Do Police Always Do the Right Thing?

Of course not – they’re human beings, not robots. Do you always do the right thing?

It’s a common complaint from people who strongly believe in “law and order” that we hold police officers to a ridiculously high standard. We expect them, or so the argument goes, to be something they’re not and then persecute and prosecute them when they don’t meet that standard.

Police officers are human beings, sure, but they’re human beings that have chosen to take an oath that makes them the physical embodiment of the direct power of the State. The power to arrest, search, investigate, and even kill, all while what attorneys call “under color of law” – meaning acting directly on behalf of the State as its enforcer.

That’s why it’s disturbing to see officers abuse the law by doing things like planting evidence on people they don’t like, or acting like a police badge is a “get out of jail free” card for an officer pulled over for a DUI.

The officer who was caught planting evidence was fired. Pasco County Sheriff Nocco put it this way:

“We want to make sure that we are as honest and transparent as possible with our citizens.”

The two officers caught letting a highly intoxicated police officer use his badge as a “get of jail free” card have been suspended for 30 days. Personally I’m with Sheriff Nocco – if you have officers engaging in unethical behavior you have to fire them because law enforcement must above reproach.

Think for a moment not about just the reputation of police, but about the work that they do. That Pasco officer who was fired for planting evidence has probably worked on hundreds of cases before he was fired. His job, as a detective, was to investigate crimes and gather evidence – evidence that the prosecuting attorneys use to prosecute crimes. For the system to work, a jury has to trust that the evidence hasn’t been tainted or fabricated.

But guess what’s going to happen now in every case that officer has touched? Hundreds of prosecutions will get a second look because of what he did, and many of them may be dropped or reversed.

This kind of thing isn’t fair to the victims of those crimes or to us. When an officer shows themselves to be a bad apple it taints the whole barrel. So yeah, we’re going to keep holding police officers to a high standard.