Saturday, November 26, 2011

Should We Hold Cops To higher Standards, Lower Standards Or The Same Standards As "Civilians"

First, let me state for the record that I admire the heck out of many cops. My best friend growing up (who was best man at my wedding last year) spent 25+ years as a New York City cop, and I have no truck with people who bash cops simply because they are cops. Indeed, insanely libertarian man that I am I don't believe anyone should be judged for anything but their own actions. I am, however, a civil rights activist focusing specifically on gun rights. This means that I get to hear the antis' endless litany of "only the police and military need to have guns." This argument has led National Gun Rights Examiner and War on Guns blogger David Codrea to collect stories of "Only Ones' (don't worry he explains the term in the piece). In answer to accusations of "cop bashing", David states on his War on Guns blogspot:
"The purpose of this feature has never been to bash cops. The only reason I do this is to amass a credible body of evidence to present when those who would deny our right to keep and bear arms use the argument that only government enforcers are professional and trained enough to do so safely and responsibly. And it's also used to illustrate when those of official status, rank or privilege, both in law enforcement and in some other government position, get special breaks not available to we commoners, particularly (but not exclusively) when they're involved in gun-related incidents."

Now with that out of the way, let us address the issue of Jersey City (the location is relevant, trust me) police officer Rick Garrison.
New Jersey has some of the toughest gun laws and tightest restrictions on carry permits in the nation. Even being kidnapped at gunpoint and taken to Missouri may not qualify as the "proof of justifiable need" NJ requires before issuing a permit. In addition, Jersey City's Mayor Healy is a founding co-member of the more famous Mayor Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group that has spent years pushing the "only cops and the military should have guns" mantra.

Rick Garrison is a man who his mayor believes is one of the elite few qualified to carry a gun for defense of himself and others. You would assume that such a paragon would be held to the highest standards of behavior. Failing that, you might assume that under the doctrine of 'equal protection under the law' this specially trained and trusted man would be held to the same standards as the rest of us, the un-badged "civilians". What you would never anticipate is that Rick would be allowed to get away with things that would have a "civilian" locked up so tight he would only get freash air piped in on alternate Wednesdays. Read on:

"Jersey City Police Officer Rick Garrison will not face criminal charges in the death of 82-year-old Helen Antczak, the Bayonne woman who was struck and killed when Garrison barreled down Avenue E on Feb. 20 and crashed his car."

"Garrison was off-duty at the time."

"A grand jury "no-billed" the case, meaning the members did not find enough evidence in the case to allow it go to trial..."

"Apparently the grand jury was told of a litany of medical issues that Garrison was dealing with at the time of the accident, and apparently it was argued that the accident was out of his control."

So here we have a man who we are meant to believe is one of the rare few whose judgement and rectitude mean he can carry a gun in New Jersey, but when he killed someone with his car he is let off because he had medical problems which meant he couldn't control the car. How is this different from letting a drunk driver off because he was too drunk to control the car?

As I mentioned in an earlier post I too am dealing with "a litany of medical issues" which leave me unable to drive safely. So I stopped effing driving! And if I did get behind the wheel and kill someone I would expect to be arrested, tried, convicted and imprisoned. This is called exercising judgement, self-control and a modicum of responsibility. But all across the country we see people getting beaten, falsely arrested for "obstruction" or "resisting arrest" for nothing more than failing to slavishly obey badged minions. This happens so frequently that there is even a name for the "offense"; it's called "contempt of cop".

Cops are being given a pass for doing things which, if done by "civilians" would be called assault, battery, assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, even attempted murder. On the rare occasions when they are caught out (usually due to the increasing number of video equipped cell phones) their actions are almost invariably whitewashed. We are told that he "acted within department guidelines" as if this were an acceptable excuse for slamming someone to the ground and kneeling on their head, or beating them semi-conscious with a club, or Tasering them repeatedly for failing to comply quickly enough. And when proof is presented that officers lied on their reports and in court we are told that it wasn't a lie, it was "misremembering", as if claiming to have "misremembered" would get you or me out of charges for filing a false report or perjury.

Yes, cops have a tough job, but this does not mean that they should be held to lower standards of behavior than their nominal bosses, the average, taxpaying non-cop. Individual cops who cross the line (and their fellows who help or look the other way) should be held accountable. Otherwise the Us vs. Them divide is going to deepen and widen, making things more dangerous for all of us.

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