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By Timothy N. Baldwin, JD.
April 23, 2015

When enough Americans realize the systemic police problem, politics will change

With technology, the public is becoming increasingly aware of problems with police abuse, brutality and corruption. Everyone has a cell phone and thus a camera. In a real sense, America is filled with millions of independent daily reporters who show everyone what is happening in their local areas. This tool is tremendous to protect liberty, and it is increasingly revealing problems with law enforcement agencies and offices. Despite the common excuse, you can't judge them all by a few bad apples, evidence reveals that our problems with police go beyond a "few bad apples."

A recent article by The Atlantic points out this reality. The article rightly notes that if the problems we now commonly see are simply a "few bad apples," then we would be seeing the "good cops" tossing the "bad apples" out and would be seeing police administration correcting the problems from a systematic standpoint: better training, hiring, discipline and policies.

Instead, we see cops sticking up for cops, even when the conduct is blatantly abusive and unconstitutional. But when video reveals the horror of the police' conduct, one has to wonder how and why good cops would so easily support and help the "bad apples." A recent example of this took place in San Bernardino County, CA, where

in the two minutes after the [suspect] was stunned with a Taser, it appeared deputies kicked him 17 times, punched him 37 times and struck him with batons four times. Thirteen blows appeared to be to the head." As many as 11 sheriff's deputies were ultimately complicit, with only the very last to arrive on the scene having a plausible excuse. (source).

Were the vast majority of police "good" and there only a very few "bad apples," then why do all of the good police either (1) sit back and do nothing in the face of abuse, or worse, (2) assist the "bad apples" in abusing suspects or violating the Constitution? Where is the individual's responsibility for upholding the integrity of the system? There seems to be little, from the lowest ranking officer to the highest.

The responsibility of police is diffused among many layers in the system, so that it is almost impossible to blame the system itself or the leaders who hide behind "bad apples". This diffusion of responsibility makes it really easy and convenient for police in higher positions to blame the "bad apples," while the system itself encourages and promotes what creates "bad apples." Sheriffs and police chiefs know or should know it.

The sad reality is, the atmosphere in which police are trained and operate promotes an "us versus them" mentality. Police presume guilt and prioritize "officer safety" over all. The right of the people to be secure in their persons and property takes a back seat in the bus, and accusation, arrest, prosecution and conviction drive the entire train--full steam ahead! If a person dares to assert his right not to speak or consent, officers assume he is guilty of something and is hiding contraband; and they treat him with disdain. Instead of respecting those who know and use their rights, police treat them more harshly.

When they feel like it, police will violate the people's rights: like search their property without consent or warrant; coerce people to speak or consent; stop and arrest on unreliable information or based on pretext; and belittle citizens with the slightest of evidence. At the end of the day, police care little for what rules and laws they broke because they say, "well, the courts can fix any mistakes I may make." In short, police have no reason not to break the law, because no one disciplines their unlawful behavior, even when it becomes known in court.

Then, when a good officer really attempts to respect the rights of the people and do things right, he will become overwhelmed by pressure and "suggestions" from his superior officers--those who have made a career in arresting and helping prosecutors convict people for victimless crimes. These good officers have two choices: 1) endure the wrath of "bad apples" or 2) quit. Most quit, which allows the "bad apples" to multiply like rabbits and control the system.

In the case of city police, the chiefs are (mostly) unelected. Instead, they are appointed by city council and/or mayor. They have no accountability to the people, and the people have no way to remove them. The police chiefs are term employees of a corporate municipality. Their job is not so much to "protect the public against crime." It is to collect fines from, what ends up being, the poor--those with little to no means of defending themselves and who, unfortunately, are little educated to know how to handle a police stop. Quite literally, city budgets are funded in large part by the poorest in society.

Adding insult to injury, cities will use the fines they collect from the poor to hire more officers. This leads to more prosecutions against mostly poor people. In many cases, city police will literally drive poor people into such tremendous debt that they will never dig themselves out of the hole. They give up because it simply isn't worth the effort. There is no relief, no reprieve. This cycle is vicious.

Add to this poison prosecutors who see themselves and police as a team. They are unwilling to discipline police and dismiss cases that are weak through illegally-obtained evidence or statements. Instead of reprimanding police action that is, at best, borderline lawful, the prosecutors justify everything the officers do and welcome them at their table in the courtroom. Meanwhile, they and the officers sneer at those they prosecute and criticize defense attorneys who represent their clients earnestly (see here for example). With this kind of support and kinship from the State, police feel invincible, especially when judges view the officers in the same light and refuse to correct their breaches of duty and law.

Too, we have national talk show hosts like Sean Hannity who laud police as though they deserve undying respect regardless of the social and personal atrocities created by their arrests and prosecutions. When police abuse makes its way to the national stage, "conservatives" spin the story to appear as though "liberals" are cop haters. They demonize the suspect as a villain so the public will forgive and forget whatever police abuse occurred. This causes people to rationalize their condemnation of the suspect, thinking, "he deserved what he got;" and praising the officer, exclaiming, "thank you for protecting us!"

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But not all Americans are duped. Many realize and are realizing that the problem within police agencies and offices is not a "bad apple" problem. It is a systemic problem, one that touches the core of the voluminous laws we pass; the incentives given to officers to arrest; the layers of diffused responsibility that protects police abuse; the judicial system that defends the illegal actions of police; the distorted narrative by, mostly, "conservatives"; and the public's justification for police misdeeds because "bad people deserve it."

When enough Americans realize the systemic police problem, politics will change--laws will change--the system will change. Republicans will not get elected on a "tough on crime" mantra. Democrats will not be allowed to give only lip service to protecting the poor. True politicians will disdain the dangers of a legal and judicial system that encourages and protects "bad apples" and do something to correct it.

� 2015 Timothy N. Baldwin, JD - All Rights Reserved.

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Timothy Baldwin, born in 1979, is an attorney licensed to practice law in Montana (and formerly Florida) and handles a variety of cases, including constitutional, criminal, and civil. Baldwin graduated from the University of West Florida in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in English and Political Science. In 2004, Baldwin graduated from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, AL with a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree. From there, Baldwin became an Assistant State Attorney in Florida. For 2 1/2 years, Baldwin prosecuted criminal actions and tried nearly 60 jury trials. In 2006, Baldwin started his private law practice and has maintained it since.

Baldwin is a published author, public speaker and student of political philosophy. Baldwin is the author of Freedom For A Change, Romans 13-The True Meaning of Submission, and To Keep or Not To Keep: Why Christians Should Not Give Up Their Guns–all of which are available for purchase through Baldwin has also authored hundreds of political articles relative to liberty in the United States of America. Baldwin has been the guest of scores of radio shows and public events and continues to exposit principles which the people in America will need to determine its direction for the future.

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When they feel like it, police will violate the people's rights: like search their property without consent or warrant; coerce people to speak or consent; stop and arrest on unreliable information or based on pretext; and belittle citizens with the slightest of evidence.