplinary hearing on the matter." I realized it could be confusing.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:31 AM on October 25, 2012


Just as a point of order, Reason has mis-quoted the actual sentence. He didn't get a "10 year suspended sentence".

Krawetz, 47, claimed self-defense during a felony battery trial inJanuary, and said the move was triggered after Levesque kicked his shin, according to CBS affiliate WPRI in Providence.

The cop escaped prison time, but a judge ordered him to undergo counseling and hit him with the decade-long suspension.

Krawetz, who was suspended without pay, declined to address the court before his sentencing.


Link here

I suspect that "suspension" means "suspended from acting as a police officer" rather than a jail term. As far as I can see, at no point has anyone reported that the disciplinary hearing has concluded. He's been suspended without pay, and now is having the work tribunal. I suspect he's aiming to keep his pension rather than his job [not going to research this, but fairly certain this is his aim].


/derail over.


The culture of opposition within police forces is hardly a new phenomenon.

Oderint dum metuant
posted by Cheradenine Zakalwe at 8:35 AM on October 25, 2012


This makes me so angry I can't really write a reasonable comment.

Ian Birk. Shot John T. Williams dead for no good reason. Not only was he not fired, he wasn't going to be fired; he resigned because he was tired of the bad press he was getting.

No criminal charges.

Asshole shoots an unarmed homeless guy dead, four bullets, no provocation, no chance. Guy was dead eight seconds after the cop got out of his car. Seeing as the dead guy was deaf in one ear, it's not clear whether he ever even heard the cop trying to get his attention.

No criminal charges.

Fuck the police, indeed. I will maybe start thinking about having respect for them again when they are willing to obey the rules they try to impose on the rest of us. What kind of bullshit democracy do we have when cops can flat out murder people and get away with it, just because they're cops?
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:36 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Which there wasn't in Kicky McKickhead's case; there seems to have been a pretty extensive de novo investigation and hearing process. In the end, the cop resigned, with some words around it that make it seem like there was an inducement offered.


And it's worth noting that none of this would have happened if not for video.

I cannot believe there are people here in Metafilter defending a disciplinary process so skewed in favor of miscreant officers that no misconduct will get them fired short of criminal activity leading to conviction.

And I'm sure those same mefites will be grousing tomorrow about the next civil liberties violation posted here.
posted by ocschwar at 8:37 AM on October 25, 2012


taint it by association with something liberals don't like, police.

I am a liberal and I can't say enough about how strongly I disagree with this.

As a black man, I've had some pretty messed up encounters with police officers, incidents where I was minding my own business and ended up fearing for my safety and/or dignity because of things police officers did and said to me. Those incidents left me feeling like what a lot of people who have frequent encounters with the police say about them is true: they are really just another street gang.

I've also had some encounters with police officers who were pretty much everything they tell you cops are when you're in kindergarten: courteous, professional, brave, intelligent, and dedicated to making their communities safe for all citizens regardless of socioeconomic status, skin color, or gender. Those incidents always left me feeling optimistic and hopeful about the future of our nation.

I'm a liberal. In general, I like police. I do not like assholes. Unfortunately, sometimes assholes become police officers, and they fuck things up for everyone -- their fellow officers and us citizens.
posted by lord_wolf at 8:38 AM on October 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


It looks like he actually did get a ten year suspended sentence and ten years probation.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:39 AM on October 25, 2012


We live in an age where we have video cameras in our phones. Why doesn't every single cop have a camera on them that records every interaction they have with the public?
posted by Quack at 8:42 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos It looks like he actually did get a ten year suspended sentence and ten years probation.


I apologise; time to lurk, I'm not adding anything but FUD.
posted by Cheradenine Zakalwe at 8:42 AM on October 25, 2012


Why doesn't every single cop have a camera on them that records every interaction they have with the public?

The Oakland cops were issued body cameras during the Occupy protests. They had a remarkable failure rate, seeming to spontaneously turn off whenever the cops wearing them were engaged in questionable activity.
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:45 AM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wish the officers who stood around and watched Edward Krawetz kick that woman in the head had the fortitude to do what this trooper did to this Miami officer. (SLYT)
posted by Jernau at 8:46 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is discussed in this article is the right of all public workers to have a due process hearing on their termination. That's constitutional law.

