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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Week 4 Paper - Foundations of Criminal Justice


The case referred to in this paper is FICTIONAL; there is no such murder/rape case in San Diego as far as I am aware.


San Diego Breach of Trust: Murder and Rape Committed by Law Enforcement Officer
The recent case of a woman raped and murdered by a law enforcement officer (LEO) has broken the bond of trust between the criminal justice system and the community. The officer will be referred to as “John”. Not only did John commit a heinous crime, but it is likely that members of the law enforcement community covered this incident up. It is also possible that the crime took place in an environment where assaults committed by LEOs were common. Considering the case under the systems theory it can be seen that if the public does not trust the police to do their job then there is no "balanced state" and the criminal justice system cannot run properly. The purpose of this task force is to examine John's case in view of current perceptions about law enforcement officials and police misconduct. An additional goal of the task force is to examine whether the criminal justice system is appropriate in sentencing, both to law enforcement officials and to the general public. The task force also needs to determine where these perceptions are generated and how to manage them more effectively to reduce problems within the community. In addition, this task force will make recommendations to rebuild the community’s trust, dispel false perceptions regarding policing and the justice system, and to suggest preventative measures to the criminal justice system to prevent future occurrences.
Case Summary
A brief summary of the case shows that a suspect profile was generated and pursued without any basis; this becomes more suspicious as the initial investigation dismisses a witness with information damaging to the police department, and refuses to share the evidence that the subject profile was based on. There is also no mention of a police connection to the case through the Red Dome bar. These are items that can easily be interpreted as a cover up; whether this is the case or not, this appearance has certainly caused a breach of trust with the public. An additional complication in this case is the racial component, as both the victim, and the falsely accused suspect were African-American.
Perceptions Regarding Law Enforcement
The myths regarding policemen are the ideas that guide the public perception of the criminal justice system, and have an impact on the trust that the public has in the system. Danger, misconduct, brutality, duty,and honor are perceived by the public, and sometimes by policemen themselves, in a manner that does not always fit the facts on the ground. However, "Popular culture, of course, informs law. Law in its flexibility, for better or worse, facilitates the further direction of popular culture "(Lubet, 2002, p9)
One common myth is that policemen drink more than the general population does. Lindsay et al show that doesn't seem to be the case. The rates found by Lindsay, William, and Shelley (2008) don't seem to differ greatly from statistics given by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [NIAAA}. Lindsay et al found that 70% of officers drank once a month or less as compared to the NIAAA figure of roughly 60% (n.d., Table 2)
Another common mis perception is that LEOs have a higher-than-average suicide rate . However, Remsberg finds that “multiple studies have shown the police suicide rate actually to be lower than the norm “( 2013, para. 26).
A myth common to both LEOs and to the public is that law enforcement is among the top five most dangerous jobs . Remsberg contradicts this; “Police rank 14th in danger, between heavy equipment operators and electricians. (2013, para. 9). A contrasting reality sets in for many policemen, who then have to fight boredom. “A lot of police officials feel burned out; not from the stress of their jobs but from boredom. They join the force expecting excitement but instead get bogged down in paperwork and rules...”(South University Online, 2014, para. 5).
There are a wide range of activities that could be categorized as police misconduct, which raise an equally wide range of myths and realities. Various segments of the public may view the police as racist, corrupt, and brutal in turn. There is definitely anecdotal information to support each view, however the task force found few statistical studies to determine the realty behind these views, as most studies examined were based on anecdotal compilations. “U.S. police misconduct statistics are hard to come by because the government does not regularly collect data. One attempt to track misconduct is the "National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project" which estimates misconduct rates using newspaper reports “ (Wikipedia, 2014, para.35). A potential problem would also arise when attempting to track misconduct in a law enforcement environment itself gone bad, as in the New Orleans' police attempt at covering up the shooting deaths of civilians (Thompson, 2011, para. 4,6). Finally, one myth that coincides with police misconduct is the “code of silence” with which police officers protect one another. Westmarland discusses the reality of this myth in the article, “Police Ethics and Integrity: Breaking the Blue Code of Silence” (2005)
One view about the police that many policemen would like to share with the public is the primacy of the crime fighting mission:“Citizens largely think of police as crime fighters” (Plant & Scott, 2009, p.13). However, politicians seeking fine money, and political interest groups seeking to legally define morality, have certainly diluted the police mission since the time of the Peelers with a cacophony of mala prohibta crimes
Of interest to note is the source of myths that paint the image of the police sub-system of the criminal justice system.. Both entertainment media and news media have influenced these views through a center-of-attention effect. Movies and TV have portrayed policeman from the spectrum of the thoroughly corrupt Bad Lieutenant to the anti-hero Dirty Harry. However, the majority of news coverage focuses center-of-attention on police misconduct. Further study is required to determine exactly how much is driven by the “need” for sensationalist copy, and how much is driven by political bias. There is anecdotal evidence of anti-police bias, as discussed at The Oregonian (Norton, 2008,). However, that does not imply that all media coverage is biased.
Due Process in the Criminal Justice System- Equal Treatment Under the Law
The task force also needs to discuss the issues that affect sentencing of offenders. What factors influence how fair the system is?
Racism is an issue that can affect prosecution and sentencing. One example is that of Tulia, Texas, where the criminal justice system arrested 38 African-Americans for drugs; all charges later set aside by the courts. "The prosecutions were, these lawyers said, the consequence of poisonous small-town race relations, a misguided desire to claim victories at any cost in the war on drugs and a legal system in which poor defendants did not have a fighting chance against thin but confident testimony from a single police officer. "(Romero & Liptak , 2003, para 4)
