No Special Rights for Police
Cw: discussion of police violence, both in text and in cited links
Imagine it. You work for a corporation. You decide to steal funds from the company and use it for your own gain. A complaint is filed against you by the company leaders and an investigation is scheduled to go forth.
Only — it will be your husband investigating you. Along with your 4th grade best friend, your sister and grandmother.
And they promise, whole-heartedly, they are going to do the most thorough investigation.
And surprisingly they find NO wrong-doing! Just like that: you are in the clear.
What about if you are accused of violating a state law? And as the complaint goes to court, you are assigned to be investigated and brought to justice!
But the prosecutor assigned to your case is your wife!
And after her unbiased investigation, lo and behold, she found no wrong-doing! You are free to go!
Seems ridiculous doesn’t it?
Yet, that’s how we operate in our society when it comes to “law enforcement”. This is thanks to what is known as the law enforcement bill of rights. The law enforcement bill of rights is a robust set of laws designed to give the police extra “due process” when they are accused of violating an internal rule, city code or a law.
While each state’s law enforcement bill of rights varies to some degree, what many of them have in common is:
→ No civilian review panels, greatly restricting the ability to any true, meaningful civilian oversight.
→ investigations will be handled with an “internal affairs” program
→ Officers can review evidence against them
→ Officers can be interviewed in a place, and a time, where convenient
In the height of the tragic murder of Freddie Gray, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake blamed the law enforcement bill of rights in Maryland as to why she, as Mayor, could not jump on the investigation the way she would like. In a legal sense, she is right. From the article:
“A set of due-process rights for police officers under internal investigation for alleged misconduct, Maryland’s LEOBoR includes a provision that the officers cannot be forced to make any statements for 10 days after the incident, during which time they are presumed to be searching for a lawyer. It is partly because of this “cooling-off period” — to critics, a convenient delay for the cops to tidy up their stories — that so little has been said by the only people who know what took place within that vehicle.”
When we organized and protested the tragic murder of Jesus Cervantes in Plant City, Florida, we had many demands of the Plant City Police Department. When we finally met with the City Manager, that’s when we learned that even if Plant City government wanted to (they definitely didn’t want to), they could not enact a separate civilian review panel because of the Florida Law Enforcement Bill of Rights.
We did not know then that the Florida Law Enforcement Bill of Rights granted the City immunity from having to be responsible and quite frankly, gave the police department limitless power to continue investigating themselves.
It’s a warped system.
Frankly, many people no longer believe police reform is a viable option. After all, they were originally slave catcher patrols. Over the years, they have enacted oppressive rules that target and harm Black, brown, immigrant, disabled, gay, queer, trans and poor people across the country. That is exactly what they are designed to do! You can’t really fix a system that is operating exactly as intended — instead, you need to break the system.
I don’t know what the end results will be. But police abolition is not some faint idea in the background — it’s a full, solid and valid movement.
Even though police departments may march in Pride Parades, they shouldn’t. The Stonewall riots was an uprising against police brutality, mostly led by Black and brown trans sex workers, along with gay and queer poor “misfits”. Today, police are still an oppressive force toward trans folks, and especially Black trans folks. Police are still an oppressive force policing and criminalizing consensual sex between gay/queer men, in this day and age!
Regardless of whether you are in the reform camp or the abolition camp, while they are still among us, the law enforcement bill of rights has got to go!
It is simply not viable and complete nonsense that any entity can investigate themselves.
Simply put, more needs to be done to stop this madness.