Deputies Union Poisons Shooting Review
February 17, 2012
FEB. 17, 2012
By STEVEN GREENHUT
Whenever I write about police shootings, police and union officials always mouth the same line: You, in the public and the media, have no right to jump to conclusions about the split-second decisions deputies make until you know all the facts. The cops then refuse to release any details of the shooting and eventually produce a one-sided report, which doesn’t have to even be released to the public because it is exempt from the public records act. By then, the public and media are on to other things and the deputy who killed the person is back in the job after a few months of additional paid vacation.
Yet throughout the period when the public is supposed to be silent, the police union busies itself poisoning the well and releasing information that benefits its own members. This is from the Los Angeles Times today regarding a tragic shooting by an Orange County deputy sheriff of a Camp Pendleton Marine, Sgt. Manuel Loggins, while the Marine’s children were in the back of his vehicle:
So the OC deputies union, which in my experience covering Orange County, is a particularly thuggish organization, is busy trashing a man and wrecking his character in order to protect the deputy who killed him. The public is deprived of a chance to learn what really happened. Fortunately, the Marine’s family is being defended by Pendleton’s commanding officer, but in most police shootings, there are no high level officials to question the police action. The public always assumes that the person the deputy killed deserved his fate.
In this situation, statements from the union continue to change, as often is the case. In many shootings I’ve written about, the police officials continue to retell the story — with each retelling more closely mirroring the version that protects the officer at issue. It always ends up with the “perfect storm” in which the deputy had not other choice but to kill the person in question. In other cases, such as the beating death of a Fullerton homeless man by a group of Fullerton police officers, the police spokesman (also a union official) let out misinformation about the homeless man in a clear attempt to make the public believe that the guy got what was coming to him. Some Fullerton officers have been indicted in that horrific beating death.
In the Fullerton case, the police officers were allowed by officials at the department to watch a video of the beating and then get their stories straight before going on the record. Meanwhile, the public was denied the chance to see the video and the Fullerton cops even confiscated the video of a bystander who was recording what was happening. In New York, cops obstructed justice and loudly protested at a trial where their members were accused of corruption, the latest reminder that police and their unions will stand up even for the most degenerate members of their fraternity.
While former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona spends time in jail after being convicted of federal corruption charges, the new sheriff, Sandra Hutchens, seems to be following in Carona’s secrecy footsteps. She has refused to release the name of the deputy who shot to death the Marine. In the past, she expressed shock and outrage after some of her deputies where accused by the DA of lying to protect one of their brethren accused of torturing a handcuffed man with a Taser. She wasn’t outraged at the behavior of her people, but at the audacity of the DA for referring to a well-known Code of Silence within the department. Forget about reform in these circumstances.
Forget also about what’s really needed — a review of use of force policies, a new more humane policing model, further open records so that the public gets to learn about how government employees operate, especially those with life-and-death power. Given that unions and police leadership always defend their own, it’s no surprise that instances of police abuse grow. There’s no accountability and the average deputy or union activists knows that sheriffs like Hutchens will defend them against real accountability.
As deputies and their defenders trash a dead man and his family, you can be sure they will complain loudly at anyone who jumps to any conclusions about whether the deputy acted appropriately. You can be sure that because of the power of the police unions in the Legislature, and a state Supreme Court case that locks down disciplinary records of misbehaving deputies and police officers, that we will never learn the truth about what happened and that more such events will happen in the future.