Plea bargaining also has a negative impact on the fairness of the system , "You have two people who've committed the same crime. They have the same background, and one is going to get twice as severe a sentence as the other because he's exercised the right to trial. I think it's a perfectly designed system to produce conviction of the innocent. " (Frontline, 2004, para 2)
How fair is the system as a whole? Since 1973, 130 people have been released from death sentences (Amnesty International, n.d., para. 1).1365 have been executed since 1976 (Death Penalty Information Center [DPIC], 2014, p.1). In addition there are approximately another 3300 offenders on death row(CNN, 2011, para 2). This leads to a rough estimate of 3% wrongful convictions. This correlates with estimates of 1% to 3% of wrongful convictions in the criminal justice system as a whole(Godsey, 2012, para.2). This is an example of both the criminal justice filter and of due process at work.
Finally, as Truth in Sentencing (TIS) programs evolved it has been seen to have two effects. The first, that criminals received the same sentences for the same crimes, removing some political considerations that caused unfair differences in sentencing. The second, that criminals are punished for their crimes, and prevented from committing additional crimes. Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk states that TIS efforts are successful, “A second reason why we should not scrap TIS is that evidence-based research indisputably shows that since 1994 our crime rate has steadily dropped--an astonishing 42% between 1995 and 2008--as our incarceration rate increased by 18% “ (2011, para. 6)
Recommendations to Avoid Injustice Caused by the Criminal Justice System
The first recommendation made by the Task force is that all officers are to be equipped with a digital video/audio camera at all times during their shift. This is in addition to cameras mounted on police vehicles. Supervisors will be responsible for verification of operation prior to, at some point during, and at the end of shift. Officers will either behave themselves, or have immediate evidence of misconduct. The presence of cameras will reduce the number of misconduct complaints; “Where they have been used, they have proved their worth. In a three-month experiment with 74 Oakland, Calif., police officers, complaints were filed against 15 of the cops when they patrolled without video cameras. But when they were driving cars with cameras, there wasn't a single complaint filed against any of the 74. “ (Chapman, 2010, para. 6) This will also allow for defense against many baseless lawsuits filed against LE agencies. With the rising tide of lawsuits pursued against law enforcement agencies (Archibald & Maguire, 2002, p.2), a cost analysis should show the cost of the cameras to easily offset the costs of lawsuits. In addition, video evidence is useful in preventing assaults against officers and preventing racial profiling
A major impetus of the COPS grant program was the enhancement of officer safety. Not
only were officers being assaulted at an alarming rate; they were increasingly becoming
accident victims while performing their duties on the highways. COPS believed that the
use of the in-car camera would possibly deter assaults while providing a safer working
Another emerging issue was racial profiling in policing. COPS leadership felt that
providing agencies with technology capable of producing both video and audio records
of traffic stops would be extremely useful to agencies investigating any public challenge
regarding racial profiling. Based on these two critical police issues, forty-seven state
police and highway patrol agencies quickly took advantage of these camera grants.(Albright, n.d., p6)
Police act based upon training and experience. The environment on which that experience is gained affects what a policeman learns. This process can also be described as the police socialization process. Socialization can have good effects or bad effects; an example of a bad effect though socialization is the “code of silence”. Training must be an ongoing process, and reinforce current policy as the criminal justice system adapts new strategies. Training must also continuously emphasize the officer's responsibilities to both crime control, and to due process.
Law enforcement agencies need better screening for officers .Some cities have even dropped application exams. “The Chicago Police Department is seriously considering scrapping the police entrance exam “ (Spielman & Main, 2010, para 1)
Stop prosecuting citizens for videotaping police. The downside of this is the possibility of dishonest editing for political reasons, as seen in the Occupy UC Davis case (Kincaid, 2011). However, by arming police with cameras of their own, such propaganda will more easily be countered. This alone will repair trust in the community.
Recommendations Specific for San Diego
First, an investigation into the officers conducting the first investigation. Did they have ties to John or to the owners of the Red Drum? Collusion is hard to prove in such cases, yet the absolute evil of this crime warrants a detailed investigation.
A policy investigation of officers frequenting the Red Drum. Was assault a common occurrence? If criminal activity is discovered, that would need to be pursued. If officers are being falsely accused in the atmosphere of this crime, their innocence needs to be proven.
The Use of Capital punishment
There are three considerations to the use of the death penalty; is it humane in that the punishment fits the crime, is it effective in preventing crime, and is it fairly applied? Capital punishment is as humane as it needs to be, punishment must fit the crime. There is debate on this issue, but it seems that a position on either side is derived from morality, not objectivity. Capital punishment can only be used in crime control for specific deterrence. General deterrence is based on the premise that other potential criminals will decide not to commit crime in view of punishment, however crime is mostly committed by people with low impulse control who aren't going to spend time weighing consequences. "Criminality is a time invariant personality trait, namely self-control" (Engel, 2012, p.15) The costs involved with capital punishment lie in the death penalty appeals process “There’s no reason in the world for a death penalty appeal to take 20 years,” Negron said from Tallahassee. “That’s not justice, that’s people making a mockery of the justice system.'”(Holsman, 2013, para 4). Capital punishment must be used equally. A due process system requires that all citizens are treated equally by law. Just because someone has been an exemplary citizen up to the time they committed the criminal act is no excuse for leniency. Likewise, mental incapacitation should be no excuse. Finally, “police stress syndrome” is not an excuse for rape and murder.
Ramifications for San Diego
The best possible outcome for the city is the conviction and execution of John, a confessed murderer and rapist. The position that the city’s council should take if the officer is convicted and awarded the death penalty would be to support the decision. This would show the community that the criminal justice system works.

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