Americans want criminals brought to justice for their crimes. Few people consider who polices the police. Cop, prosecutor, and judge accountability – it’s about time.
Those in charge of ruining people’s lives should have a stake in the process, since they are the ones best suited to do anything about it. Miscarriages of justice are commonplace, and our legal system is slow to adjust, instead clinging to demonstrably false and highly questionable practices.
Accountability is critical to virtually any system. If people have responsibilities within a system, consequences must be commensurate. Failure, misconduct, and inadequate attention/neglect must also be addressed, or you can expect the people to do little more than what is in their self-interest. Assuming anything else is unrealistic and Pollyanna.
Police functions are separate from courts with good reasons, other than the obvious need for judicial impartiality.
Police activities involve a much lower threshold for action and planning. When potentially dangerous situations are occurring, we don’t expect the same level of fact-gathering and thorough review of all the evidence from all sources we should have later. Considering the entire picture, like information not readily obtainable through legal means, is impractical. Immediate exigencies prevail, and rightfully so.
Nonetheless, these truths do not place police above criticism, nor are police actions justifiable simply because their circumstances may be difficult, demanding, or dangerous. Fear for one’s life or safety does not excuse everything police may do in the line of duty. Otherwise, even the most irrational fear is good enough to justify any hideous act.
Legal process in courts, however, must necessarily be more deliberate, cautious, and expansive. While the police, prosecutors, and judges are all part of the overall government, their roles should be substantially separate. Courts cannot cozy up to police like they are routinely expected to do by the public.
Police and prosecutors have an intimate relationship because both are necessary components to give our criminal laws effect; while they are technically independent, the norm is for the??? attitudes and practices to be shared. Such a partnership makes sense.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest problems in our nation today is prosecutors who abdicate any responsibility independent of police, instead routinely validating and supporting anything and everything police do. The result is to put police above the very laws they enforce.
Then again, prosecutors are largely above the law by statute. Prosecutorial immunity is the norm. Little to nothing ever happens to prosecutors who misbehave, regardless of how egregious. They may steadfastly violate the Constitution by hiding or withholding evidence they are required to provide to defendants or strike jurors on the basis of race, then lie to judges about their reasons. They may more avidly pursue cases or seek greater punishments against racial minorities. Regardless of their activity, they rarely face any form of discipline, much less prosecution.
When police, prosecutors, and judges commit crimes in the course of their duties, public policy should require them to be prosecuted, at least equally as the rest of the population. A better policy would be to hold them to a higher standard than the general population, since they are manipulating the overwhelming power of the public offices they hold. Instead, prosecution of offenders is extremely rare, regardless of their offenses. Even brutality, murder, extortion, rape, and perjury are frequently excused from prosecution.
Such a situation, which is what currently exists, erodes popular support for our official institutions. Consistently refusing to enforce the law against those enforcing it creates lawlessness and undermines the rule of law. Social media has profoundly affected attitudes and exposed ugly truths about ourselves, especially regarding our police.
If those who exercise the power of government are not subject to the rule of law, mistrust should be expected. We have been seeing the result of this impunity in our criminal justice system, from police to prosecutors to judges to overflowing prisons and jails to draconian post-release consequences of conviction.
To be merely suspected or accused is tantamount to being undeserving of basic respect and unworthy of treatment fit for a human being. We are in a bizarre social situation when police are authorized to kill a person who is allegedly committing a petty crime without consequence, and avidly supported by prosecutors and judges.
Being above criticism can no longer be the norm. Denying the existence of the problems is not viable for a free society. Failing to take corrective action is inexcusable. The time for accountability is now.