Sunday, April 23, 2006

Recent Police Corruption and Maybe More to Come

I recently received an email from Scott Henson over at Grits for Breakfast with a summary of incidents of corruption along the border. I've been aware of the latest in which five brothers, one a police officer and another a former officer, were arrested with other men in connection with a drug smuggling operation. Reports indicate that they provided logistics in crossing the border. So, with the available information, they basically got drugs on the Mexican side, crossed them over the river, and then handed the drugs off to other operators on this side.

So far, no information has come out indicating that the police officer and his brother, who was also an officer, used their jobs to help the operation. But, information is scarce at this point. Officials have been tight-lipped about the particulars.

I'm jaded. It's not unexpected. This sort thing does affect public perception of local police because you always wonder if the officer writing you a ticket has a side business. Going back to the whole corruption question, it's likely the officers were corrupt in their jobs. After all, it takes a bit of two-facedness to be a law enforcement officer who willingly and blatantly breaks the law or allows it to occur with a blind eye. And the thing is that we know that we don't pay our police nearly as much as they can make in criminal ventures. For some of these guys, they like being cops. They like being out and about, being on the scene when stuff goes down. For many, this in itself is satisfying. Where else can you get the opportunity to kick some ass and get paid for it, legally? I've known police officers who confess that this is a large part of the appeal. They love some of the wierd situations that occur when they deal with the public. If you chat with an officer, have him tell you some of the wierd things they've seen while on patrol. You'll be laughing the whole time. But, as they get older and start having families, money starts to be a concern more than actually enjoying the job.

For some, the solution is going over to the other side. They are trained, after all, on how to detect strange things, so they are able to capitalize on their experience. If you are a criminal, you are actually better off becoming an officer for the training too. I suspect that the brothers who were police officers fall under the second category. After all, if the family business pays much better than being a police officer, and let's be honest, these guys aren't spring chickens, why not work in the family business? They probably entered law enforcement to learn how police operate. The best way to defend against your enemy is to know how they think.

I don't see that two of the bothers would become officers for love of the profession knowing about their other brothers. After all, most people whom I've known to be in that sort of business, will eventually get caught. Why would you go into law enforcement knowing that it's a matter of time before your brothers get caught and bring shame and suspicion on you?

I do think we ought to pay our police well, but I don't think that pay is the only solution to the problem. We would end up paying people to NOT become corrupt. They ought to do it for the sake of doing it. It comes down to a character problem. There is no way to assess a person's character. If you've ever taken a personality test, you know that you can make it say whatever you want it to say about you. It all comes down to figuring out what the questions are trying to gauge and answer the way a person with the desired character would. So, we have little defense against smart criminals entering our law enforcement agencies. Sometimes, their character flaw is latent and becomes pronounced with time and experience. The best we can do is keep an eye on our law enforcers and nail them to the wall when we catch them doing illegal stuff.

I am also watching a story that comes out of the South Texican about the possibility of Hidalgo County Judges being indicted. I'm completely in the dark about this. I hope nothing comes of it, but I'm prepared for the headlines.

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