America’s police are out of control
BY TONY BOUZA April 2012 Southside Pride
What can possibly justify so sweeping an assertion?
I will try.
I started in policing on 1/1/53 in the NYPD, rose, over 24 years, to command Bronx forces and then served three as #2 in the Transit Police. This was followed by nine years as chief in Minneapolis.
I secured a BBA and MPA on the way, had eight books published on policing and served as an expert on police procedures, in cases all over the U.S., in about 80 cases, to the present day. I only accepted cases in which I thought an injustice had been done.
I cite only a few illustrative cases to support my view.
The first place that pops is Chicago—where I did a lot of cases, including one this year in which about 800 protesters were trapped, penned in and arrested, though they’d committed no crime. The arrests, in 2003, were ordered by top brass, one of whom became chief shortly thereafter.
The arresting cops—knowing they’d been ordered to undertake false arrests for which they could be sued—signed fictitious names on the reports. They needn’t have feared since cops are never exposed to such dangers as losing their homes, however pervasive the myth.
By 2012 the City, unwilling to face the humiliation of not being able to identify its own employees in a massive arrest action, settled the case for $6.2 million, or about $3 for every Chicagoan.
The case had at first been thrown out, but the public service lawyers who hired me appealed, won and fought for the settlement.
Before that there’d been a series of cases in which a zealous, devoted commander tortured many black males into confessing to murders they hadn’t committed through the use of an electric generator that delivered horrific shocks. One victim clenched his teeth so tightly they all came loose.
The detective filled Death Row with these citizens, and the same law firm undertook to prove their innocence. A conservative Republican governor, stunned by the proofs, emptied Death Row. He later went to prison himself for a corrupt act. The commander was convicted of torture (ex V. P. Cheney please take note—anyone can be “persuaded” to confess to anything) and sent to prison. He’d been regularly photographed with the city’s leaders who’d been only too happy to shine in the glory of his “exploits.”
The innocent received millions. The guilty were never caught.
In San Francisco, a chief who became mayor, regularly sicced his cops on the gays in the Castro District. Indiscriminate sweeps and round-ups netted hundreds. Another lefty lawyer hired me and, as I remember it, we won every case—resulting in no convictions and many thousands in settlements.
Across the bay in Oakland, a protester and her friend were blown up in her car and severely injured. She was charged with possessing explosives without a scintilla of proof. The same lawyer hired me. The charges were dropped. She sued. It had clearly been an attempt on her life by a maniac who signed himself “The Lord’s Avenger.”
Over the course of the next 12 years she died. A series of federal and local officials stalled, delayed and did everything possible to avoid losing the case on their watch.
Finally, after a long, long trial the jury granted the woman’s estate and her companion almost $5 million for false arrest. No one was ever called to account for this debacle.
In New Orleans a black man who’d killed a cop was captured in near-mint condition. The furious gendarmes—in a department I regarded as near anarchical in its culture and behavior—beat him to death over the next few hours. His battered body was turned over to his family who hired a female activist—who hired me—to sue.
Another settlement resulted.
In an analogous case, in the Bronx, in 1975, one of my cops repeatedly beat a drug dealer who’d shot at him, to death.
I called the district attorney—a canny and experienced politico—and we managed to send the cop to prison. No suit followed, although one had certainly been possible. An extremely rare outcome, on all counts.
In the Central Park Jogger rape, sodomy and near-fatal assault, five ghetto kids were arrested, “confessed” and sent to prison. Their admissions were cleverly wrought statements that seemed to point to their guilt but were really police constructions and inventions: “Your friend says you held her down,” etc. etc.—leading to denials and statements shaped into admissions.
In a truly astonishing development, the actual perp confessed, provided DNA and other proof of his lone involvement and a brave, old DA exonerated the five, after years in prison, and issued a long report. The true assailant was in prison for murder—he’d stalked and assaulted a series of young, white, working women on the Upper East Side, and the police had failed to make the connections, and had, besides, at 16, actually raped his own mother.
The police commissioner appointed a panel that whitewashed the police actions. He rescinded no medals or promotions and steadfastly held to departmental denial while they awaited the lawsuit that followed.
Los Angeles had a series of Patton-like chiefs who instilled a militaristic, tough culture, that produced the 1991 Rodney King assault by about two dozen cops. I said, on the Today Show, that no black male could fail to identify with Mr. King, and that the only remarkable feature was that the event was filmed. He secured millions. A couple of cops were convicted after the feds were forced—by riots and demands—to act.
I’d had other cases that attested to the tough, internal, take-no-prisoners culture of the LAPD. I’d participated in another suit that forced them to hire blacks, Hispanics and women.
And so it goes, across the country.
And you are paying for it.
No reform chief—anywhere. Civilian Review Boards everywhere—none work. The media serves as a great watchdog, but usually has to move on. Suits secure millions, but no reforms. The feds can be dragged to investigate, but it takes such pressure as riots.
Accountability is a rara avis.
A Brotherhood In Blue ties white, male, black and female cops together. Chiefs are up-from-the-ranks cops. The union defends everyone.
It’s a calling and resembles no organization so much as the Catholic Church: Unity, Omerta, a Code of Silence and testi-lying abound.
They’re out of control—everywhere.
Information about Tony Bouza from Wikipedia:
Tony Bouza started his career as a New York City police officer and received several promotions. He became the Chief of Police in Minneapolis. He was brought to Minneapolis by Mayor Donald Fraser, who when newly elected in 1980, wanted an outsider to head the department following a series of scandals under his predecessor. He retained Bouza for a total of three three-year terms.
Bouza holds a bachelors degree in business administration (1965) and a masters degree in public administration (1968) from Baruch University. Bouza is author of four books: The Police Mystique: An Insider’s Look at Cops, Crime, and the Criminal Justice System (Da Capo, 1990), A Carpet of Blue: An Ex-Cop Takes a Tough Look at America’s Drug Problem (Fairview, 1991), Police Unbound: Corruption, Abuse, and Heroism by the Boys in Blue (Prometheus, 2001), and The Decline and Fall of the American Empire: Corruption, Decadence, and the American Dream (Da Capo Press, 2003). He also wrote two technical books: Police Intelligence: The Operations of an Investigative Unit (AMS Press, 1976) and Police Administration (Elsevier, 1978).
Bouza’s wife, Erica Bouza, who was born in Great Britain, was arrested repeatedly for engaging in anti-militarism protests as part of the Honeywell Project while Bouza was Minneapolis police chief. The irony attracted international attention.
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