Civil rights violations and penalties

For the serious discussion of weighty matters and worldly issues. No off-topic posts allowed.

Moderators: Azrael, Moderators General, Prelates

User avatar
Coyne
Posts: 1112
Joined: Fri Dec 18, 2009 12:07 am UTC
Location: Orlando, Florida
Contact:

Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby Coyne » Mon Feb 23, 2015 10:22 pm UTC

One of the reasons we have so many civil rights violations is that there is no effective penalty in our system for those who commit them.

Consider the case of Officer Rodolfo Gomez, who beat Deron Love while Love was chained to the wall of an interrogation room. (I wrote it up more on that here.) There will now be a civil lawsuit for civil rights violations by Love against the Milwaukee police department. The department will either lose or settle, depending on if there is a trial, and the taxpayers will pick up the bill.

Gomez was acquitted of the crime of unlawfully beating Love, and is now appealing his firing. If recent history is any example, he will win the appeal. Most likely, he will get disability pay retroactive to the date of his firing.

So we have: Officer penalty: Well he went through a trial, but no real penalty. Devon Love: Civil rights violated. Citizens: Billed for another civil rights violation.

This is an extreme case, in that the officer actually had to go through a trial. In most cases, even if is a citizen dies, the worst the officer gets is a short suspension; and often with pay.

I've been batting an idea around for a while, and while it seems to have weaknesses, it still might be worth implementing in some form:

If a civil rights violation is established by trial or settlement, the official (officer, elected official) responsible for the violation must pay 0.2% of the civil award, but not less than $150, nor more than $10,000. More than one official may be penalized when warranted.


(Of course, you could play with the numbers, but...)

So in this case, let's say Deron Love wins $1.5 million on his upcoming suit. Officer Gomez would have to shell out $3,000 of his personal cash as a civil penalty for being responsible for the civil rights infringement.

Determination of official responsibility is an outstanding issue I don't have a solution for, yet.

Thoughts?
In all fairness...

User avatar
TheGrammarBolshevik
Posts: 4878
Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:12 am UTC
Location: Going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Mon Feb 23, 2015 10:37 pm UTC

It would be quite unusual to have a policy where one party loses or settles a lawsuit brought by another party, and then some third party is required to pay part of the damages.
Nothing rhymes with orange,
Not even sporange.

User avatar
Qaanol
The Cheshirest Catamount
Posts: 3069
Joined: Sat May 09, 2009 11:55 pm UTC

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby Qaanol » Tue Feb 24, 2015 1:13 am UTC

Ideally, the individual officials who carried out, authorized, ordered, permitted, abetted, or knowingly did not report the violation, should be punished with prison time for every single instance in which someone’s rights were violated under their authority. I think that a culture change is needed for that to happen. Something like a “no true policeman” philosophy: any officer who violates someone’s right, isn’t a real public servant but only an imposter who deserves to be stripped of their badge and thrown in jail.

Getting there will be difficult. We will need laws that provide specific penalties for public officials who violate a person’s constitutional rights. A public-awareness campaign could help, perhaps to the effect that anti-American criminals have infiltrated our police forces, and they enact their agenda of hating the constitution every time they violate someone’s rights.

And of course, actual prosecution with convictions are necessary.
wee free kings

Derek
Posts: 2181
Joined: Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:15 am UTC

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby Derek » Tue Feb 24, 2015 5:33 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:It would be quite unusual to have a policy where one party loses or settles a lawsuit brought by another party, and then some third party is required to pay part of the damages.

I'm not familiar with the case, but it sounds like the officer was acquitted and now the victim is suing the police department or city. So if the case is found in favor of the victim, the city will pay damages for a crime that an employee of the city was acquitted of.

It's odd, but this is a more common occurrence than you might think. Civil cases have a lower standard of evidence than criminal cases (for good reason).

User avatar
TheGrammarBolshevik
Posts: 4878
Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:12 am UTC
Location: Going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Tue Feb 24, 2015 6:15 am UTC

Sorry, I think something was unclear. I am not saying there is anything wrong with the case that's actually been filed, against the city. But that is a case where the party that stands to lose money (the police department) is also a party to the case (as the defendant). So, it is not the sort of thing that I am talking about. I am talking about the proposal - not yet actual - in the OP, where it is supposed to be that an individual (a police officer) can be liable for a judgment in a case where that individual is not a party. That is, Alice can sue a police department, and then Bob the police officer can be held liable because the police department settled or lost at trial.

