The rights of law enforcement officers are under assault in this country. And no right should be dearer to you than your right to defend yourself against false claims and violent attacks.
Los Angeles. On the afternoon of Sept. 11 officers of the LAPD were called to a side street off Ventura Boulevard in the affluent neighborhood of Studio City. There, across from the offices of the Directors Guild of America, a couple was reportedly having sex in a car. The couple was questioned by the officers and patrol supervisor Sgt. Jim Parker who had arrived on scene to help. When Parker asked for identification from the female subject, she refused so he handcuffed her and detained her.
The woman's boyfriend recorded part of the incident on his cell phone. That video showing the woman crying and in cuffs was posted on YouTube. And then the couple went to the media, claiming all they had been doing was kissing in their car, that some bigot at the DGA had called in a complaint about them because she was black and he was white, and that the evil, racist LAPD had profiled them and mistreated them. What the couple didn't know was that the incident was also captured on video by people inside the DGA and by Parker's in-car video system. Once those images surfaced, their story fell apart so quickly that even African-American community activists—who are no friends of the LAPD—told them they should apologize to the cops. They've also been charged with lewd behavior, a misdemeanor.
So the starlet whose only claim to fame is a bit part in "Django Unchained" was caught having sex in public, lied about what she was doing and about her treatment by the LAPD, and the righteous prevailed. That's the end of the story.
Well, not exactly. Sgt. Jim Parker may still be fired over this incident and because of what he did in its aftermath. You see, Parker got fed up with the LAPD letting the accusations against him and his officers go unanswered. So after days of being smeared in the press, he turned over the recording from his patrol vehicle to TMZ.com.
That video was extremely beneficial to the officers of the LAPD, as it turned public opinion about the incident in their favor. Yet, Parker faces possible dismissal for not following protocol and the chain of command.
So do officers have a right to defend themselves against false accusations in the press? I leave the answer to you.
Seattle. Late last month a federal judge ruled that a group of officers from the Seattle Police Department can't sue the city and the judge who wrote the department's use-of-force policy under a federal consent decree. The officers may appeal, but they probably don't have a chance to prevail. Let's face it, the deck is stacked against them.
So do you have a right to defend yourself against a restrictive use-of-force policy that you believe to be unconstitutional? Evidently not.
Ferguson. At press time, it's looking more and more like Officer Darren Wilson's account of what happened on Saturday Aug. 9 when he shot and killed Michael Brown, namely that Brown assaulted him and tried to take his duty pistol, can be proved by evidence.
But it's also looking more and more like, regardless of the evidence, the Department of Justice will not abide any finding by the St. Louis County grand jury other than charges of manslaughter or even murder against the Ferguson officer.
The day after the official autopsy of Brown leaked to the press, the DOJ whined to the same press that the leaks of such information are "irresponsible." And out-going Attorney General Eric Holder told Justice Department lawyers that he was "exasperated by the selective flow of information out of Missouri."
It seems the AG is very concerned that the leaks are prejudicing the case in Wilson's favor. Which is just rich, considering that Holder has done everything he possibly can to prejudge the case against Wilson and has basically let the American people know through his actions that he won't be satisfied with anything short of a guilty verdict against the officer. Which means it's a pretty safe bet that even if the grand jury fails to indict, the DOJ will haul Wilson into the dock on civil rights charges. (Note: This column was written before a St. Louis County grand jury decided Officer Wilson's shooting of Brown was justified.)
So do you as a local law enforcement officer have a right to defend yourself against the federal government in controversial use-of-force cases? Yes, legally you do. But make no mistake, they will come after you with everything they have.