Law in Contemporary Society
What I want to get out of law school is a law license so I can become a prosecutor. Before school I had worked full-time as a civilian police investigator for a few years examining allegations of misconduct within the NYPD. At the office I noticed that the people who made the most meaningful impact in the office were the attorneys, since they had the most familiarity and access with the judges who ruled on issues of police accountability. To earn this law license, I not only am attending classes but also pursuing externships that will inform my practice.

I find this a little puzzling. Prosecutors are the source of impunity for police criminality. Prosecutors depend on police to make their cases for them, so they are not only ineffective at controlling police misbehavior, they generate impunity through their reluctance to harm their relationship with the self-protective paramilitary service on whose cooperation they depend. No ethical prosecutor wants to make knowing use of perjured testimony. No sentient prosecutor is unaware that some police lie under oath frequently, and that very few police are unwilling to lie under oath at all. So sentient prosecutors have an ethical interest in remaining as ignorant about police misbehavior and untruthfulness as possible. In general, police are the only criminals prosecutors systematically decline to prosecute. If you have a strong understanding of the patterns of wrongdoing by police, why would you want to have the only job in the system in which you are going to be practically compelled to be complicit in that misbehavior?

That’s absolutely right. It’s not the prosecutors that are at fault. Like you said, it’s in their best interest to avoid charging the police with some kind of criminal misconduct because they work side-by-side with police officers. The system is therefore constructed in such a way that enables this kind of conflict-of-interest. However, the level of conflict-of-interest varies according to state law. For example, some states have established a permanent independent special prosecutor for serious police offenses. This helps avoid absolving the police for egregious misconduct. For example, in Philadelphia, two officers were caught on video beating an unarmed civilian and later filing a false police report accusing the civilian of resisting arrest. The prosecutors in that case have moved swiftly against these officers, charging them both with aggravated assault. Pennsylvania is not the only state to do this, however. Most states have laws authorizing governors to exercise the ability to appoint special prosecutors. So I believe the level of meaningful impact that I have as an attorney will depend on the jurisdiction in which I choose to work and live.


Webs Webs

r7 - 29 Jun 2015 - 21:35:06 - MarkDrake
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