To Protect and To Serve
When I was a child my parents drummed it into my head: “Jimmy, if you ever get lost what will you do?” Correct answer: “I will find a policeman; he is my friend.” Regretfully that is seldom taught in our society today. Why? Because due to police unions and the doctrine of “qualified immunity,” police who misbehave are often not able to be held responsible for their actions. That tarnishes the reputation of the vast majority of police officers who attempt always to follow their mandate of “doing the right thing for the right reason – every time!” And this has resulted in a major reduction in the pride to serve as police officers throughout our country. As such, many fine and experienced officers are retiring early, and the numbers of qualified recruits to take their places have been seriously reduced. “Who needs it?!” has been the prevailing message for those reductions of qualified officers.
So what is the remedy? Reclaim the ability fully to punish police officers who abuse their powers. And what stands in the way of enforcing that responsibility? Police unions routinely defend all officers, and their financial and political power almost always allows them to succeed in those defenses. So often even the worst police officers can’t be fired. How has that happened? Police and other public employee’s unions have more control over local elections than any other group in our society, including elections for members of county boards of supervisors, city councils, sheriffs and even state legislators and senators. So the unions carefully pick the candidates they will support, and those candidates know full well that if they do not do the public employee’s union’s bidding once they are elected, the unions will either sponsor a recall election against them, or will certainly support someone else next time. hat is what happened to former California State Senator John Moorlach, Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt, Santa Ana City Councilwoman Cecilia Iglesias and many more. So reducing the financial ability of public employee’s unions to support or oppose any candidates who oversee their members is a good place to start. The other step is to repeal the court-created doctrine of qualified immunity, which stands for the proposition that public officials cannot be disciplined unless it is found that their actions “violated clearly-established law.” Of course, we in the law can almost always find some small factual or legal variance between what the present public official is accused of and the previous precedent where some public officials were held accountable. So access to administrative and even judicial discipline is almost always denied. For the benefit of our society at large, this too must change. This article is a reprint of an original post published on Judge Jim Gray's site. The views expressed in it are those of the author and not necessarily the views of the Libertarian Party of Orange County.
James P. Gray is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, and presently works as a private mediator and arbitrator for ADR Services, Inc. He was also the 2012 vice presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party, and can be contacted at JimPGray@sbcglobal.net, or through his website at www.JudgeJimGray.com.