It Used to Be Called Stating the Obvious

by baldilocksbaldilocks

The bare bones of what you need to know about the topic of Ilya Somin’s op-ed at the Volokh Conspiracy are in the title. Somin goes on, however, to state what makes both crimes against police and crimes by police worse than those which don’t have police officer as perpetrator or victim.

There is a lot to chew on here, and at least one burnt straw man–but that last one is minor in relation to the point. And even with the horrible murders of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, the following remains true.

When a civilian comes before a grand jury, he will almost always be indicted, even if he resembles the proverbial ham sandwich. By contrast, police accused of crimes on the job almost never get indicted, in part because they tend to get favorable treatment from prosecutors, as happened in both the Ferguson and Garner cases. While I think the officer in the Ferguson case probably should have been acquitted in a criminal trial due to the conflicting nature of the witness testimony, that does not change the reality that he got special treatment in the grand jury process that would not have been extended to a civilian suspect.

Such double standards create terrible incentives for police officers. As one former St. Louis police officer puts it, “[t]he problem is that cops aren’t held accountable for their actions, and they know it. These officers violate rights with impunity. They know there’s a different criminal justice system for civilians and police.” The vast majority of police officers do not engage in abusive violence. But, tragically, the system empowers and protects the minority who do.

Here’s the problem with civilians, police forces and Grand Juries: they are all made up of human beings, flawed since the action of Adam. Seems obvious, right? Well not to many of us. You see, we’ve all been inculcated with the notion that each individual is only as good as his tribe. If that notion isn’t overtly taught in schools, people learn it later in life through much more painful means. One of reasons that tribalism exists is to protect the individual from his/her mistakes. You are your tribe and your tribe is you. Right?

We are seeing two sets of tribalism–one ethnic, one professional–clash before our eyes (actually, there’s a third: legal). And until both parts of Somin’s title are commonplace, all involved will continue look to his/her tribe for protection…

…before they set themselves in array in preparation for war.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel, tentatively titled, Arlen’s Harem, will be done in 2015.

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