Chairman’s Message: A Time for Justice

Posted on Monday, May 10, 2010 at 12:00PM
Posted by Andy Schlenker

By now, all of us have become accustomed to what may seem like an instantaneous world. From the progress of e-mail, and texting, to nearly all of us having access to high speed internet at our home, office, and now on our mobile devices. Even our basic professional tools have advanced us to this age of immediacy. In the “old days”, we would have a photographer take still pictures of crime scenes, vehicle accidents, and injuries. These pictures would then need to get developed, and investigators would wait for the final product. Even our written reports would get completed by hand, and the “hard copy” would wind their way to the supervisor’s desks, and ultimately to the clerks. Now, in this digital age, all of these old processes are replaced with much faster mechanisms. Even as I write this article, I realize that the submission will be forwarded to the PORAC magazine upon one keystroke on my computer.

However, notwithstanding all of these many technological advances, a peace officer accused of misconduct must still endure what seems like an eternity from the onset of an allegation of misconduct to its final conclusion. One of the most disturbing events for any of us in our professional careers is having a supervisor strip you of your badge, identification card, firearm, and peace officer powers. You are walked out of the building with little more than a brief understanding that you are accused of engaging in some form of misconduct. Whether true, false, or somewhere in between, an officer subject to discipline or criminal investigation feels the immediate sting of the punishment from the onset, long before any of the facts truly get sorted out, tested, and challenged.

While the instantaneous age of technology may have worked its way into the mechanics of the justice system with processes such as “e-filing” of documents, digital discovery, and electronic information transfers, the substantive wheels of justice have not followed suit. This becomes a rude awakening when one becomes the subject of allegations of misconduct.

While PORAC and your Legal Defense Fund continue their fight to maintain the integrity of the Peace Officer Bill of Rights, and the time limitations which protect us from having an investigation looming for years, once an allegation is formalized, the process can still feel like an eternity. For criminal and disciplinary cases, I have seen it take up to five years before resolutions are reached. Meanwhile, you feel as though your name is being dragged through the mud, and you live in fear of what might happen to your job, family, and your good name as rumors spread like wildfire.

Patience truly is a virtue which needs to be called upon during these trying times. The good news is that many of the cases have seen the benefit from the slow wheels of justice. Typically, the multiple-time felony accuser will get arrested again and develop an even more colorful history to explore at the time of trial. Your attorney and his investigator get ample opportunity to develop strategies, discover information, and let the facts sort out appropriately.

While it may be hard to let the wheels of justice grind, please keep in mind that they do so for a reason. Due Process is a right we all have, and for good or bad, justice takes time. During this difficult period, let the time pass, assist your attorney, and trust the process to handle your matter with caution, diligence, and scrupulous attention to detail.

PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.