Monday, November 17, 2008

When Deputies Break the Law...

When is it okay for law enforcement personnel to break the law, while enforcing the law?

Ever? Never?

Consider the situation where deputies have an arrest warrant for an individual. They think they know where he is - not on his own property. They are not sure, but they think he might be inside a relative's home. Now, not just "any" home. Let's say a "nice" home. A high-priced home. In a very nice neighborhood.

And they have no reason to believe that the elderly people in the home (the owners) are likely to present any kind of a law-enforcement problem.

Consider also that the warrant isn't for a terrorist or a bank robber or a vicious criminal on the Top 10 List of the FBI (or even the Top 10 List at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department).

OK, so what's the right approach?

One approach could be like that of the Royal Canadian Mountie featured on 60 Minutes years ago. He flew to an island, walked over a house and told the wanted subject that he needed to take him in. He asked if the guy was going to cause him any problem. The guy knew that if he caused the Mountie any trouble, then the Mountie was going to handcuff him and make his life miserable. The wanted suspect walked with the Mountie to the plane and they flew back.

Another approach would be to position two deputies at the back of the house and then two at the front knock on the door. When the elderly owner comes to the door, the deputy asks the owner if the wanted suspect is in the house and they ask to go in. In this type of case, no resistance to arrest is anticipated.

Another approach is to assume that the wanted suspect is in the house. Kick down the door of a $600,000 house, barge in, scared the living daylights out of the elderly owners, injure them, hospitalize one of them, and haul the wanted suspect off the jail. And then arrest the elderly homeowners on felony charges of resisting arrest.

Just doing their dangerous job; right?

Does the sheriff's department keep a matrix on its deputies, tracking how often each deputy is involved in a "situation" with excessive force? When it spots a trend and finds that certain deputies are repeatedly involved in escalating situations that result in unnecessary force, damage, injury, etc., do the superior officers (right up to the Sheriff) take immediate action to stop what is happening?

Or do those deputies get more Gold Stars by their names on the statistics board and get praised for high arrest rates and then get promoted?

Which way is it?

What we need in McHenry County is squeaky clean law enforcement. The type where the cops are the first to obey the laws, not the last.

1 comment:

Richard W Gorski, M.D. said...

All police officers should exercise judgement prudence and wisdom. Bravado and courage and the use of a firearm are needed when justified by the situation. Its a tough job...but someone has to do it. All you can say in the end is "do the right thing" and lets stay safe out there.