Essentially what I am saying is that, if you are going to make someone liable as the result of a court judgment, you need to give them a role in the process that results in that judgment. They need to have a say in the settlement proceedings, or a voice in the trial. That's pretty much exactly what "due process" means, after all.
Nothing rhymes with orange,
Not even sporange.

User avatar
Coyne
Posts: 1112
Joined: Fri Dec 18, 2009 12:07 am UTC
Location: Orlando, Florida
Contact:

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby Coyne » Tue Feb 24, 2015 7:08 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Sorry, I think something was unclear. I am not saying there is anything wrong with the case that's actually been filed, against the city. But that is a case where the party that stands to lose money (the police department) is also a party to the case (as the defendant). So, it is not the sort of thing that I am talking about. I am talking about the proposal - not yet actual - in the OP, where it is supposed to be that an individual (a police officer) can be liable for a judgment in a case where that individual is not a party. That is, Alice can sue a police department, and then Bob the police officer can be held liable because the police department settled or lost at trial.

Essentially what I am saying is that, if you are going to make someone liable as the result of a court judgment, you need to give them a role in the process that results in that judgment. They need to have a say in the settlement proceedings, or a voice in the trial. That's pretty much exactly what "due process" means, after all.


I see the point, but I think it's easily relieved within law. Suppose this: The official has a choice to either join the case with the "city"--and thereby agreeing to be subject to the penalty--or to go it alone without special immunity. This would constitute a limited waiver of special immunity in exchange for retaining all other aspects of special immunity, beyond the possible penalty.

I don't know. With this line, the concept looks more problematic than I had thought.
In all fairness...

User avatar
TheGrammarBolshevik
Posts: 4878
Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:12 am UTC
Location: Going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Tue Feb 24, 2015 8:26 am UTC

What do you mean by "special immunity"?
Nothing rhymes with orange,
Not even sporange.

Chen
Posts: 5582
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:53 pm UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby Chen » Tue Feb 24, 2015 12:55 pm UTC

Isn't it the choice of the person suing, who they're going to sue? I assume they're suing the police department because they have more money and can likely settle for more. They could probably just sue the officer in question, and they'd likely get FAR less money out of it, since the officer probably can't pay a large settlement from their personal wealth.

Tyndmyr
Posts: 11443
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:38 pm UTC

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Feb 24, 2015 5:25 pm UTC

Coyne wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Sorry, I think something was unclear. I am not saying there is anything wrong with the case that's actually been filed, against the city. But that is a case where the party that stands to lose money (the police department) is also a party to the case (as the defendant). So, it is not the sort of thing that I am talking about. I am talking about the proposal - not yet actual - in the OP, where it is supposed to be that an individual (a police officer) can be liable for a judgment in a case where that individual is not a party. That is, Alice can sue a police department, and then Bob the police officer can be held liable because the police department settled or lost at trial.

Essentially what I am saying is that, if you are going to make someone liable as the result of a court judgment, you need to give them a role in the process that results in that judgment. They need to have a say in the settlement proceedings, or a voice in the trial. That's pretty much exactly what "due process" means, after all.


I see the point, but I think it's easily relieved within law. Suppose this: The official has a choice to either join the case with the "city"--and thereby agreeing to be subject to the penalty--or to go it alone without special immunity. This would constitute a limited waiver of special immunity in exchange for retaining all other aspects of special immunity, beyond the possible penalty.

I don't know. With this line, the concept looks more problematic than I had thought.


So this makes special immunity....not special immunity.

Kay.

I think this seems like a kludge to try to fix the issue that people(in particular cops) are sometimes not being properly convicted.

mcd001
Posts: 143
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2014 7:27 pm UTC

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby mcd001 » Tue Feb 24, 2015 5:58 pm UTC

Coyne wrote:One of the reasons we have so many civil rights violations is that there is no effective penalty in our system for those who commit them.

I'm pretty sure had the officer been convicted that an 'effective penalty' would have been levied. The fact that he wasn't convicted doesn't mean there are no effective penalties in our system, it only means the prosecution didn't prove their case.

