The Thin Blue Line of Entitlement

Something unnatural is happening in Portland, and Police Union President Daryl Turner isn't going to put up with it.

The proper order of things is upended. Black is white and white is black, cats and dogs cohabit. Madness!

A judge has disbelieved a cop.

Last week Circuit Judge Diana Stuart acquitted teenager Thai Gurule on juvenile charges of assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, and attempted assault on a cop. She acquitted him even though the cops said he did it.

Is Judge Stuart some sort of pro-criminal agitator? Apparently. In an extensive written order she weighed the testimony of sworn police officers against irrelevant trifles like actual videorecordings of their encounter with Gurule. Even though the cops swore that Gurule threw punches at them, Judge Stuart disbelieved them simply because she could not see any punches on the cell phone videos. Is she some sort of video-fisticuffs expert? Worse than that, she specifically stated that she didn't find some of their testimony credible. As if they weren't cops.

But Police Union President Daryl Turner understands the natural order of things, even if this upstart judge doesn't.

First, Turner understands that when a cop uses force, that decision should be beyond judicial review, and their description of the event beyond question:

What is most discouraging is that when police officers respond to a call, those officers must now be concerned that someone sitting in hindsight, from the safety of a courtroom, will not only question their actions, but also their credibility.

Second, Turner understands that it is outrageous to say that a police officer's testimony might be untrue:

As a fact-finder, Judge Stuart may have disagreed with Sergeant Lille and Officers Hornstein and Hughes, but her disagreement with the officers' actions should not be a mark on their credibility.

Third, Turner understands what evidence is. Evidence is what a cop says it is, not what somebody thinks they can see on a video recording of events. Normal people can't see threats like cops can. They're invisible.

However, in this case, it was unfair and in conflict with well-established legal principles to question the credibility of the police officers involved in this case based on shaky cell phone video footage filmed from some distance away. Graham v. Connor states that the reasonableness of a use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer at the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions as to the amount of force necessary in that particular situation. In other words, the officers' reasonable perceptions count, not video footage.

Fourth, Turner understands that being beaten and charged with a crime is insignificant next to the pain of negative public perception. The so-called system gives punks all sort of rights before you can jail them — but where is the due process before cops are subjected to skepticism?

What is also problematic is the uneven playing field that officers now operate under. A civilian charged with a crime, such as Mr. Gurule, is presumed innocent until proven guilty. On the other hand, with the national furor surrounding allegations of excessive force, police officers are now presumed guilty of misconduct and must prove that they acted appropriately.

Fifth, Turner knows that police are not merely entitled to our compliance. They're not merely entitled to our unquestioning obedience. No, police have a right for us not to hold evil thoughts about how they are part of a sick, brutal, lawless culture. That must end!

However, the presumption is that we want to harm the very people we are sworn to serve and protect. That sentiment must end. Not only is it untrue and unfair, it creates an insurmountable obstacle for police officers who simply want to do their jobs.

Turner is rightfully concerned. But rest easy, brave defender! This is America, and this acquittal is an aberration. Soon order will be restored, and we'll be back to the norm: police officers will be offered the privileges they deserve, people who dissent will find their place, cops' rights to vigorous self-defense will be unquestioned, and the world will remember that a cop's testimony is by definition the truth.

h/t Clark

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. says

    I think Turner must have misread the verdict. From his fear of officers having their actions questioned to his assertion that officers' reasonable perceptions matter to his invocation of the presumption of innocence, it's clear he thinks the officers were convicted of a crime. Someone please explain it to him. Poor guy, he probably doesn't even realize that this simple misunderstanding makes him look like an authoritarian dickhead.

  2. says

    Graham v. Connor is about how the use of force by police is evaluated for the purpose of determining whether they used excessive force, i.e., when the police are the (potential) defendants in a criminal trial.

    It's not about how their use of force is evaluated when the victim of their force is on trial.

    I had never heard of Graham v. Connor before reading Turner's words quoted above. After reading his words, I guessed, even before looking up the case, what it was about.

    Is Daryl Turner a complete moron, or is he just impersonating one?

    Why does this remind me of your last posting?

  3. Chris says

    You have to understand the slippery slope we're on. If people start to question the credibility of cops than they may start to question the need for cops. If we question our need for cops then the baby stealing, terroristic criminals win. Think of the children! Worry about criminals! Don't let the terrorists win!

    /s

  4. Mu says

    It breaks a major tenant the law enforcement relies on. According to Scalia, judges are not concerned with true facts, only with correct process. The cop says, the jury convicts, the judge sentences, done. If factual guilt or innocence becomes a factor, who knows what happens.

  5. says

    I HATE when cops refer to non-cops as "civilians." Sorry, Turner, all of the members of your public employee union are also civilians unless they are in the armed forces.

  6. Jordan says

    […] officers must now be concerned that someone sitting in hindsight, from the safety of a courtroom, will not only question their actions, but also their credibility.

    Seriously? Isn't that a concern that any rational person should also have? That is to say, I'm a law-abiding citizen (not a police officer), and if my conduct ends up bringing me into court, for whatever the reason may be, the court has to assess my credibility. Police are upset that they now have to be held to the same standard as anyone else?

  7. Amber says

    The first city with a police force was New York City, and it was created in the aftermath of brawling related to celebrating Christmas.