Huh. The idea of employment being subject to due process hadn't even occurred to me. My quick googling tells me that this arises from the court's view that a public employee has a "property interest" in their job. Is this an accurate description and is it rock solid settled law? It doesn't seem intuitive to me.
posted by mullacc at 8:51 AM on October 25, 2012


This article is a lot like an Alternative Medicine magazine publishing an article titled "Why Vaccines Could Kill Your Child" and is suspect for similar reasons.
posted by jnnla at 8:53 AM on October 25, 2012


I've represented dozens of police officers. I've never seen a single one engage in punishable misconduct and not be punished.

I mean...what standard are you applying to "engage in punishable misconduct"? For that matter, how are you defining "be punished"?
posted by adamdschneider at 8:54 AM on October 25, 2012


A year ago, an Oakland cop tossed a flash bang grenade at a man who was lying supine on the roadway and being tended to by medics.

He has not had so much as a slap on the wrist.

But it's so much more important that nobody say anything to criticize a disciplinary process so crippled it might as well not exist, and not say anything mean about the police unions that helped put it in place.

Because then we'd be Kochtards, right?
posted by ocschwar at 8:58 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is no different than any other unionized job. While we can suggest treating misconduct as a criminal matter instead of a job matter, that won't change the fact that the union contracts force this crap on us. Getting the unions to agree to that is far easier said than done.

It isn't just police. As just one example, schools are notorious for zero-tolerance. Children get suspended, expelled, and often times arrested for the most trivial of matters. Even giving out an aspirin can cause some teenager to face severe penalties

However, those schools are often times very tolerant of teachers. Teachers in Michigan were allowed to possess or be under the influence of illegal drugs while at work 3 times before losing their job. They could be drunk at work 5 times without worrying about being fired. A teacher could be caught selling drugs in school and would only get a 3-day suspension - an extended holiday. Only on the 2nd occurrence would he or she face job loss

So yes the teachers as well as the cops may be "punished" but hardly the same sort of punishment anyone else would receive.
posted by 2manyusernames at 9:19 AM on October 25, 2012


I've represented dozens of police officers. I've never seen a single one engage in punishable misconduct and not be punished.

I'm a Londoner. In recent riots, our cops were covering up their badge numbers. This is illegal and signs of a premeditated crime. One that was turned a blind eye to by their fellow police.

I don't believe that UK police are much more corrupt than US police (although the meme that British Police are the best in the world is long dead). But that is serious and well-publicised misconduct and almost nothing was done.

If you are defending police, they only ever reach the point they need defending when the evidence is almost overwhelming. Skewed sample.
posted by Francis at 9:22 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a big difference between the initial phases, which includes investigation, charges, etc, and the adjudication phase, which is the hearing and result.

The fight against police immunity needs to happen at the initial phase, rather than adjudicative phase. Conflating the two is not helpful except for revving up outrage.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:30 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if this guy's gonna keep his job.
posted by zarq at 9:45 AM on October 25, 2012


I've never seen a single one engage in punishable misconduct and not be punished.

Really? Not a single one, ever, testify that s/he had "smelled alcohol" or weed, when it was a lie? Nothing that wasn't actually in plain sight? Not a single one stop someone simply for being black driving through a white neighborhood? Not one claim that "the dog alerted" or "the subject resisted" which was contradicted by video evidence or multiple witnesses? Never? Wow. I wish I lived in a place with such paragons.
posted by tyllwin at 9:46 AM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


The most obvious example of 'punishable misconduct' is police officers getting together to collaborate on their notes. This is completely standard practice everywhere. The officers then are allowed to rely on their notes in court.

Even good officers do this. I would do it too if I was a cop, to be honest.

In most police stations, it's well known who the problem officers are and many other officers don't like going on call with them because they're likely to witness something that they'll then have to lie about. But they DO lie, because if they don't, the next time they put out an urgent call for assistance, nobody may turn up. It's like living in small town, times 1000.
posted by unSane at 10:10 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's all just play cop apologist until they finally kill us, okay? I think that's the easiest way to handle this.
posted by broadway bill at 10:23 AM on October 25, 2012


[Folks, in a difficult thread on a touchy topic please try to be mindful of the fact that using deliberately troll-seeming language makes your comment indistinguishable from trolling. We need you to be clearly not trolling. Hit us up on the contact form if you need more guidance on this.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:54 AM on October 25, 2012


Here in Portland we have been trying to fire Officer Ron Frashour for the murder of Aaron Campbell, an unarmed man he shot in the back and killed. The mayor/police chief fired him, he appealed, the state said Portland MUST rehire him, the mayor refused, the state basically said "Oh no you didn't." and now we have a cop rehired by the force getting two years back pay while remaining on "administrative leave".

