Sunday, March 1, 2009

Colorado "Killer" released

Is there anyone who still thinks that police don't sometimes make serious errors on the job?

Read this CNN account of a man convicted in 1999 of murder in Fort Collins, Colorado. (I lived in Fort Collins in 1989.) After ten years in prison, a judge threw out the conviction and released him. Tim Masters, 37, said he "still holds a grudge against the police and prosecutors who put him behind bars." I wonder why!

Read about the Dutch forensics scientists who discovered the DNA evidence that eventually freed Masters.

Do prosecutors sometimes rush to get their gold stars? How do you make it up to a man you wrongfully put in prison for ten years?

What kind of problems do we have in McHenry County?

I'll tell you one problem. When report-writing by individual deputies is "managed" so that all the reports "mesh"/fit together without raising questions, that is a huge problem.

When several deputies are on the scene of a serious crime, especially one involving officer-fired shots or a death of a suspect (or citizen or officer), then the deputies should be separated and ordered to write their individual reports, before they can get their heads together and figure out (or be told) what to write.

When I read the reports of the David Maxson shooting in Wonder Lake, I immediately felt that the conduct at the scene was not properly managed. My first reaction was that all the reports had been written by the same person. Since then, I learned that those who signed the reports wrote them, but they weren't separated at the time of report-writing. The shooting could not be avoided, after the incident escalated out-of-control. As I have written before, I have no quarrel with the fact that a deputy had to shoot when he did. But it did not have reach to that level of required action - especially not in 43 minutes!

This practice must stop in McHenry County. There is no way to learn the truth, when report-writing is "managed." Every deputy in the report-writing room had to know that what was happening was improper, unethical and even illegal.

Yet there is no system at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department for complaining about it. Again I'll say that an Internal Affairs Division is needed at the sheriff's department. Not a group on a witch hunt, but a group of highly-qualified, honest, ethical deputies dedicated to right vs. wrong and to whom a deputy can go when he sees something wrong going on (and be protected as the one who is reporting it).

Although the person running an IAD would most likely report to the Sheriff, he should have the power and the authority to go "outside" if the appropriate action (and, when necessary, prosecution) doesn't follow when recommended.

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