by Susan Criss
America cannot deliver on her promise of “justice for all” until systemic racism is eliminated. Ridding our injustice system of institutional racism requires changes in law and culture. But first we must speak truth to power about how our injustice system operates.
Judges, prosecutors, lawmakers and “good cops” must stop giving bad cops passes.
Judges deny legitimate motions to suppress evidence daily while preventing exposure of egregious police misconduct. Prosecutors convince judges to sign “protective orders” threatening criminal defense attorneys with contempt for revealing police misconduct. This protection for bad officers violates ethical rules, evidentiary rules, the spirit of Brady and Michael Morton disclosure requirements and both the Texas and United States constitutions.
Judges routinely sustain prosecution objections to vigorous cross examinations of officers by defense counsel. Judges and prosecutors protect the officers from answering hard questions by those sworn to confront witnesses accusing their clients.
It’s not the object of the sworn oaths of judges and prosecutors to protect officers. Officers are witnesses upon whose credibility and integrity we depend to ensure just verdicts are reached in criminal trials. Police officers aren’t witnesses to be favored over other witnesses. These tactics interfere with the search for the truth and contribute to wrongful convictions.
Officers also get special treatment in civil courts. Officers and prosecutors can intentionally violate civil rights, falsify and suppress evidence, lie under oath and steal during raids and be protected from being sued due to qualified immunity laws. No accountability ensures no change in behavior.
Law enforcement unions push a narrative of all or nothing support and blind allegiance for the badge. The not so thin blue line gets drawn around bad and good cops real fast. They insist that you either support law enforcement or you support criminals. That’s wrong and an intentional distraction.
We can support law enforcement, stand for law and order and hold bad cops accountable at the same time. In fact, we must.
Police unions place enormous pressure on elected officials and political candidates with political threats both implied and explicit. The police union endorsement implies the candidate stands for law and order. Pandering for that endorsement proves the opposite.
Much needed criminal justice reform died during the last session of the Texas Legislature when police unions played this card. Promises to reform gave way to legislative panic and backtracking. And commitment to reform brought threats to target legislators in future elections.
It’s time to end qualified immunity for intentional bad acts by police and prosecutors.
It’s time to stop hiding evidence and records of egregious police misconduct.
It’s time to elect people who are more committed to their oath than endorsements.
It’s time for one system of justice that’s not based on the color of skin, wealth or whether one wears a badge.
It’s time for serious criminal justice reform.
It’s time for America’s promise of “justice for all” to be delivered — to all.
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