February 20, 2013

Keeping the Community Safe

Another Balko "raid of the day":

Known around the neighborhood as "Pops," 80-year-old Isaac Singletary moved into his high-crime Jacksonville, Florida neighborhood in 1987 to care for and protect his sister and mother, both of whom were sick at the time. The retired repairman was known to sit in front of his house in a lawn chair and shoo and shame the drug dealers away from his property.

But in January 2007, two undercover narcotics cops posed as drug dealers set up shop on Singletary's lawn. Singletary first came out of his house and yelled at them to leave. They didn't. He went back inside. Minutes later, he came out again and told them to leave, this time while waving a handgun. One of the cops opened fire. Wounded, Singletary tried to escape into his backyard. The cops followed chased him down and shot him again, this time in the back. Singletary died at the scene. His killers never told him they were police officers.

The police initially claimed Singletary had tried to rob them. They then claimed that Singletary fired first. Five witnesses said that wasn't true. Who fired first wasn't really relevant, except as an indication that the police weren't telling the truth about the whole mess.

Here, Jacksonville police officers had committed crimes on an elderly man's property without his permission, refused to leave when he asked them to, then--perhaps inadvertently--baited him into a violent confrontation. They then killed him for taking the bait.

You only have to read a few of these to realize that police routinely lie outrageously in such situations, usually in a series of transparent, serially contradicting attempts at self-exoneration. Often, of course, they get away with it and no one is the wiser, which is obviously why they feel so comfortable doing it. But in cases where it is clear that that's what happened, I can't fathom why they get to remain on the job. Apart from the crime being covered up, lying on a police report itself seems like it should be grounds for summary dismissal and prosecution, but it doesn't seem to be.

Anyway, commandeering a private citizen's property for a "sting" operation without informing him seems, if not actually unconstitutional, extremely stupid. What did they think would happen? Ah yes: a brief period of paid administrative leave, soon back on the job, eventual taxpayer-funded settlement, possible ensuing Officer of the Year award, and only one innocent dead guy. They were right.

Posted by Dr. Frank at February 20, 2013 08:06 PM