Even though it happens frequently, I still feel uncomfortable whenever I hear of someone acquitted of a crime in criminal court get slapped with a civil lawsuit for the very same thing. I know it's legal; I'm just not sure it's right.

User avatar
Coyne
Posts: 1112
Joined: Fri Dec 18, 2009 12:07 am UTC
Location: Orlando, Florida
Contact:

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby Coyne » Wed Feb 25, 2015 12:48 am UTC

Chen wrote:Isn't it the choice of the person suing, who they're going to sue? I assume they're suing the police department because they have more money and can likely settle for more. They could probably just sue the officer in question, and they'd likely get FAR less money out of it, since the officer probably can't pay a large settlement from their personal wealth.

You can try to sue the official (officer). The problem is that, generally, officials have an immunity privilege that applies to any action they take as part of their job. So to be successful, you have to first convince the court that the action wasn't part of their job--and if you fail that, no lawsuit. Worse, courts are generally loathe to set aside this immunity, so the official really has to have done something egregious to be sued personally. (The same privilege prevents the official from being charged with a crime, unless the immunity gets set aside.)

So the usual result is that it isn't worth bothering going after the official. You sue the government, the government settles, or you go to trial and the government loses. That's it.

So, in effect, the official incurs no personal penalty for committing a violation of civil rights. Instead, the taxpayers pay. The official, and his ilk, shrug and go right on violating civil rights because there is no meaningful penalty that affects them personally. You can imagine them shrugging, saying, "It's just taxpayer money; more where that came from."

That's what this proposal was meant to do: To remove the immunity privilege in a limited way, so the official must pay a penalty alongside the taxpayers. The problem, as pointed out above, is the mechanics.

The biggest problem thus far is how to tie the official to the civil suit because, as was pointed out by TheGrammarBolshevik, it's not a principle of common law that party X loses a lawsuit and party Y pays...even a portion. Party Y (the official) would have to be involved int he lawsuit, which brings us round-robin to the immunity privilege.

Then there appears an attachment problem. Suppose a extreme example: Alice is wronged by Officer Bob, but she doesn't name him as the violator of her rights, she names Officer Dale. How does Officer Dale get protected from mis-attribution like this? Worse, the government is often sued and settles in cases where there really isn't a civil rights violation (stupid, I know). But if there was no civil rights violation, how can Officer Bob be required to pay a part of the settlement the government stupidly made to avoid a trial?

That's why I proposed this here, so people could kick the tires. It has more problems than I thought.

But it is still desirable to be able to make officials personally responsible for civil rights violations; to yank away part of that privilege they hide behind, shrugging. Just not sure how best to make that work.
In all fairness...

User avatar
Qaanol
The Cheshirest Catamount
Posts: 3069
Joined: Sat May 09, 2009 11:55 pm UTC

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby Qaanol » Wed Feb 25, 2015 1:16 am UTC

Specifically, the relevant term is qualified immunity, and by any reasonable view it is an abhorrent concept that needs to be eliminated forthwith.

The government cannot legally infringe a person’s civil rights, so it should stand to reason that any action by a government official which does infringe someone’s rights, could not possibly be an authorized part of the official’s job. Hence the very idea of “qualified immunity” is facially absurd.
wee free kings

User avatar
TheGrammarBolshevik
Posts: 4878
Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:12 am UTC
Location: Going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Feb 25, 2015 1:59 am UTC

Qualified immunity does not protect you for anything you do as part of your job. It protects you when you do something that doesn't violate a "clearly established" right. Say, for example, you are a police officer who conducts a search that is reasonable under previous precedent. You get sued, and the Supreme Court overturns the precedent and says that the search was unreasonable. You are protected by qualified immunity from having to pay damages for the unreasonable search, because it was not clearly established as unreasonable at the time.

To take the case being discussed in the OP, qualified immunity seems entirely inapplicable. People clearly have a right not to be beaten by the police; no police officer could go in court and say "Well, maybe I shouldn't have done it, but that wasn't clear from the case law at the time." So the solution to whatever problems there are with prosecuting this sort of thing is not to get rid of qualified immunity.

Qualified immunity also doesn't have anything to do with criminal prosecution, and the guy in this case was prosecuted, so even if qualified immunity did have something to do with it, that clearly wouldn't be a barrier to someone suing him.
Nothing rhymes with orange,
Not even sporange.

