The justice that the Innocence Project continues to restore one case at a time inspires me to give back to the system I was part of for so long. In November of 2010, I lost the use of my left arm from an altercation on the job that took the use of my shoulder from me. Having survived an on the job injury so physically debilitating, I have needed to remain strong emotionally and stay plugged in to several law enforcement facets. The time I have been down, I have undergone six surgeries in a 12-month period and watched my fellow officers, the ones I once referred to as great friends, evaporate. There is no self-pity to be read in this edition; instead, it paints the picture of how I came to reflect on these issues to provide logical input.
The past couple of years going through the process of retiring and walking away from the job I loved (albeit, involuntarily) have taught me several lessons. It has also provided me with countless time to reflect on my career, personal objectives, and the opportunity to research judicial and police corruption. Beyond self-reflection and unanswered career questions, it has given me plenty of time to read about cases being dismissed after wrongful convictions. The sheer numbers of innocent people being prosecuted is striking. The reasons vary of course but from my vantage point, I have been reading and studying the phenomena referred to by officers and court officials as “testilying.”
This will be an edition with many topics and several add-on’s. Today I will write about innocence and not understanding what that looks like to a police officer once they get on the wrong track and “feel” they are right. It starts with the introduction, the idea that the suspect is the right one, and there could be no other solution to the problem they are trying to solve. This is the investigative phase of the job officers do daily and gets them trapped into linear solutions that are difficult to see around. The cause is simply failure to look beyond their investigation. At times, it is easier to clear a case at the expense of someone that is obviously “guilty” instead of working backwards to determine their possible innocence. This is an investigative option that has detectives start with trying to prove the innocence of a suspect instead of the guilt… Some officers get one tracked and do not want to accept that there could be an alternative to what is obvious to their personal belief.
Cause and effect: Laziness, sloppy police work, and a heavy case load that budgetary issues and shortfalls force quick case management decisions that force poor results. Procedures to get cases solved or cleared and whatever way to do that is at the expense of what is most efficient and cost effective. Recently, a great example of this was a case a local police agency failed to investigate because of so many inputs coming from so many directions. Patrol was short handed, detectives had months of back logged cases, and people were transferred and no one knew where they were going. There is no “fault” to assign, but departments looking to save face find loopholes to fight another day at the expense of victims. This is as bad as malicious prosecutions because the people they are trying to protect get let down and cities seek to make the problems go away for self preservation. Now that I have your attention, next week, I will delve into what causes this type of thinking and work ethic and the answers may surprise the majority…
Thank you for reading as always,