I’m going to relate a story which I heard well over 30 years ago when I was a working cop. Whether or not it’s fact based or just somebody’s idea of a good “yarn” really doesn’t matter; the reason for sharing this story has to do with how it was received 30 years ago and how it falls into “unacceptable” now.
It seems a burglary suspect was brought before the judge to have his official Miranda Warning read to him; but before the judge began reading the suspect interrupted and wanted to complain on the arresting officer for excessive force. The judge observed that the fellow did indeed look like he’d been taken behind the woodshed; blood dripping from an open wound on his arms, nose and a cut over his right eye.
The judge got up from behind the bench and walked around to inspect the suspect’s injuries. It was then that the judge commenced beating the living day lights out of the suspect. He jumped on him, kicked him and put a knuckle sandwich in his mouth before stopping, walking back around the bench and sitting down to complete his duties as judge.
“Now young man, if that’s what the officer did to you then you might have a good case against him; but if you’re smart you’ll shut up and just go to prison and be glad I wasn’t the one who caught you first.” (or something very close…remember, this story is from quite a while back.)
As a young police officer sitting in Traffic Court one afternoon, I actually got to observe something similar. An officer pushed open the doors of the courtroom while dragging a bloodied handcuffed prisoner towards the bench. Everyone, and I mean everyone took notice as the courtroom became deafeningly quiet; all except an on going exchange between the suspect and the arresting officer who keep telling him to shut up.
The judge, a little perturbed, asked what was going on. The officer was about to speak when the suspect shouted, “He stabbed me with my own knife!” Sure enough you could see where there were puncture marks on the suspect’s arms and some blood seeping on the sides of his shirt just above his belt line.
The officer was calm and collected as he explained how during the course of arresting this fellow for his particular crime (*) the suspect pulled a knife on him and that, yes, he did have to wrestle the knife away from the suspect. He never denied stabbing the suspect; simply explained that any damage done was part defending himself and completing the arrest. (I couldn’t say what that crime (*) was as this happened back in the early to mid seventies; but it was either Robbery or Burglary).
There was a time when there were 2 levels of justice. Most of us, if/when we got in trouble at school got a swat with the paddle; but the real punishment came later when we got home and our parents read the note we were required to show them. Our parents reinforced a level of expected social performance. As children we knew what those levels were and learned to act accordingly or suffer the consequences of our actions.
That same kind of process used to exist without much public furor if a criminal happened to get his butt whipped during the process of being arrested. If the suspect resisted in any way, shape or form cops had every reason to believe that doing what was necessary to affect an arrest would be okay with the Department as well as the general public. Sure there were cops who went over the top and beat folks just because they enjoyed hurting people. Bad apples have existed in the past and will continue to be rooted out and dealt with; but there has been a shift in public attitude which goes in a direction that reeks of hypocrisy. The noisiest portion of our society would rather defend the actions of our criminals over those of law enforcement officers.
We expect cops to be robotic, lacking any trace of emotion during those few brief moments of an arrest when their adrenaline is running at peak levels. We expect them to turn off that rush of energy within half a second of containing the situation and to somehow recognize that moment as if they too had instant replay, slow motion and the benefit of watching their own arrest as a third party observer. Now we point our fingers, reprimand, demand removal and file criminal charges on police officers who’ve scuffled with a suspect during an arrest for what we considered a few seconds too long.
I’m sorry if this old time cop mentality offends your delicate senses; but that old judge had it right, “Now young man, if that’s what the officer did to you then you might have a good case against him; but if you’re smart you’ll shut up and just go to prison and be glad I wasn’t the one who caught you first.”
This article (will be) cross posted (once the site is back up) to The Moral Liberal , a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.