Friday, April 30, 2021

Where?


We're in deep trouble, people.

Members of the House and the Senate in Washington, D.C. are engaged in continuing negotiations to fashion a police reform bill. If they come to agreement and a bill is sent to President Biden (which he inevitably would sign), marginal improvement in the administration of justice may ensue.

But it would be only marginal and probably only temporary because in universities and among much of the public, there is a determination to ignore reality.

In the tweeted video below, you will see an instructor arging "a lot of police officers have commmitted atrocious crimes and have gotten away with it and have never been convicted of any of it. And I say it as a person who has police officers who are family members."  The well-meaning student maintains that police are "heroes" with "bad" ones as in any profession. He maintains

Yes, I understand.  And this is what I believe, this is my opinion. It's not popular to say but I do support our police and we have bad people and the people who do bad things should be brought to justice. I agree with that.

The instructor responds "they haven't....  So what is your bottom line point? You're saying police officers should be revered, even as heroes?  They belong on TV shows with children?  

The student then states 

I think it's- I think they are heroes in a sense because they come to your need and they have problems just like every other business and we should fix that but they're heroes. Well, they're....


Whatever precipitated this discussion, most police officers are not heroes. They go to work at the beginning of their shift, perform their job (whether traffic control or otherwise) satisfactorily and go home at the end of the day. A few of them perform some heroic work during the course of their career and are properly lauded, usually honored, for it.

They carry out an essential functions, most of which a majority of us would not do, and are appropriately compensated. Then they retire, as most of us do, when they are able and it is financially advantageous for their families.

They are, in most ways, like you and me. That falls short of being all-virtuous cartoon characters. Nor are they the malicious, stereotyped characters the instructor believes them to be.  "The reason we have police officers in the first place," she argues, is because of the slave patrols of the old South.

This was a centerpiece of her argument, notwithstanding that it was the practice over 150 years ago and not in the entire country. It was practiced in a region which broke off from the USA, which defeated the region in a civil war and ended slavery.

Yet, she believes "a lot of police officers have committed atrocius crimes and have gotten away with it...."  which should beg the question..... where?  Evidently not everywhere because

A Camden County judge on Monday sentenced a former South Jersey police officer to four years in state prison for slapping a 13-year-old girl in the face while trying to arrest her at a group home in 2018 during an incident that was captured on police body-camera video.

Superior Court Judge Edward McBride stayed the sentence for John Flinn, 30, a former Gloucester Township police officer, in case the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office decides to appeal his sentence. Flinn remains free on his own recognizance.

Flinn’s conviction on an official-misconduct charge carried a mandatory minimum prison term of five years. But McBride granted a request by defense attorney Louis Barbone to waive the mandatory term, finding “clearly and convincingly, that extraordinary circumstances exist,” and said the imposition of a five-year sentence “would be a serious injustice.”

Barbone, who asked the judge for a probationary sentence, described Flinn as an “extraordinary individual” who devoted 15 years of his life to serving the community, starting at age 14 as a volunteer firefighter. In 2019, Flinn ran into a burning house and saved a man’s life, Barbone said.

Flinn became a police officer in 2015, but lost his position after his conviction. A married father of three children, he expressed remorse to the judge.

“All what’s happened to me is because of my actions and conduct and no one else’s,” he said, adding that he “never meant or intended to cause harm” to the girl.

Camden County Assistant Prosecutor Angela Seixas asked the judge for a sentence of seven years in prison for Flinn, arguing that he abused his “extraordinary power” and “fractured the trust that the community has in the police department.”

Officers had responded to the Twin Oaks home in March 2018 for a 911 call of “juveniles fighting” and “using objects as weapons.”

The body-cam video of another officer, Paul Bertini, showed Bertini approaching the 13-year-old girl and telling her to “Calm down!” She was punching and kicking two staff workers and telling them she wanted to get out.

After Bertini forced the girl facedown, Flinn cuffed her left wrist behind her back. Flinn was having difficulty cuffing her right wrist, then slapped her twice on the side of her face. She was heard moaning and crying.

Killed? No. Hospitalized? No. The youth punched and kicked two staff workers, resisted arrest, and was slapped twice. She ended up moaning and crying, which is what young people do.

In other states, the juvenile may have been shot, more likely stunned with a Taser. The officer may not have been charged and had he been, may not have been indicted In New Jersey, however, the cop got three years, which may be upgraded to four. “I replay that video in my mind. … I wish I had the ability to take it all back and do better,” he said. He should be wishing that he had been a police officer in a state which condones, rather than exaggerates, police brutality.

In one of the two classes in law I had as an undergraduate, a wise professor frequently asked questions to which the answer always was "it depends."  Punishment for, or tolerance of, police misconduct depends not only upon the circumstances of the event but where it occurs, which even members of Congress appear not to understand. 

 


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