Am in the process of reading a book called Breaking Rank by Norm Stamper who has lots of years in the police working the west coast from patrol cop to chief of police.
I stop at the end of each chapter and just let my thoughts take me where they will without trying to dig up anything special. Well, today’s newspaper seemed to validate almost everything I have read to one degree or another and for that I am sad. Because it is the criminal justice system that protects and in theory serves the public. However, I am quickly coming to the opinion that what protect and serve has come to mean is protect our own and serve ourselves.
My first impression of the Gainesville city police was that of being parked in front of a sandwich shop trying to find a street on a map while three police cars pulled up and three overweight officers got out and waddled into the shop for lunch. In the following 20 or so minutes maybe four UPS trucks pulled up and the drivers left their trucks at a run to get their sandwiches and at a quick time came back and pulled out on the road. None of them were overweight and came to the conclusion I would rather have them for police and the three heavy weights that waddled into the sandwich shop and were still there when I left.
The business of law enforcement is inherently dangerous by its very nature. A person knows this going into it. However, as it has unfolded in my vision over the last 20 or so years, I don’t see where they have been particularly effective in this small town where I have made my home.
Bear in mind, this is a small county of some 250,000 residents where the economic engines are medicine, education and government. Bear in mind that some 80,000 of the residents are the best and brightest college and university students of the state. If my memory serves me well, in the first three years of my residence here, the city of Gainesville made the top ten of most dangerous towns of it size in the nation.
As an aside, this county has a higher incarceration ratio than the state of Florida which has a higher incarceration ratio than the United States of America which has the highest incarceration ratio of the world. That means there is no country on God’s green earth that has a higher incarceration ratio than Alachua County.
It was not all that long ago when the editorial writer for the Gainesville Sun commented that was nearly impossible for the police chief to discipline members of the force because of the contracts the city negotiated with the police union. This was brought to the public’s attention not long after some of the off duty police were caught on a drunken spree through Porter’s Quarter’s throwing eggs at some residents.
Then about a month ago, there were some or maybe a lot of descreptencies in the sheriff’s evidence locker that were discovered (brought to official attention what many already knew) only after a small town police chief came into to pick up some money that was in the evidence locker and it was not there. Yea, one of the clerks was hung out to dry but in the reporting, it was mentioned that entry procedures were sloppy and at times dates were adjusted so as to hide evidence from defense attorneys. That means both the detectives and prosecutors knew of it and to date nothing has been said. We have men and women in prison on a charge called tampering with evidence. I read the paper from cover to cover daily and am not aware there has been anything further reported.Editorial: Breach at ASO
Then in today’s paper there was an article where the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) was examining the procedures of the state supreme court. Whereas the incident was minor there is a sense of cavalier disregard for public perceptions. This is also the same court that closed shop for three days so that the same three justices could fill out their applications to run for office again. The dynamic tension that speaks to the integrity of the criminal justice system is awash in the new definition of protect and serve.Prosecutor: No charges against 3 Fla. justices
You have to bear in mind that FDLE reported on an investigation they did a year or two ago on the Dozier School. Dozier School for Boys was closed by the feds for what amounted to 108 years of state sponsored child abuse. (Department of Justice Releases Investigative Findings on the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys and the Jackson Juvenile Offender Center in Florida which follows a Florida Department of Law Enforcement Dozier abuse reportin 2010 which gave the school a clean bill of health. Read more at Abuse at Florida’s closed ‘White House Boys’ reform school unconstitutional and THIS IS THE FIRST, ORIGINAL AND THE OFFICIAL WEB SITE OF THE “WHITE HOUSE BOYS.” and again Feds condemn conditions at Florida youth prisons
Then in another article there was a trial that started to today in a public records case against the city. ‘…Erin Friedberg, the city’s former visual arts coordinator, sued back in January after the City Attorney’s Office said it would cost her $40,000 — in advance — for records she requested in association with a pending workforce discrimination complaint filed with the Florida Commission on Human Relations….’ To my sense it is a trial and evidence is evidence. Trial starts in ex-employee’s public records case against city
Then there was a story about Casey Anthony. She steadfastly refused to take a plea bargain. A lot can be said about the case but one of the jury members summed it up as ‘…He noted that jurors who gave media interviews after the trial said they waited for weeks for strong evidence that never came….’ Casey Anthony rejected early plea deal, Baez says
I would and will argue that as Norm Stamper points out in his book, that when there is not a strong and dynamic opposition between the defense, prosecutor and judge then all parties get sloopy. All of which leaves the public and risk and grows the prison system which men and women that should not be there.