Chen
Posts: 5582
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:53 pm UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby Chen » Wed Feb 25, 2015 12:45 pm UTC

And thus my assertion that the person is suing the department because that is the economically rational thing for them to do. They'll likely get orders of magnitude more money from the police department (either as settlement or by winning a trial) than they will if they win against the officer in question. Even if the outcome is the officer owes them 1 million dollars, there's almost no chance they'll see that money.

elasto
Posts: 3778
Joined: Mon May 10, 2010 1:53 am UTC

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby elasto » Wed Feb 25, 2015 1:27 pm UTC

Coyne wrote:So, in effect, the official incurs no personal penalty for committing a violation of civil rights. Instead, the taxpayers pay. The official, and his ilk, shrug and go right on violating civil rights because there is no meaningful penalty that affects them personally. You can imagine them shrugging, saying, "It's just taxpayer money; more where that came from."

The failure though really is with middle/upper management, and a culture of closing ranks rather than demanding high standards of behaviour: If an official has caused his department to have to settle a big lawsuit then that official should be sacked. That's the personal, meaningful penalty that should befall him.

Maybe rather than a law saying a civil settlement must be funded x% from the official's pocket, how about simply a law that says a judge in a civil case has the authority to order an official sacked as well as determining financial compensation?

leady
Posts: 1592
Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2012 12:28 pm UTC

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby leady » Wed Feb 25, 2015 2:13 pm UTC

I think its largely been pointed out that its not the punishments available that causes an issue, its really the inability to convict for a multitude of reasons

some sensible (at least somewhat required for them to do their job sucessfully)

qualified immunity
Police testimony given higher weighting

some less so

Blue wall of silence
Police unions

In fact for some scenarios one of the barriers to achieving convictions are the punishments potentially inflicted for wrong doing - largely termination with pension loss which makes a $3000 fine pretty trivial. I wonder if capping the ability to sue for millions (attempt to reduce the chaff) coupled with a less binary punishment regime enacted through a somewhat 3rd party (to avoid the rampant self policing issue), but I suspect thats also got a heap of issues itself

cphite
Posts: 1371
Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2011 5:27 pm UTC

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby cphite » Thu Feb 26, 2015 10:07 pm UTC

What really needs to happen is a law at a federal level that says, essentially, that police officers who commit crimes in the line of duty face exactly the same penalties as anyone else.

If you, as an ordinary citizen, chained someone to a wall and beat them, it wouldn't just be a matter of losing your job and maybe paying some money - you'd be behind bars, and rightly so. And yet when a police officer does it, going to jail is almost never even a consideration. It's ridiculous that someone can be acquitted of beating a chained and defenseless prisoner.

If you wrongfully shoot someone, it should be murder. If you beat someone and it's NOT in self-defense, it should be assault and battery.

User avatar
TheGrammarBolshevik
Posts: 4878
Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:12 am UTC
Location: Going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Feb 26, 2015 10:15 pm UTC

What sort of law are you proposing, exactly? The issue here is not that the actions of the police officers in (e.g.) the OP's scenario aren't illegal. They are; that's why the officer in the OP faced a criminal trial. The issue is that juries are biased in favor of police officers and tend not to vote to convict even where the evidence warrants it. Adding another law to make it extra illegal doesn't fix that.

Maybe the thought is that state prosecutors tend not to prosecute cops because of conflicts of interest, so we need federal laws that will allow federal prosecutors to pursue these cases. Except that... we already do have such federal laws, which allow the DoJ to prosecute police officers for violating people's civil rights. It's under those laws, for example, that the DoJ is considering prosecuting Darren Wilson.
Nothing rhymes with orange,
Not even sporange.

User avatar
Qaanol
The Cheshirest Catamount
Posts: 3069
Joined: Sat May 09, 2009 11:55 pm UTC

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby Qaanol » Fri Feb 27, 2015 12:24 am UTC

cphite wrote:What really needs to happen is a law at a federal level that says, essentially, that police officers who commit crimes in the line of duty face exactly the same penalties as anyone else.

If you, as an ordinary citizen, chained someone to a wall and beat them, it wouldn't just be a matter of losing your job and maybe paying some money - you'd be behind bars, and rightly so. And yet when a police officer does it, going to jail is almost never even a consideration. It's ridiculous that someone can be acquitted of beating a chained and defenseless prisoner.

