Mary Lynn Houlihan missed her true calling: journalism. What a delightful and clever argument, putting the police as the victims; and how shocking that the police "have to swallow innocent until proven guilty."
It doesn't say much for the Office of the Commonwealth Attorney that his chosen spokesperson sees the fundamental constitutional principle of innocent until proven guilty as something being forced down the throats of the police.
Her plea that the police not be unfairly prosecuted is almost laughable; she is very aware that the proposed indictments in Baltimore are a statistical anomaly. She is also aware that the idea that a punk does not deserve the death penalty for looking at a cop is something novel in this country, which is why it is getting so much press.
Knowing from the inside how the system works, she then makes a tepid suggestion that "our communities should establish systems to address any inappropriate use of force."
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Well, gee whiz. What a novel idea.
Let's see: we have the Internal Affairs Unit at the police department which accepts complaints against abusive cops. How does that work? I challenge the Herald-Leader to do an investigation: How many cops are actually sanctioned? How bad do they have to be before they get sanctioned? Is this public or kept a secret?
And the poor little schmuck who wants to file has to go downtown into the bowels of the police department to even try to file a complaint.
I am acquainted with retired cops who laugh about their files at internal affairs and how thick they were. And whose word is going to be accepted? That is the beauty of what is going on in this country right now: I had a seasoned officer tell me that "we send the young turks into the inner city to work off their steam."
Why? It is a population that is politically powerless. Can you imagine the repercussions if the young turks were sent to the tony suburbs to work off steam? A number of years ago, I was at the downtown library and the police had the men's bathroom cordoned off. I was told an out-of-control drunk was being handled by the police.
About 45 minutes later, a tiny old man was carried out on a stretcher, having been "subdued" by two very healthy, strong young cops.
A hairdresser told me that she witnessed police work over a drunk in the booking area of the jail, where she had been booked on failure to pay a fine. Being unacquainted with the system, she was shocked.
Countless public-defender clients told me of being stopped and hassled on the street, then let go as they were doing nothing illegal. And for this there is no legal remedy; there is no arrest, therefore nothing to suppress. The stories of being roughed up or worked over by the police were also very common.
Well what about the court system? That certainly appears to be a system to address police abuse, and occasionally it is when a jury realizes what went on. But that is also a rarity.
I had a felony case in which an officer lied under oath and admitted, under oath, lying under oath. She remained on the job and was in court the very next week.
And then there was the state trooper who bragged to me that he put the prominent scar on my client's face.
Of course Houlihan is absolutely correct that police work is taxing, draining, challenging work that would try the patience of Job. But when a new mother can't take the stress, the urine and defecation, the endless crying and abuses an infant, we show no mercy. When a policeman loses his cool and beats someone up (or kills them) how quick we are to forgive and make excuses.
And never forget that the most outrageous of cases makes the national press. The routine, systemic, daily hassling and "roughing up" stay in the neighborhood — where it festers until it boils over.
Sally Wasielewski is a retired criminal defense attorney in Lexington