And they wonder why some of us have little respect for them.
posted by mediocre at 11:14 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm with you that this article is really just an assault on unions, but it's strange to me that a conviction for a violent felony wouldn't either result in automatic dismissal or a completely pro-forma hearing before firing.

Which there wasn't in Kicky McKickhead's case; there seems to have been a pretty extensive de novo investigation and hearing process. In the end, the cop resigned, with some words around it that make it seem like there was an inducement offered.


This I admit is weird (with the caveat that these things are complicated and I haven't specifically read about the case). In my admin law class, which covers these issues (albeit in Canada) we did a bunch of readings about dismissal hearings and their relation to criminal trials.

My understanding, and again with the caveat that I'm going on memory and don't practice in the area, was that a conviction is to be regarded as proof positive - you can't try to argue it didn't happen. However, if you are acquitted, you may lose your job because a hearing has a lower standard of proof than a criminal court.

However, it's possible that a violent felony isn't a, for lack of better words, "mandatory-firing" event, such that the panel cannot agree that it happened and still keep you. A crim conviction for a bit of possession almost certainly wouldn't require a firing, for most jobs. Financial fraud would definitely be for a lot of accounting/trustee roles. Sexual assault definitely is mandatory-fire for positions involving children (I hope).

Now my opinion is that a violent felony committed while acting as a police officer should be mandatory-fire. I'm not sure about off-duty ones. But if it's not written down that it is a mandatory-fire, then you can't have automatic dismissal or a pro-forma hearing. Because then the hearing wouldn't be fair. But I'll bet that the hearing started on the assumption that there had been this felony and never questioned that aspect.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:35 AM on October 25, 2012


I think the difference is that a non-cop and a cop may be entitled to similar protections, but a cop always gets them whereas a non-cop is pretty much rolling the dice -- does he know his rights? Will they be respected? They are clearly not equally vulnerable.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:42 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


This was an interesting article to read because it seemed that it only covered half the story, or perhaps, my state is different than the ones covered. See, one of the tasks I'm given on my job is basically kicking bad cops off the streets.

I, and my coworkers, operate in the realm of administrative law. All police officers are required to have "peace officer" licenses. When the state's Department of Public Safety hear about a police officer who has either been arrested or even just detained on the possibility of a crime, they investigate and then send our office a referral to go after that license. Without the license, the police officer cannot work in this state and it makes it harder for them to get licensed elsewhere or work for the Federal government.

A cop does not have to be charged with a crime for us to go after him or her. We are required to prove that a crime was committed, but since this is a civil proceeding, the burden of proof is lower. Our administrative hearings are conducted like a circuit court hearing, there's a finder of fact (commissioner), a court reporter, and both sides can and often are represented by lawyers. Both sides can put on evidence to prove or disprove or cast doubt regarding the charges. Once we are done, briefs submitted, the Commissioner will give the Department of Public Safety what amounts to permission to discipline the license (this generally means revocation - the loss of it). That is, if we win.

A police officer who loses here can appeal and at that point it enters the regular judicial system and can go as high up the chain of appellate courts as any other case. It does not happen that often, though.

It is a redeeming feature of the job, especially after one reads what some of these police officers have done. It ranges from the mundane, like passing bad checks, to the horrific, such as rape or a combinations of crimes which feed right into the most paranoid fear of how crooked police are accused of being. We might not be sending them to prison or jail, but we are at least removing them from these positions of power and trust in the communities they purportedly swore to protect.

What I did miss in the article was what I have discovered is a shady "gentleman's agreement" that may exist in some places and definitely seems to exist in one nearby major metropolitan police force. It is an agreement that in exchange for simply resigning, there ultimately will be no criminal prosecution. Thus, you find officers who should have gone to trial, off working in nearby police departments, hired under a shield that they had simply chosen to resign from their job and move on; rather than being fired. Thankfully, even if it might take a year or more to procedurally plod its way to our desks, it eventually does and we eventually go to hearing.

