The behavior of hundreds of police officers in New York City demonstrates more powerfully than anything else the fact that law enforcement personnel — with some exceptions, I’m sure — really do believe that they should be above the law rather than subject to it. Try not to be appalled while you read this NYT article:
A three-year investigation into the police’s habit of fixing traffic and parking tickets in the Bronx ended in the unsealing of indictments on Friday and a stunning display of vitriol by hundreds of off-duty officers, who converged on the courthouse to applaud their accused colleagues and denounce their prosecution.
As 16 police officers were arraigned at State Supreme Court in the Bronx, incensed colleagues organized by their union cursed and taunted prosecutors and investigators, chanting “Down with the D.A.” and “Ray Kelly, hypocrite.”
As the defendants emerged from their morning court appearance, a swarm of officers formed a cordon in the hallway and clapped as they picked their way to the elevators. Members of the news media were prevented by court officers from walking down the hallway where more than 100 off-duty police officers had gathered outside the courtroom.
The assembled police officers blocked cameras from filming their colleagues, in one instance grabbing lenses and shoving television camera operators backward.
The unsealed indictments contained more than 1,600 criminal counts, the bulk of them misdemeanors having to do with making tickets disappear as favors for friends, relatives and others with clout. But they also outlined more serious crimes, related both to ticket-fixing and drugs, grand larceny and unrelated corruption. Four of the officers were charged with helping a man get away with assault.
Jose R. Ramos, an officer in the 40th Precinct whose suspicious behavior spawned the protracted investigation, was accused of two dozen crimes, including attempted robbery, attempted grand larceny, transporting what he thought was heroin for drug dealers and revealing the identity of a confidential informant.
The case, troubling to many New Yorkers because of its implication that the police officers believed they deserved special treatment, is expected to have long tentacles. Scores of other officers accused of fixing tickets could face departmental charges. Some officers have already retired. Moreover, the indictments may jeopardize thousands of cases in which implicated officers are important witnesses and may be seen as untrustworthy by Bronx juries.
Not only did they applaud the criminal violations by their fellow officers, they committed more crimes themselves and violated the constitutional rights of the press in the process.
The outpouring of angry officers at the courthouse had faint echoes of a 1992 march on City Hall by off-duty officers to protest Mayor David N. Dinkins’s call for more independent review of the police. And it raises unsettling questions about the current mind-set of the police force.
“It is hard to see an upside in the way the anger was expressed, especially in Bronx County, where you already have a hard row to hoe in terms of building rapport with the community,” said Eugene J. O’Donnell, a professor of police studies at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “The Police Department is a very angry work force, and that is something that should concern people, because it translates into hostile interactions with people.”
The behavior could be construed as violating department rules. Even when officers are off duty, the police patrol guide states, “Conduct which brings discredit to the department or conduct in violation of law is unacceptable and will result in appropriate disciplinary measures.”
Who cares about bring discredit to the department. This is about justice and the rule of law, something those officers clearly do not understand. None of them should be police officers.
This case also shows how difficult political alliances can be. It is generally the left that cares about police misconduct while the right doesn’t much care. But the police unions are a huge part of the problem here:
Prosecutors said the bulk of the vanished tickets were arranged by officials of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the city’s largest police union. All the officers charged with fixing tickets are either current or past union delegates or trustees.
As the investigation unfurled, the union played down its significance and consistently referred to ticket-fixing as “professional courtesy” inscribed in the police culture.
Patrick J. Lynch, the union president, said in a news conference that the officers had been arrested on something “accepted at all ranks for decades.”
And it’s generally the right that hates public employees unions and the left that defends them. Yet here the union takes the conservative position rather than the liberal one. And they actually claim that corruption is okay because the police have always been corrupt.
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