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05/02/2007 Archived Entry: "Reflections on the corrosiveness of corrupt cops"

THINK ABOUT MAFIA ENFORCERS. They don't just roam the streets looking for doors to kick in. Consider the thugs who work for Columbian drug lords. Nope, they don't roam around at random, either, seeking homes to invade.

Not because they're paragons of morality, of course. But because they receive no benefit from random violence. Even freelance home-invasion burglars, truly the scum of the earth, must be selective in choosing victims. They want a house where valuables can be found, where owners of those valuables are submissive enough not to fire upon burglars pretending to be cops.

Now think about the three cops who slaughtered Kathryn Johnston last November. Consider the enormity of the facts finally coming out this week.

Those cop-thugs -- who shot an 88-year-old (or 92-year-old, depending on who you believe) great grandmother, then left her handcuffed and bleeding on the floor while they cooly planted evidence to make her look like a small-time dope dealer (and remember, "small-time dope dealer" would have been enough, by the weird standards of the drug war, to justify massacring anybody in that house) -- were literally roaming the streets looking for victims.

Completely random victims. They prowled in search of doors to bust, humans to bust.

Guilty? Innocent? They didn't care. If there was no evidence of crime, they could always concoct some -- as they did to get their warrant. Or plant some. As they did at least twice on that single day.

Their sole aim was to terrorize people in their homes and destroy lives. That was their official duty. That was the job they were sent into the streets, paid by tax money, to do. One of the confessing officers made it clear that they felt pressure from their bosses -- not pressure to perform careful investigations, not pressure to go after the most violent offenders, not pressure to protect the innocent, but simply to rack up arrest numbers. And that's precisely what they were doing that evening when they targeted a harmless, ancient lady.

As Radley Balko noted, had the person in the house been an innocent 22-year old man instead of a great-granny, they'd have probably gotten away with it all -- home invasion, murder, evidence-planting, and cover-up. Happens every day. (Link is to PDF file.)

And that is the distilled essence of the drug war. That's what it all boils down to.

Anybody who believes that those three officers were just "bad apples" is smoking something stronger than weed. Every vice war corrupts its enforcers. And the drug war -- bigger, longer, and better-funded than any other vice war in history -- is the most corrupting of all. It has already corrupted America from the top of our legislatures to the bottom feeders of our entertainment world. It has corrupted every police department that's ever grabbed for the lure of busting the non-violent and living off asset forfeiture (sans due process) rather than protecting citizens from violent criminals.

What I'm about to say next will probably come across as pretty naive, given the times we live in. But corrupt policing, and corrupt "justice" in general, is one of the two most corrosive acids that eat away at civil society. The other is corrupt money -- debased coinage, unbacked paper.

Corrupt money eats away at a society so slowly and so covertly that not one in ten thousand people understands the connection between bad money and social decay. Corrupt policing should be more obvious. But after watching years of police thuggery, we still persuade ourselves it has no effect on us.

Here's the naive part: Neither the corruption of money nor the corruption of justice should ever be tolerated, even in small quantities, or forgiven. They are far worse than freelance crime. Corrupt cops are more dangerous than freelance mass murderers, more corrosive to society than foreign terrorists. A corrupt justice system is so ultimately destructive -- ripping away trust, freedom, security, privacy, private property, self-defense, and every value members of a truly civil society hold dear -- that the corrupters should never, ever be forgiven their deeds.

Every cop who even once plants evidence should be declared pariah -- after being forced to serve the full sentence he tried to set up his victims for. The world would be a better place if every cop who busts down a door -- unless he's in urgent pursuit of a violent felon or doing something like trying to save a person or a puppy from a fire -- were shot by an outraged resident (even if the resident is a petty, malum prohibitum violator). Every prosecutor concerned only with running up conviction stats should be busted down to janitor in a law firm and never allowed to rise again. Every legislator who churns out law after law, without regard to protecting the innocent from violence (or the Bill of Rights against destruction), should be run out of office and spat upon on the streets. Every police chief who sends men like the Atlanta Three out to terrorize victims like Kathryn Johnston should be removed from any position of authority forever. Because make no mistake, that police chief knew -- or had a responsibility to know -- what he was inflicting on the world. The very nature of the drug war made officers Junnier, Smith, and Tesler inevitable.

The rest of us -- including freelance criminals -- usually deserve second chances. Mercy is one aspect of true justice. Opportunities to reform are another. But for those who corrupt the systems on which civil society depends are committing crimes whose enormity and whose cynicism is so vast that they should never, as long as they live, get another opportunity to do such damage.

I know it's naive to say that any corruption of money or justice should never be tolerated. Because what the hell, I know as well as you do that we live in an age where 95 percent of the value has already been stripped out of our money and where the drug war, asset forfeiture, prison lobbyists, thug-cops, and plea-pushing prosecutors have already hopelessly corrupted whatever was once decent in our justice system. It's over, it's done. The damage is irreparable. Why weep and moralize about it now?

But still, these are the Great Destroyers. Freelance crime hurts individuals. When people aren't able to defend themselves against it, crime destroys whole neighborhoods. Maybe even cities (although to prevail on that scale, the freelance criminals have to have cohorts in public office). But men like those who slaughtered Johnston -- and their bosses, and their enablers -- destroy entire societies. And you know, we once had a pretty good society, here in America.

Posted by Claire @ 02:57 PM CST

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