Monday, September 14, 2015

Let's move those memorials to dead cops away from courthouses

The monuments to cops killed in the line of duty which are sprouting up all over the nation in front of courthouses need to be taken down. Here’s why:
In front of the Madison County Alabama Courthouse, indeed in front of the Huntsville City Municipal Courthouse, in fact in front of many courthouses all across the country, we are seeing gaudy monuments and memorials erected commemorating police officers who have died in the line of duty.
I think these memorials  are dangerous to our democracy and our judicial system and need to be removed and re-erected in front of police stations, where they belong.
Why? Because courthouses are the people’s forum, where people not only are tried for crimes, but go to have their lawsuits heard, their divorce trials, their names changed, to buy their marriage licenses, to buy their car tags, etc. It’s not cops who make all of that happen. It’s lawyers and judges and court clerks.
These monuments to dead cops perpetuate the notion that we are at war with crime and that police are the good guys and courthouses are only a place for convicting people accused of crimes.
Worse yet, it perpetuates the concept that cops are military defenders and we’re subject to their will. In fact, cops today often refer to the public as “civilians.” They’re civilians, too!
The monument in front of Madison County Courthouse has some prose about when a cop dies a part of America dies. What hooey! People die every day. A part of America dies only when a cop dies? What about when a pastor dies? What about when a doctor dies? What about when a nurse dies? A symphony conductor? An artist? An environmentalist?
The concept that America dies a little bit each time a cop dies is inane.
Here’s why this endangers our very freedoms: When honest taxpaying citizens  arrive at the courthouse for jury duty they have to pass these monuments. They are subjected to the not-so subtle notion that cops are the good guys and we’re at war with crime. These citizens are at the courthouse to rule not just  as to the guilt or innocence of a person accused of a crime, but also as to whether or not a plaintiff is entitled to money for some civil cause. All of these potential jurors have to walk past these giant monuments to the cops. 
When they get into the courtroom, they’re looking at cops as witnesses. Cops are on a memorial outside, so cops must be the good guys, right? Let’s give that cop more credibility than the average person because he’s a cop. Hey, he must be the good guy. There’s a memorial right outside the window! Let's forget that the courthouse is the people's house. It isn't the realm of cops. It's the realm of people having their cases heard, or their marriage license approved. Who could blame someone for thinking that the courthouse is for the cops? It’s a psychological thing. It’s a wink-wink hint that the cops are the good guys and the people on trial are not. It's a message that cops control the courts, not the people.
Why am I strident about this? I'm an ex-metro Atlanta cop. I wore a badge and I saw how bad cops abuse the law and the public. Good cops are a rarity. Yes. It's true. I became a lawyer because of the evil I saw cops doing. The bad news is cops are no longer the Andy Griffiths and Adam 12 types who police with courtesy and kindness. They haven't been for decades. 
         Cops are militarizing like crazy. They now view themselves as against the public. Cops tell us to trust everything they say and do whilst they don’t trust us at all. Cops say it’s because the world is a more violent place and they’re on the front lines of keeping America safe from criminals. The truth is crime is at an 20-year low. Crime has been cut drastically and not because of law enforcement. It's because of social programs for the poor and because we have cut the birthrate among the poor drastically thanks to birth control and -- eee gag! -- legal abortion.
Cops say they have to militarize because they have the most dangerous job in the country and they put their lives on the line daily.

Oh, really? Being a cop is not even in the top ten of the most dangerous jobs in America. They don’t need to militarize. They don’t need to carry semi-automatic assault rifles and dress in military-style garb. They don’t need to shoot first and ask questions later. They don’t need to beat down and handcuff people in the name of “officer safety.”
Look at the US Department of Labor statistics. Here is the list of the most dangerous professions. Cops aren’t even in the top ten.

#1: Logging workers: 127.8 deaths per 100,000 people.
#2: Fishermen: 117 deaths per 100,000 people.
#3: Aircraft pilots: 53.4 deaths per 100,000 people.
#4: Roofers: 40.5 deaths per 100,000 people.
#5: Garbage collectors: 36.8 deaths per 100,000 people.
#6: Electrical power line installation/repair: 29.8 deaths per 100,000 people.
#7: Truck drivers: 22.8 deaths per 100,000 people.
#8: Oil and gas extraction: 21.9 deaths per 100,000 people.
#9: Farmers and ranchers: 21.3 deaths per 100,000 people.
#10: Construction workers: 17.4 deaths per 100,000 people.

Cops aren’t even in the top ten.
# 11: Law enforcement 11 deaths per 100,000 people.

So, let’s build a monument in front of the courthouse to logging workers, who put their lives on the line every day so we can have paper to write on. Let’s build a monument to fisherman who put their lives on the line to make sure we have fresh sushi. Or farmers and ranchers, who risk death daily to make sure we have meats and veggies.
       Or, better yet, let's build a monument to the lawyers and judges and clerks who make the judicial system work for all of the people who enter the courthouse -- whether they're there to renew their car tags or win a lawsuit or get a divorce.
You get the point.

(Required by Alabama Law: No representation is made that the quality of legal services is greater than other lawyers.)