If you wrongfully shoot someone, it should be murder. If you beat someone and it's NOT in self-defense, it should be assault and battery.

This. Very much this.

The 14th amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection under the law” by any reasonable interpretation ought to already achieve what cphite describes. The fact that in practice it doesn’t is quite worrisome.

Moreover, the fact that the constitution is, essentially, the only law in the land which there are no actual penalties for violating, is itself appalling.
wee free kings

User avatar
TheGrammarBolshevik
Posts: 4878
Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:12 am UTC
Location: Going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Feb 27, 2015 12:32 am UTC

So are we just skipping the part where I just said that such laws already exist?
Nothing rhymes with orange,
Not even sporange.

User avatar
Qaanol
The Cheshirest Catamount
Posts: 3069
Joined: Sat May 09, 2009 11:55 pm UTC

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby Qaanol » Fri Feb 27, 2015 12:39 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:So are we just skipping the part where I just said that such laws already exist?

Are you claiming that there are criminal penalties for public officers who violate a person’s constitutional rights?

Every time I hear about a trial where the defendant shows that certain evidence was gathered in opposition to the 4th amendment, all that happens is the evidence can’t be used in that trial. I never hear about the police officers who unconstitutionally gathered the evidence being prosecuted for violating the constitution.
wee free kings

User avatar
TheGrammarBolshevik
Posts: 4878
Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:12 am UTC
Location: Going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Feb 27, 2015 12:57 am UTC

Qaanol wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:So are we just skipping the part where I just said that such laws already exist?

Are you claiming that there are criminal penalties for public officers who violate a person’s constitutional rights?

Yes.

I should also note the slide from "no actual penalties" to "no criminal penalties." Even if such statutes didn't exist, there would still be 1983 suits.
Nothing rhymes with orange,
Not even sporange.

User avatar
Qaanol
The Cheshirest Catamount
Posts: 3069
Joined: Sat May 09, 2009 11:55 pm UTC

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby Qaanol » Fri Feb 27, 2015 4:01 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Qaanol wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:So are we just skipping the part where I just said that such laws already exist?

Are you claiming that there are criminal penalties for public officers who violate a person’s constitutional rights?

Yes.

I should also note the slide from "no actual penalties" to "no criminal penalties." Even if such statutes didn't exist, there would still be 1983 suits.

Huh. I stand corrected. Although…the penalties listed are maxima, and I don’t see minima. Also, I’m not exactly clear on whether the term “willfully” requires there be intention to violate constitutional rights, or if it is enough that the action which did in fact violate such rights was undertaken willingly. In other words, does the officer have to be trying to violate the constitution (or other listed protections) for that statute to apply?

But still…given the existence of 18 USC 242…why don’t we see police officers being criminally prosecuted every time they violate the 4th amendment in a search/seizure?

I mean, I’m pretty sure that federal prosecutors swear an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” when they enter their jobs, right?
wee free kings

User avatar
Coyne
Posts: 1112
Joined: Fri Dec 18, 2009 12:07 am UTC
Location: Orlando, Florida
Contact:

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby Coyne » Fri Feb 27, 2015 7:36 am UTC

Qaanol wrote:But still…given the existence of 18 USC 242…why don’t we see police officers being criminally prosecuted every time they violate the 4th amendment in a search/seizure?

I mean, I’m pretty sure that federal prosecutors swear an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” when they enter their jobs, right?

Technically, you're correct. In practice, though, every day the prosecutor must work with the police, who make arrests and acquire evidence. There is quite decidedly a quid-pro-quo attitude between the groups, such that prosecutors routinely decline to pursue punishment against officers, even where warranted.

Ferguson prosecutor Robert McCulloch, for example, has been extensively criticized for his handling of the grand jury; having done so in a manner that appears as a clear intention to ensure the jury failed to return a true bill against Officer Wilson. One of the grand jurors is suing, claiming he was deliberately deceived.

And that, of course, assumes that the prosecutor isn't committing as many rights violations as the police.

(This is why I keep insisting on the term official: I don't care if that official is an officer, prosecutor, or the guy who won't grant "commies" a permit to meet in the local park. Police might do more harm routinely, but there are lots of officials who can infringe rights.)
In all fairness...

