Three weeks ago, Beth Gatny, a police officer in Euharlee, Ga., fatally shot 17-year-old Christopher Roupe after he opened the door for cops. According to the family and some witnesses the teenager was holding a Wii controller (which is a white stick, more or less) when he was shot once in the chest. Police claim Roupe was holding a handgun, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has not yet completed its report on the incident. Gatny remains on paid leave. Now, 11 Alive, the NBC affiliate in Georgia, reports that Gatny, who has been employed with Euharlee police for less than a year, had been fired from her last job:
Gatny worked at the Acworth Police Department for 10 years prior to that and personnel records indicate that she was written up and suspended a number of times for various infractions.
In a timeline, her supervisors say she "refused to follow orders" on everything from filing paperwork to carrying her walkie talkie.
Gatny was involved in four car accidents in two years.
In 2007, she reportedly "left her duty belt, along with her weapon..with a civilian employee" while she had her picture taken with someone.
In 2008, while confronting three suspects, she fired her service weapon. An internal investigation found the suspect was trying to remove his backpack. She was convinced he was going for a gun, but a fellow officer said he never thought the suspect was armed.
Internal Affairs concluded she should not be punished because the initial call for service said the suspects could have been armed.
We've covered many police officers with the type of records and background that ought to, by common sense alone, end their law enforcement careers and preclude them from future employment as police officers. I've suggested zero tolerance for cops. Every time an irresponsible gun owner does something stupid or someone commits a prominent enough crime using a gun, the incident is used by anti-gun activists to challenge the notion that individuals have the right to arm themselves for self-defense. Yet the right to a gun is heavily restricted. A prior felony, for example, led to a 20 year sentence for a Philly man who shot his gun into the air. In the meantime, when former law enforcement officers are involved in acts of "gun violence," their background is often not highlighted. For example, the Florida man who shot a fellow moviegoer for texting in the theater was a retired police officer, but it didn't stop this anti-stand your ground editorial cartoon from using the incident to draw a broader point. Yet, even in states like New York with restrictive gun laws, politicians have carved out exemptions not just for law enforcement but former law enforcement, like the Florida man who fatally shot a texter. Police officers around the country are pushing back against the NFL's no guns rule, not because they believe we all have the right to bear arms, but because they believe they do. How sick is that worldview?
Beth Gatny shot and killed a 17-year-old boy. She should be presumed innocent in a court of law until proven guilty, a right that needs to be preserved for all accused. But Gatny isn't enjoying those rights right now, but privileges carved out for her and other police officers around the country, in union contracts often signed by local government officials long out of power. Earlier today, for example, I wrote about a Baltimore cop who choked his girlfriend's puppy to death and then sent pictures of the dead dog to her. He admitted as much, and has been charged with animal cruelty. But he, too, remains employed with the police department. Unlike Gatny, he is suspended without pay until he is convicted. But the fact that a police officer can choke a puppy to death and admit it, or shoot a 17-year-old in the chest after he opens the door, or brutally beat a homeless man to death, and expect to keep their jobs until they have their "due process" is a perversion of the term. Being fired by a police department is not the same as being treated as a guilty person, it would be an acknowledgement that police officers are held to an extremely high standard because government has decided to give them costumes, guns, badges, and the wide discretion to use them. In too much of the United States, that higher standard simply doesn't exist.
Beth Gatny and Alec Taylor, the puppy-choker, and every other cop with obviously poor character ought to be fired, and the police departments and municipalities that employ them should have that power. Only then will it not be Orwellian to call them "public servants."