Thursday, April 09, 2009

Ian Tomlinson: Are Police The Good Guys?

Troubling story from London:



So often today police are offered as the solution to this problem or the other. Could be drugs, DWI, prostitution or the latest - sexting. We need to remember that police are far from perfect. This video is a reminder.

With drugs, we keep arresting more and more people, and stuffing our prisons, despite overwhelming evidence that treatment is more effective. Not to mention lengthy history showing prohibitions don't work. With DWI, we ignore mass transit even though heavy police enforcement obviously hasn't stopped drunk driving. We've turned cops on the highways into revenue agents.

As for the Ian Tomlinson incident: If a black guy in the US had done this to a cop, and the cop died shortly thereafter of a heart attack, the black guy would have been charged with murder and no one would be asking if the incident could have caused the heart attack.

And this is not just about the one cop who hit and shoved Tomlinson. Watch the video again. How many officers watched it and did nothing? The assailant still hasn't been arrested, now more than a week later. In the way blacks are treated in America, the cop who did it is a murderer, and all the cops on the video are accomplices as members of his gang.

I actually represented a defendant in a vaguely similar case - a "gang assault." My client was an innocent bystander. The only witness to his conduct said that he pulled one of the assailants off the victim. But my client was charged with gang assault along with the other two assailants. The charge was eventually dismissed by a sensible prosecutor (there was no corroboration of the co-defendants' testimony, which was, by the way, horribly inconsistent).

Police are absolutely necessary in some situations. But we have to recognize that they are a blunt tool. Complex problems are often made worse by throwing more police at them. The main focus of police should be on violent crimes and property crimes.
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