Why “Charge Cops With Crimes” Does Not Work

[Warning: Police Violence]

Simply put: it’s a maneuver to delay until another news cycle has passed. You can charge anyone for anything – even a president for attempting to steal the government – but it doesn’t matter if it’s just an attempt to deflect the whole incident.

There’s a chain of events, each of which is a junction-point that can be mooted once the eye of the camera has turned away. Charge a cop? Watch the evidence get lost, or the grand jury instructed that the only charge that might be applied to the cop is jay-walking. Convict a cop? Watch them get unsupervised release 2 months later, even if all they did was shoot an unarmed citizen in the face. Fire a cop? Watch them get a job at the police department in the next county over the line – a short commute away. It makes a complete mockery of justice in a system that also has people waiting out life sentences because of “three strikes and you’re out” – they sold reefer a couple times and they’re behind bars for life, but a cop who incompetently ends a life is back on the street and their career is barely damaged.

Is there a solution? Other than bloody Vietcong-style insurgency aimed at making being a “police officer” a short-lived and undesirable job, probably not. But the one avenue that appears to have a chance of going somewhere, goes over top of the police unions. Local politicians need to, simply put, not negotiate with police unions. Republicans ought to go along with that, because if there was ever a corrupt union for conservatives to hate, it’s police, right? Right? Hm, maybe republicans just like police because it’s “professional courtesy” among racists.

I don’t track these stories as closely as folks like Radley Balko (who must be depressed or quivering with rage all of the time) but if you look at the output of someone like Radley, it’s just an endless Cloaca Maxima of effluvium, running down-stream along race and class lines. As Gomer Pyle said, “well, surprise, surprise, surprise!”

The video is horrible. An old guy walks toward some cops, who shove him, and his skull cracks as it hits concrete. The cops walk by, offering no assistance to the victim. The media airs the incident. The officers are suspended and eventually charged. Then, the city of Buffalo waits until nobody’s looking and dismisses the charges against the cops. I bet you never saw that coming.

These heroes (2 of them) kicked the ass of a 75-year-old man, damaging him for the rest of his life. “Protect and serve” forsooth; they sure served him raw. [abc]

The republican congress voted to dismiss the impeachment on party lines grand jury voted to “no bill” the case, ultimately dismissing the charges, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said during a press briefing Thursday.

The grand jury proceedings are sealed and Flynn was unable to elaborate on what happened, but he said prosecutors “put all relevant evidence” before the grand jury, including multiple witnesses.

I bet they did. It was probably a typical case of American Blind Justice, per Arlo Guthrie. I’m guessing that the grand jury was not composed on random people off the street. Maybe they selected the jurors from the police union’s supporter club or something. This has happened before; it was a sandbagged case. They did the same thing in Baltimore, for the cops who murdered Freddie Gray. They do it over and over and sometimes they’re sloppy and there are complaints but justice has been “done” and, by done, I mean shoved down on concrete with a cracked skull, while literal jackbooted thugs walk by, dispassionate in the knowledge that the system’s got their back.

Fuck the system. Fuck it completely.

Someone bungied in here briefly a few months ago and tone trolled me because I sounded like I was saying “all cops are bastards.” Being a writer, my keyboard my weapon, I rose to the challenge – which was a waste of time because they vanished after dropping a smelly fewmet of “not all cops” etc. Well, let me say this: not all cops are bastards. Sometimes, the entire system in a particular town is a bastard. That means the city council, representatives, mayor, etc. – they are all willing to continue funneling money to the police who beat the shit out of the citizens. You know, and I know, that it’d be different if the cops did that kind of thing to a mayor or two. So, to forestall complaints: the system is a bastard; all cops are part of the system therefore all cops are bastards.

Thomas Burton, the attorney for McCabe, told ABC News they are focused on getting the officers “back in the saddle where they belong.”

I guess it’s OK to say these sorts of things with impunity, but someone needs to burn Rochester’s police buildings and state houses. Peacefully.


  1. says


    That’s true, you’re absolutely right: not all cops are Bastards, but all the cops who keep their heads down and don’t point out the Bastards and do every thing they can to purge the department of the Bastards are, well, in my book, bastards.

    Jeff Hess

  2. says

    It’s the same problem north of the border. Zero accountability, zero enforcement, even within the cops’ own organizational structure. Last November, two Ontario cops shot and murdered a baby without consequences. The “Special Investigations Unit” is toothless and can’t force them to talk about it, it’s “voluntary”.


    A man kidnapped his child from the mother. He tried to run a roadblock. The two cops knew he had a baby in the vehicle and shot at it anyway.

  3. johnson catman says

    On Friday morning, I heard the report that the grand jury in this case would not bring charges against the cops. Even with the video evidence clearly showing the cops shoving Gugino and blood pouring out of his ears after his skull was fractured on the concrete. What the fuck is wrong with people WANTING cops like this in their city?

  4. komarov says

    Maybe justice by video conference presents new opportunities here. Clearly Local Prosecutor has, by default, a conflict of interest when prosecuting Local Cop, as does Local Judge. Most of the time they need the cops’ cooperation and clealry we can’t count on professionalism with cops.

