Civil Liberties

When Cops and Prosecutors Get Special Rights

An ugly sort of professional courtesy.


Yesterday, Reason's J.D. Tuccille decried one of the hypocrisies on display in Ferguson this week: "Police Chief Tom Jackson says he won't release the [cop who killed Michael Brown's] name unless charges are filed or he's ordered to by a judge. Does anybody believe he would be so reticent to point the finger if the situation were reversed and an officer was killed by a civilian?"

Today, Ken White of Popehat extends the point:

It's been a long time since I've seen this movie, but I'm pretty sure he's about to bend over.
First National Pictures Inc.

Cops and other public servants get special treatment because the whole system connives to let them. Take prosecutorial misconduct. If you are accused of breaking the law, your name will be released. If, on appeal, the court finds that you were wrongfully convicted, your name will still be brandished. But if the prosecutor pursuing you breaks the law and violates your rights, will he or she be named? No, usually not. Even if a United States Supreme Court justice is excoriating you for using race-baiting in your closing, she usually won't name you. Even if the Ninth Circuit—the most liberal federal court in the country—overturns your conviction because the prosecutor withheld exculpatory evidence, they usually won't name the prosecutor.

And leaks? Please. Cops and prosecutors leak information to screw defendants all the time. It helps keep access-hungry journalists reliably compliant. But leak something about an internal investigation about a shooting or allegation of police misconduct? Oh, you'd better believe the police union will sue your ass.

Cops, and prosecutors, and other public employees in the criminal justice system have power. It is the nature of power to make people believe that they are better than the rest of us, and entitled to privileges the rest of us do not enjoy.

Read the rest here.