Chen
Posts: 5582
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:53 pm UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby Chen » Fri Feb 27, 2015 1:09 pm UTC

Qaanol wrote:Huh. I stand corrected. Although…the penalties listed are maxima, and I don’t see minima. Also, I’m not exactly clear on whether the term “willfully” requires there be intention to violate constitutional rights, or if it is enough that the action which did in fact violate such rights was undertaken willingly. In other words, does the officer have to be trying to violate the constitution (or other listed protections) for that statute to apply?

But still…given the existence of 18 USC 242…why don’t we see police officers being criminally prosecuted every time they violate the 4th amendment in a search/seizure?

I mean, I’m pretty sure that federal prosecutors swear an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” when they enter their jobs, right?


The exclusionary rule is generally how you enforce the 4th amendment by not letting anything obtained in such a search/seizure be used in court. Presumably they could try to convict the officer as well, but I imagine the claim of acting in good faith or that the officer believed, in good faith, that there was probable cause, would frequently make obtaining those convictions very difficulty and basically a waste of time.

User avatar
Qaanol
The Cheshirest Catamount
Posts: 3069
Joined: Sat May 09, 2009 11:55 pm UTC

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby Qaanol » Fri Feb 27, 2015 10:16 pm UTC

All right, so we have a serious and widespread problem where the people who are tasked with carrying out and upholding the law, can and do frequently violate the highest law in the land, with no penalties levied against them.

My approach to situations like this is a good old-fashioned brainstorming session:
What does a solution to the problem look like?
How can we make it happen?
wee free kings

elasto
Posts: 3778
Joined: Mon May 10, 2010 1:53 am UTC

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby elasto » Sat Feb 28, 2015 3:33 am UTC

The answer would be simple if there was the political will: The politicians could demand that management inculcate an attitude of 'better a thousand guilty go free than one innocent have his rights violated' - with any management that failed to do so having pay docked or being sacked - as measured by repeat violations by those under his command .

But I think the US has a strong 'Dirty Harry' type attitude throughout society - with the ends being valued as much as the means: So long as the bad guy gets caught it's less important how it was done. Witness the not insignificant support for torturing alleged terrorists, with Dick Cheney as Jack Bauer...

It all comes down to which has the bigger fallout politically: The innocent being violated or the guilty getting away with it. Usually it's the latter...

Chen
Posts: 5582
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:53 pm UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby Chen » Mon Mar 02, 2015 12:56 pm UTC

Qaanol wrote:All right, so we have a serious and widespread problem where the people who are tasked with carrying out and upholding the law, can and do frequently violate the highest law in the land, with no penalties levied against them.

My approach to situations like this is a good old-fashioned brainstorming session:
What does a solution to the problem look like?
How can we make it happen?


Thing is there is a difference between the huge intentional violations of the 4th amendment and the small technical violations of the 4th amendment. Having a judge decide the probable cause was just not up to par and thus punishing an officer who acted in good faith, is probably not a good idea. That said the cop who breaks down a door because he pretends to hear a fight going on inside and then proceeds to arrest people for stuff he has found during this break in, does deserve more severe punishment.

Higher punishments for not following proper procedure is likely the best way for something to start occurring. Body cameras and the like to monitor police so that it's not just their word against the word of the victim/criminals. Separate oversight of the video from those cameras outside of the department itself (though probably not fully publicly available).

User avatar
sardia
Posts: 6816
Joined: Sat Apr 03, 2010 3:39 am UTC

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby sardia » Fri Mar 13, 2015 7:15 pm UTC

Qaanol wrote:All right, so we have a serious and widespread problem where the people who are tasked with carrying out and upholding the law, can and do frequently violate the highest law in the land, with no penalties levied against them.

My approach to situations like this is a good old-fashioned brainstorming session:
What does a solution to the problem look like?
How can we make it happen?

There is a precedent, and what you are looking for goes against the spirit of the constitutional protections we usually live with. That said, the Federal government seized a police department (it's called receivership) and then implemented an guilty until proven innocent clause...for the cops. If the officers are involved in an incident, the police are guilty and are punished until proven innocent. That cut the incident rate down to near 0. I'll post the citation later.

KnightExemplar
Posts: 5494
Joined: Sun Dec 26, 2010 1:58 pm UTC

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby KnightExemplar » Mon Mar 16, 2015 12:26 pm UTC

Qaanol wrote:All right, so we have a serious and widespread problem where the people who are tasked with carrying out and upholding the law, can and do frequently violate the highest law in the land, with no penalties levied against them.