Some police officers are genuinely accepting that their behavior has destroyed any future career in law enforcement and make no attempt to defend against the process. Some even just surrender their peace officer licenses, and some of those seem relieved to resolve the matter so painlessly. Others do fight it, and if I am to believe my witnesses, will lie under oath to remain part of that thin blue line.

There are good cops and bad cops. The bad cops may not be fired, but at least in my state, that doesn't mean they won't lose their jobs.
posted by Atreides at 2:47 PM on October 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Another Isolated Incident
posted by homunculus at 3:25 PM on October 25, 2012


Unlike a member of the public, the officer gets a "cooling off" period before he has to respond to any questions.

Are citizens really so ignorant of their rights?


Don't watch The First 48 with me, ever. You will see me yelling at the screen--get a lawyer! And they show them all being read their rights!
posted by Ironmouth at 6:30 AM on October 26, 2012


What I did miss in the article was what I have discovered is a shady "gentleman's agreement" that may exist in some places and definitely seems to exist in one nearby major metropolitan police force. It is an agreement that in exchange for simply resigning, there ultimately will be no criminal prosecution. Thus, you find officers who should have gone to trial, off working in nearby police departments, hired under a shield that they had simply chosen to resign from their job and move on; rather than being fired.

Its called a plea bargain. Regular citizens get them too, every day. The prosecutor has very limited resources. So they only prosecute fully a fraction of the cases.

Another thing--I've personally been involved in situations (especially involving off-duty conduct) where the prosecutor goes harder on an officer simply because they are a police officer.

In the end, the prosecutor has something to get them to give up that a regular citizen does not. So they go for the badge.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:35 AM on October 26, 2012


I'm with you that this article is really just an assault on unions, but it's strange to me that a conviction for a violent felony wouldn't either result in automatic dismissal or a completely pro-forma hearing before firing.

Which there wasn't in Kicky McKickhead's case; there seems to have been a pretty extensive de novo investigation and hearing process. In the end, the cop resigned, with some words around it that make it seem like there was an inducement offered.


Every single public sector employee has a constitutional right to a hearing. See Cleveland Bd. of Education v. Loudermill. There is no such thing as a "pro forma" hearing. Instead, you get to put on witnesses and have your case heard.

But most departments have a rule against felony convictions, so in some cases the question will be whether or not there was a conviction. Concievably, a department could choose a lesser penalty, but I've never seen that. I suspect this guy lost quick and Reason didn't tell you that so you'll start hating unions.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:41 AM on October 26, 2012


Its called a plea bargain. Regular citizens get them too, every day. The prosecutor has very limited resources. So they only prosecute fully a fraction of the cases.

Yeah, not in these cases. No criminal charges are ever filed. If we're lucky, we get to see where the prosecutor's office turns down the referrals, which seem to happen to about 90% of all cop related cases. This wouldn't necessarily be shocking if not for the presence of pretty solid evidence most times. It's instances where a prosecutor would have a lot of ability to file charges, then get the guilty plea based on the weight of that evidence making an easy prosecution. One more stat to throw on the pile for re-election.

I see plenty of plea bargains in my work, and some from police (always helpful when its an Alford plea), and what I described were not plea bargains. Pretty much the cops we deal with are given the chance to take their dirty baggage and leave, probably in part to keep it and the department from getting into the papers, for everything short of murder or shooting someone obviously outside of the line of duty.

If you want to call it an informal plea bargain, made between the department and the officer, I suppose you can do that.
posted by Atreides at 9:46 AM on October 26, 2012


In the end, the prosecutor has something to get them to give up that a regular citizen does not. So they go for the badge.

Forgot to address this. In the situation I'm discussing above, there is no surrender of a badge. These police officers just resign and find a new job in law enforcement at the nearest other police department.
posted by Atreides at 9:51 AM on October 26, 2012


No Charges for Officer in Submachine Gun Killing; Promised to 'Blow' Victim's 'Head Off'
posted by homunculus at 10:38 AM on October 27, 2012


‘They Brought an Army to Take Out a 16-Year-Old Boy,’ Says Father of Suicidal Teen Killed by Police Sniper
posted by homunculus at 10:39 AM on October 27, 2012


Cop Tasers Little Boy
posted by homunculus at 9:55 AM on October 31, 2012


I wonder if this guy's gonna keep his job.

"Cannibal Cop" Planned To Cook "Girl Meat" For Thanksgiving
posted by homunculus at 11:15 AM on November 21, 2012


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