    But since lawyers, judges and everyone else no longer have to get together in a courthouse, you could mix and match judge, jury (, executioner), defence and prosecution from all over the state or even the country, so long as everybody is working in the same legal framework. The only thing stopping people from doing just that, really, has been logistics. Flying in an Alaskan judge, a Floridan prosecutor etc. would drag things out. But e-mailing a conference link around takes no time at all. It would be a shorter commute for them than travelling to their local courthouse!

    Slight downside: It would probably require anonymity which doesn’t bode well for a justice system* or it’s enforcers, who are squarely the problem here. If the cops local to our external prosecutor found out they were involved in convicting a corrupt cop six states away, they’d probably react just as poorly as if it had been a local cop. Professionalism strikes again. So we’re still in trouble because, frankly, all cops are all bastards.

    Regarding the not-all-cops, the question is, why would you need to differentiate between actual bastards and Friends Of Bastards who just like to be members of the same club? Some Klansmen probably just joined for the social stuff and the free food at the buffet. Nice people, I guess? Do I have to filter through all the local nazi-affiliates in my area with a molecular sieve to sort out the one real nazi from all the not-real-nazis now, because #not-all-right-wing-extremists?

    *Not that the US has any problem with that. Maybe branding all cops terrorists until proven innocent would help matters along, for a classified and redacted definition of “help” and “along”.

  5. says

    During my lifetime I have read several times about cops overstepping their boundaries and then being sued and sent behind bars.

    Not in the US, mind you, but in my backward eastern European country.

  6. Allison says

    I’m guessing that the grand jury was not composed on random people off the street.

    Actually, it probably was. But you don’t need specially chosen grand jurors. You just need a prosecutor who doesn’t want him indicted.

    There’s a saying: “a good prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.” I’ve been on a grand jury, and it’s absolutely true. Conversely, a good prosecutor can get a grand jury to not indict someone even if it’s an open and shut case. Grand jurors are subtly encouraged to believe they aren’t supposed to act independently, and since going along with the prosecutor gets them out of the courthouse faster, that’s how they’ll go.

  7. says

    Given that prosecutors often have close relationships with the police, who are the very people who are being investigated for their propensity for extralegal violence, I wonder to what degree the decisions are influenced by the fact that the prosecutor can easily threaten (more or less obviously) to have the jurors killed if they don’t render the desired decision.

    It wouldn’t be very hard to do, would it? And what would you do if they did? Indict them?

  8. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    There’s several things that I think we need to do to fix this.

    Primarily, we need to change public perception that police should be thought of as military instead of mere civilians like the rest of us with badges. The police are the standing army that our founders warned us about, and went to war to get rid of (in part). We need to demilitarize the police. I don’t just mean equipment. I also mean standards of conduct. Cops should be actually treated as any other citizen as far as reasonably possible when it comes to use of force. I know that sounds radical to many, but IMO it’s really not. For example:

    Bring back warrant requirements for most arrests. If the crime is not in progress and it’s not a suspected felony, then it can wait for a judge’s determination on whether arrest is warranted. (If the person would be released on bail, an arrest warrant shouldn’t be issued either.) The point of warrants is to remove discretionary power from cops and put it in people far away from the scene, judges, in order to reduce abuse of that discretionary power. In other words, overturn SCOTUS Atwater.

    Abolish qualified immunity. Cops should still enjoy absolute immunity for proper conduct, but they should not enjoy any “good faith” defenses for unlawful conduct, just like any other civilian.

    End the drug war. That’s a lot of the problem right there. Legalize it all, or at least do a lesser criminalization aka “decriminalization” approach.

    With these, we could go a long way to changing public perceptions, and that’s really the biggest problem of why we have a police problem in the first place. Too many people think we need to let the police get away with literal murder in order to keep us safe, but it’s just not true.

    We could also take an idea from circa 1800, which is to let the victim and close family and friends of victim have the common law right to first opportunity to seek criminal indictment from a grand jury for offenses against the (supposed) victim, appointing, any counsel of their choice as prosecutor, subject to approval by a grand jury, with the standard that such indictments should be granted except where there’s specific individualized reason to believe that the appointed prosecutor would try to throw the case. Where the victim forgoes this opportunity, then let it revert to the government prosecutor. “There is no right without a remedy”. There is no right to not be shot by cops without a remedy, and the courts – while imperfect – are the best remedy that we have. The problem is that when a cop beats you or shoots you, you and your friends and family have no effective remedy. They cannot seek justice in court. Only a government lackey who is in cahoots with the offender has the power to seek a remedy against the offender, and that’s the problem. I personally think that going back in part to victim-driven justice is the best – and maybe only – way to fix these problems. This is how it used to work in circa 1800 in America and England. Ever wonder what the purpose of the Grand Jury is? This is the original purpose, which is lost now when only government prosecutors can seek criminal indictments.

    PS: Ban plea bargaining except in cases of mob informants.

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