First: federal law is not the highest law in the land. The Constitution is. Local Law can and does contradict federal law. (See the smoking of Pot in Colorado). Still illegal on a federal level, but the States can contradict the federal law.

As for the prosecutor... the Attorney General AND Police Chief are often both available for election. If not, then your state legislature / county council are available for election. Lets take Bob McCulloch for example, the prosecutor in the Ferguson case. He was elected 6 times in a row by wide margins. He's been serving as St. Louis prosecutor since 1991. By the very definition of our political system, the people love him. Chances are however, the people of St. Louis County don't even understand their own political system.

The Ferguson Police Chief is not an elected position however. But I don't think elections would solve the core issue. Personally speaking, small police departments just seem like they're too small to really be an effective trained force. Sensitivity training is something that scales, police departments need a wide base to learn from their mistakes. Some consolidation of our 50,000+ police departments would probably be a good thing. Obviously, this should be up to the individual cities / states to decide how to govern themselves.

In the US, towns can have police "departments" as small as a single elected Town Marshall... or departments as large as New York City's 40,000+ strong NYPD.

My approach to situations like this is a good old-fashioned brainstorming session:
What does a solution to the problem look like?
How can we make it happen?


I dunno, maybe people can pay attention to their local rulers, and throw them out when they don't like em. Lets see if Bob McCulloch gets reelected to Prosecuting Attorney again next year.

If a town wishes to pay them, they can also set up Citizen Review Boards, with explicit powers over police officers. In New York City, the CCRB officially hears about cases against Police Officers. They hold the power to subpena individual officers and prosecute them. They're just a phone-call away in the city, with "311". Wikipedia Link here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_ ... view_Board

Such boards are overkill for most towns. I mean, if a single Town Marshall (or maybe one of the 5 Sheriff Deputies) is misbehaving, the people can just elect a new Marshall or Sheriff. Civilian Complain Boards can only happen in larger police departments, which is one of the arguments I have for consolidation.

I mean, its a known fact that our democracy only works if the voters are paying attention. So the job is to make sure that people are paying attention. Unless you've got an idea for a better system, democracy is what we've got.

Every time I hear about a trial where the defendant shows that certain evidence was gathered in opposition to the 4th amendment, all that happens is the evidence can’t be used in that trial. I never hear about the police officers who unconstitutionally gathered the evidence being prosecuted for violating the constitution.


While uncomfortable, unconstitutionally gathered evidence holds no value in Court. The Attorney General / County Prosecutor has to defend every piece of evidence in the preliminary parts of a trial. If a specific piece of evidence is deemed illegal, then the jury is not allowed to be shown that evidence EVEN IF the evidence were true or central to the case. See Fruit of the Poisonous Tree and the Exclusionary Rule.

Of course, Judges themselves are often elected positions at the city / county / state level. Judges in the Federal System are appointed by the President and approved by Congress.
First Strike +1/+1 and Indestructible.

User avatar
sardia
Posts: 6816
Joined: Sat Apr 03, 2010 3:39 am UTC

Re: Civil rights violations and penalties

Postby sardia » Mon Mar 16, 2015 2:33 pm UTC

Here's a basic bureaucratic solution which has the groundwork already laid but not implemented. Chicago, which has the best record keeping of police misconduct, keeps track of it's settlements & lawsuits due to police misconduct, complaints of police misconduct, and disciplinary action of officers. Looking at the internal data that officers are tracked with, it's shown that the majority of misconduct is done by a few officers. It also ties those officers to the majority of lawsuits and settlement payments. Lastly, it shows that those officers aren't disciplined in any way for causing said harm or penalized for the cost to the government. When asked if anybody connected the dots about the above data, all the people in charge said no. Instead, they blamed the courts or said the people filing lawsuits got lucky.

Just by looking at the data, solutions present themselves. Is there an incentives issue where lawsuits should be paid out of the Police budget, rather than general government funds? Why aren't officers being punished for police misconduct? Why isn't anyone looking at the data to make the same connections? An extra issue that comes up is that many large cities don't keep track of this data at all.

Now this won't solve all the problems, as it won't work in smaller towns, but you can see how it can help.


Return to “Serious Business”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests