What Policing Is Becoming…

Having spent the bet­ter part of a decade research­ing, writ­ing and talk­ing about the rule of law, race, and how law enforce­ment has affect­ed peo­ple’s lives through the years, I am dis­gust­ed to see the state of law enforce­ment today.
The hue and cry against those who enforce our laws are cer­tain­ly not just in Jamaica as some would like to have you believe. In the great big United States, with its thou­sands of police depart­ments, it is far worse. As a result, every police actions as it relates to peo­ple of col­or and African-Americans, in par­tic­u­lar, has come under immense scruti­ny because of the actions of police offi­cers.
In an age when images and video record­ings of police-civil­ian inter­ac­tions are broad­cast­ed viral­ly across the inter­net, it appears that police offi­cers have become far more bru­tal and uncar­ing about the peo­ple they are sworn to pro­tect.
Whether this is so or not, is not for me to say. The fact that images and live videos are so eas­i­ly avail­able for our view­ing may have some­thing to do with that.
What is patent­ly clear though is that the images are not pret­ty.

The United States, is a coun­try con­stant­ly embroiled in racial ani­mos­i­ty and strife. It is not always easy to dif­fer­en­ti­ate between good polic­ing and race-based polic­ing when white offices are involved with black sus­pects.
In Jamaica, the com­mon refrain by those who break the laws is that police arrest them because they are poor. Never mind that the offi­cers are gen­er­al­ly just as poor as they are, or poor­er.
Stopping a man in Cherry Gardens with a bag con­tain­ing imple­ments of house­break­ing, night or day, elic­its that same response.
As a con­se­quence, I am con­strained against my gut instincts, when inci­dents of alleged abuse sur­faces, involv­ing black cit­i­zens and white police offi­cers.
Nevertheless, the key ques­tion I gen­er­al­ly ask myself in thse instances is, ‘would the offi­cer black, white Latino or oth­er­wise have act­ed the way he/​she did were the sus­pects white”?
I am also mind­ful of the fact that the abil­i­ty to pro­file is a vital tool police offi­cers have in their toolk­it to help them make polic­ing deci­sions.
Done well, done right, that deduc­tive rea­son­ing serves our com­mu­ni­ties very well.
It becomes a prob­lem when rogue ele­ments in law enforce­ment use it to live out their racist bias­es in America.
It becomes a prob­lem when bru­tal cops use it to exact pun­ish­ment on those they deem pow­er­less in Jamaica.

The rule of law if applied fair­ly and pro­por­tion­ate­ly is the best method we have to main­tain demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­eties. When the laws are applied fair­ly, just­ly, equi­tably and pro­por­tion­ate­ly, in a man­ner in which all feel equal under the laws, it makes for bet­ter soci­eties and a pros­per­ous future for all.
When the poor is made to feel less than in the eyes of the law, or oth­ers are made to feel the same way because of their race, sex­u­al orientation,religion, or oth­er dis­tin­guish­able char­ac­ter­is­tic soci­eties are less peace­ful, less pros­per­ous.
As a con­se­quence the rule of law is heav­i­ly depen­dent of those who enforce our laws to be just and fair.
Unfortunately those who enforce our nation’s laws are weak humans pre­dis­posed to the weak­ness­es of human bias­es.
The fol­low­ing is one such sto­ry from our friends at CNN​.com.

Ex-deputy accused of planting drugs on Florida drivers is arrested

Zachary Wester faces racketeering, fabricating evidence, false imprisonment and other charges.
Zachary Wester faces rack­e­teer­ing, fab­ri­cat­ing evi­dence, false impris­on­ment and oth­er charges.

(CNN)Florida author­i­ties have arrest­ed a for­mer Jackson County deputy accused of mak­ing false arrests after plant­i­ng drugs on dri­vers, police said in a statement.The alle­ga­tions have prompt­ed pros­e­cu­tors to drop charges in scores of cases.Zachary Wester, 26, was tak­en into cus­tody at his Crawfordville home, about 20 miles south of Tallahassee, on Wednesday, accord­ing to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He is being held in Wakulla County Jail with­out bail, the FDLE said.He stands charged with felony counts of rack­e­teer­ing, offi­cial mis­con­duct, fab­ri­cat­ing evi­dence, pos­ses­sion of a con­trolled sub­stance and false impris­on­ment. He also faces mis­de­meanor charges of per­jury, pos­ses­sion of a con­trolled sub­stance and pos­ses­sion of drug para­pher­na­lia, the FDLE said​.At least 11 peo­ple are suing Wester in fed­er­al court for alleged civ­il rights vio­la­tions as well.

100+ cases tossed out

At the request of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Wester’s for­mer employ­er, the FDLE began inves­ti­gat­ing the deputy in August after body­cam video from a February 2018 arrest appeared to show Wester plant­i­ng metham­phet­a­mine in Teresa Odom’s pick­up truck dur­ing a traf­fic stop, FDLE spokesman Jeremy Burns told CNN in September​.At the time, the FDLE was review­ing 254 of Wester’s cas­es, pros­e­cu­tors said.“The inves­ti­ga­tion shows Wester rou­tine­ly pulled over cit­i­zens for alleged minor traf­fic infrac­tions, plant­ed drugs inside their vehi­cles and arrest­ed them on fab­ri­cat­ed drug charges,” the FDLE said in its Wednesday news release, adding that it had reviewed more than 21 hours of footage in its inves­ti­ga­tion.

Video shows Baltimore cop plant evidence, lawyer says

It added, “Wester cir­cum­vent­ed JCSO’s body cam­era pol­i­cy and tai­lored his record­ings to con­ceal his crim­i­nal activity.“Wester’s attor­ney did not imme­di­ate­ly return a phone call seek­ing comment.State Attorney Glenn Hess’ office said in September 2018 that 119 cas­es had been dropped and about 10 peo­ple had been released from prison. CNN could not imme­di­ate­ly reach Hess on Wednesday, but local media reports indi­cate the probe has widened since then.Wester was fired September 10. It was not imme­di­ate­ly clear how long Wester had been with the depart­ment, but the Tallahassee Democrat report­ed he resigned from the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office in May 2016 and lat­er took the job in Jackson County.

It damned sure ain’t mine’

Bodycam video from Odom’s February 2018 arrest in Cottondale shows Wester approach the car in a friend­ly man­ner and explain to the woman that her brake lights are malfunctioning.He leaves with her license, and as he returns to her vehi­cle he jokes that his hip almost gave out. Odom tells him her moth­er is in the hos­pi­tal and she’s expect­ing a call from a doc­tor. Wester tells her that a drug dog is on its way, but Odom says she has noth­ing in the car and gives him con­sent to search it.Wester appears to hold some­thing in his left hand as he dons black gloves before the search. His hand moves out of the frame for a few sec­onds and returns emp­ty. He fin­ish­es putting on the gloves and com­mences with the search.

Bodycam video appears to show Wester planting drugs in Odom's car last year.

Bodycam video appears to show Wester plant­i­ng drugs in Odom’s car last year.After “find­ing” a bag of white pow­der in her truck, he places it on the dri­ver seat but does­n’t alert two oth­er deputies on the scene. Instead, he moves it around, first plac­ing it on a spoon and then mov­ing it to the pas­sen­ger seat. All the while, he con­tin­ues the chum­my ban­ter with Odom.After search­ing the pas­sen­ger side of her vehi­cle, where he had just placed the bag­gie, he returns to Odom and anoth­er deputy with the spoon and pow­der. Odom says the spoon is for her yogurt but seems sur­prised by the bag of powder.“That is not mine. No, sir. No, sir,” she says.After the pow­der tests pos­i­tive for metham­phet­a­mine, Wester tells Odom she’s under arrest as she speaks on the phone with a relative.“He says it tests pos­i­tive for amphet­a­mine, so I guess I’m going to go to jail,” Odom tells the per­son on the phone. “It damned sure ain’t mine.”

Case remains open

Three fed­er­al law­suits have been filed against Wester. Eleven peo­ple arrest­ed by him claim the ex-deputy framed them, plant­i­ng some com­bi­na­tion of mar­i­jua­na, metham­phet­a­mine, pre­scrip­tion pills or drug para­pher­na­lia, includ­ing syringes and scales, in their vehi­cles after pulling them over for minor infrac­tions. Two law­suits were filed in December, and anoth­er was filed in May​.In the most recent­ly filed case, Lora Penn, one of nine plain­tiffs, says she was a pas­sen­ger in a vehi­cle pulled over June 7, 2018. During the stop, she alleged, Wester placed metham­phet­a­mine and a hypo­der­mic nee­dle in her purse.Penn was charged with drug and para­pher­na­lia pos­ses­sion and spent 12 days in jail before “her moth­er post­ed bond exhaust­ing her mea­ger finan­cial resources. Penn’s moth­er was there­after unable to afford med­ical care and died due to lack of such care,” the fed­er­al law­suit says.The FDLE, whose inves­ti­ga­tors have already logged 1,400 hours on the crim­i­nal case against Wester, says the probe remains open and encour­ages any­one with infor­ma­tion to come forward.“There is no ques­tion that Wester’s crimes were delib­er­ate and that his actions put inno­cent peo­ple in jail,” said Chris Williams, the FDLE’s assis­tant spe­cial agent in charge of the Pensacola office.Prior to his time with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Wester worked in Liberty County. Jack Campbell, the state attor­ney there, told CNN affil­i­ate WCTV in May that inves­ti­ga­tors were in the process of “resolv­ing” some cas­es involv­ing the for­mer law­man. He would not elab­o­rate on how many cas­es, the sta­tion reported.The sta­tion has pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed Campbell was review­ing 26 cas­es.

CNN’s Amir Vera, Marlena Baldacci and Amanda Watts con­tributed to this report.