Sunday, March 13, 2005

Disasters Waiting to Happen

I will start with a tip of the hat to Kyzylkum for
his blog, “Politically Correct Equals Four Dead People”. I was going to make a simple comment to his article and I ended up with way too much comment, hence this blog.

I have first hand experience with escorting felony prisoners into open court. In my years of service with the Houston Police Department, I had occasion to take many felony prisoners before a judge so that they could have their Miranda warning read to them. To start with, these prisoners were off loaded from a police van in front of the court house onto the sidewalk. This was not a secure area in any way. We would take the jail issued handcuffs off and replace them with our own handcuffs there on the sidewalk. We then would take them up to the court room via elevators, thank goodness that the elevators were reserved for transporting prisoners only during that part of the job.

Upon arriving in front of the courtroom we were required to remove the handcuffs and then walk into open court, sit on a bench reserved for officers/prisoners and then approach the judge when the time was convenient for the judge. It did not matter that some of these prisoners had exhibited violent tendencies, that they had to be restrained by several officers at the time of arrest or during the booking procedure, their mental capacity was never taken into consideration; the only thing that was of concern was that these “fellow citizens” were to be viewed as “not guilty until proven guilty”.

On more than one occasion I had to have other officers help “restore” order to a courtroom because my “fellow citizen who was not guilty until proven guilty” decided that the odds were in his favor due to the reduced security. Chairs being thrown, those heavy oak ones, large tables being overturned and general chaos for several moments until enough officers could take the suspect to the ground and place handcuffs and leg irons on the flailing arms and legs. We would then have to write up the incident, an incident not of our own making, to justify our use of force and the possible damage that we had caused to any chance of a fair trial for that particular suspect. It was all our fault that the suspect decided to attempt escape, destroy a courtroom in a tantrum or attack innocent citizens who were in attendance. This was because the blind justice system refused to accept that violent people sometimes take advantage of weak policy.

This had nothing to do with the Bush administration, having occurred back in the mid 1970’s to early 1980’s when I was assigned to work downtown. It had nothing to do with budget restraints because County prisoners being brought in for their Miranda warnings were off loaded in the basement of the courthouse, inside a partitioned area that was off limits to the general public; only City prisoners were off loaded on a public sidewalk, some kind of political nonsense between the City and the County placed everyone at risk. It compares easily with the fiasco that happened in Atlanta, truly preventable with just a smidge of common sense.

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