San José State University
Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley
& Tornado Alley

Police Officers Who Abuse
Their Powers are as Socially
Destructive as Bank Robbers

Take this true case. An individual was on parole and living with his mother. As condition for parole the police can come to the home of the parolee and investigate. The police had been to the house several times.

One time two policemen came to the parolee's mother's house to investigate again whether the parolee was violating any conditions of his parole. One policeman was threatening to batter down the door. The parolee was not at the house. His mother complied with the conditions of her son's parole but the two policemen detected that she did not have much respect for them. When the parolee's mother insisted on the policeman respect the sanctity of her home, such as not pulling out and going through drawers in her room in their search for contraband items, the police showed her that her rights as a law abiding citizen counted for nothing compared to their powers as policemen. She made a remark to one of them that he was a short man trying to act like a big man. They then arrested her and put her in handcuffs on her hands which were recovering from recent surgery. She objected to the hand cuffs as being unnecessary and painful to her but to no avail. They then took her to jail on a charge of disturbing the peace. They knew full well there was no substance to the charge but that it would show her who was boss.

At the jail she was required to under go a blood test for drugs. The police had absolutely no basis for requiring a blood test. They imposed it simply to degrade her for showing what they demanded as proper respect. The drug test was negative.

She was released on her own recognizance but had to find a way to get home from the jail late at night. She had not been allowed to take money with her when she was arrested in her own home.

She was required to go weekly to a police facility to have her urine tested for drugs. She had to pay $25 for each test and the tests went on for a month. The tests of course were of course were allnegative.

She had to pay a lawyer many thousands of dollars to fight the charge of disturbing the peace. The charge was ultimately dropped but thousands of dollars of her life savings were extracted from her. It was noted in her hearing that there is no law against saying disrespectful things to policemen.

Now consider bank robbers. FBI statistics indicates that the average bank robbery nets the robber(s) about $7700. This is about the lawyer's fee for fighting an unjustified criminal charge by a police officer abusing his powers. The cost to the victim of such unjustified charges is even greater than what they pay a lawyer to represent them. Typically those victims would pay even more than what they had to pay to fight the charges. Thus police officers who abuse their powers are worse than bank robbers. The cost of the bank robbery is spread over many people; the cost to the victims of the abuse of police power falls on one individual or that person's family. The abuse of police power is far more socially destructive than a bank robbery.

For the protection of the general public the perpetrators of the abuse of police power should be fired and forbidden to hold police power ever again. But they should also be punished at a level of punishment comparable to that imposed on a bank robber. That is to say they should spend several years in pison.

The individuals prone to abuse power gravitate towards police work in the same way that child molesters gravitate towards institutions involving children. The same diligence that must be used to keep child molesters away from children must also be shown in keeping the personal power seeking bullies out of police work.

The police who respect the law and would never abuse their power should be accorded the highest degree of respect.

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