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Police must at least be competent and should instead be highly qualified

Virginia criminal defense lawyer on the need to reverse our dangerously overgrown police state

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By the United States having an overcriminalized police state, we inevitably are going to have too many police who are incompetent, burnt out, frustrated, racist, and acting out their demons.

Police must at least be competent and should instead be highly qualified. This requires excellence in screening police candidates, training and retraining, supervising, and compensating police. It also requires shrinking our overgrown criminal justice system that will keep criminal justice budgets excessive, and police and the public frustrated at best. We can shrink the overgrown criminal justice system by legalizing marijuana, gambling and prostitution; eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing; eliminating per se guilty rules in DWI cases; and eliminating the death penalty.

When any employer is faced with too few highly qualified candidates to get essential work done, the employer may feel tempted to scrape the bottom of the barrel to interview and hire candidates that the employer never would have hired had the candidate quality or budget need been better.

How pathetically tragic that the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Sheriff’s office hired entirely unqualified Robert Bates to be a volunteer sheriff. After Bates had donated cars to the sheriff’s department and allegedly falsified his firearms training time, the sheriff’s office hired him. Why did the sheriff’s office hire him? Because he was free help? Because he was seen as having bought his way as a wannave cop to a volunteer sheriff’s position with is donations to the department, and was hoped to give further donations through an unspoken quid pro quo of making him a volunteer sheriff?

As a result of the sheriff’s office hiring Bates, last April 2015, Bates killed Eric Harris with a handgun when Bates claimed to have been reaching for a taser. Whether or not a taser even was called for in the first place, Bates this week was found guilty of manslaughter by a jury that recommended the maximum of four years in prison. The jurors were presented with evidence not only that Bates’s shooting caused a silver-dollar-sized fracture in Harris’s lungs, but that a sheriff’s deputy then shouted at Harris to “shut the f— up! F— your breath!” in response to Harris’s screaming in pain. Talk about a tension between my support for free expression rights and my wish for that deputy to be dealt with firmly and properly, if not already done so.

Consequently, the Tulsa sheriff’s department’s hiring of Bates on the apparent cheap cost the life of Eric Harris, a tragedy for Mr. Harris’s family, Bates’s conviction and pending sentencing, and likely a huge dollar payoff from any lawsuit that Mr. Harris’s family has or will file.

Our society needs and deserves top quality policing. Eric Harris got the opposite.