    As far as Turner goes, cops can have the benefit of doubt, the day they are prohibited from carrying anything, that, under any legal statute, or legal theory, can be construed as a weapon. That means no shirts, no shoes, no pens, and especially no motor vehicles.

  8. TimL says

    However, the presumption is that we want to harm the very people we are sworn to serve and protect. That sentiment must end.

    This reminds of a bit that Jon Stewart did last week. All you have to do is change the tone and it's right. Police need to convince us, with their actions, that they do not want to harm the very people that they are sworn to serve and protect.

  9. bazzar says

    I HATE when cops refer to non-cops as "civilians." Sorry, Turner, all of the members of your public employee union are also civilians unless they are in the armed forces.

    You mean they aren't an occupying enemy army?

  10. C. S. P. Schofield says

    So, a Union President, is an unapologetic thug, who cares nothing for the Law or the facts.

    Quelle surprise.

    That he is connected to the Police is irrelevant, though annoying. The time when Unions were NOT criminal conspiracies bent of defrauding the general public is long past.

  11. Trent says

    It always amuses me when someone claims that the Union is the problem and that to solve the problem all you have to do is get rid of the union. It's objectively silly. The blue wall of silence isn't going to go away just because you kill the union. Cops that lie, steal, cheat and convict innocent people aren't suddenly going to go "straight" just because you get rid of the union. In fact what the union does do is give voice and publicity to how the cops are actually behaving This union guy getting up and berating a judge for questioning the cops testimony actually shows us how the majority of cops feel.

    Honestly the reason people distrust cops is because cops taught them to distrust cops. It's their very behavior and deceit which caused this distrust. In England the cops value public opinion more than crime statistics because if the people don't trust the police the police have just become ineffective.

    If Turner wants people to trust cops again the first thing he should be doing is petitioning to do away with the drug laws. The perverse incentives of the drug war is a significant cause of police corruption and abuse. Almost everyone knows someone that was screwed over by the cops, that's what destroys trust not some judge disbelieving cops because a video shows they lied (which IMO isn't that uncommon). It's stuff like charging someone for assaulting a police officer for touching them with a finger or lying on the stand or arresting (nothing better than a charge of resisting arrest being the only charge) or harassing someone just because they can.

  12. Terry Cole says

    Is this one of those jurisdictions where police are supposed to wear body cameras? And were the officers not wearing theirs, as with the event that sparked the Ferguson riots?

    In either case the police have no-one but themselves to blame if the judge failed to take into account how things looked from their perspective.

    One looks forward to the day when cameras are watching us all, all the time, everywhere. Not that everyone will share that view. But it will surely lead to the stringent execution of bad laws, which as President Grant once observed is the best way to ensure their repeal.

  13. That Old Guy In The Corner says

    And then there is the constable who not only was not believed but also was roundly criticized, twice, for, among other things, telling subjects to f*ck off and "don't you know what a f*cking sidewalk is for?", even though profanity is explicitly prohibited by the policies and procedures manual of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

    http://goo.gl/v3gCa4 (original CBC URL is awkwardly long)

  14. Frank says

    I'm sure that a review of Daryl Turner's police disciplinary record would be enlightening. It's been my observation that union officials are there to stay employed after an agency gets tired of their shit in the street.

  15. En Passant says

    Windypundit March 17, 2015 at 11:40 am:

    I think Turner must have misread the verdict. From his fear of officers having their actions questioned to his assertion that officers' reasonable perceptions matter to his invocation of the presumption of innocence, it's clear he thinks the officers were convicted of a crime.

    And it's too damn bad that they weren't at least charged with perjury, so Turner would have something real to whine about. But, that would require the DA to have an ounce of courage and integrity. So it will never happen.

    Trent March 17, 2015 at 5:47 pm:

    The blue wall of silence isn't going to go away just because you kill the union. Cops that lie, steal, cheat and convict innocent people aren't suddenly going to go "straight" just because you get rid of the union. In fact what the union does do is give voice and publicity to how the cops are actually behaving This union guy getting up and berating a judge for questioning the cops testimony actually shows us how the majority of cops feel.

    Not necessarily.

    Mandatory union membership for employment allows the most corrupt to control the union and use the financial leverage of mandatory union dues from even the Simon-pure honest ones. And if somebody honest speaks out, the union will organize the corrupt ones to Serpico him.

  16. Mu says

    I have no problem with police unions or qualified immunity, my pet peeve is that cops now have both. The public cannot get to them due to pre-trail immunity hearings, and they are protected from any real action from the state side due to union contracts. A lot of the worst outliers would go away if they cannot be shielded from standing in front of a jury by a judiciary that depends on their cooperation.

  17. CJColucci says

    As Chico told Groucho, as the evidence that Chico was trying to perpetrate a scam was in front of Groucho's nose: "Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?".

  18. NI says

    Is there a due process right to have police officers not perjure themselves? If so, now that the court has essentially found that the police committed perjury (though the judge was decorous enough to not actually use the p-word), I'm wondering if that might form the basis for a 1983 action. Hard to imagine even our courts determining that the police have qualified immunity to lie on the stand

  19. says

    Police Union President Daryl Turner inspired me to update the law enforcement bill of rights. which Law enforcement defenders have dismiss as a overreaching strawman that no Police union would never try to enact into Law..

    Police officer statements override any video or audio evidence as the officers' reasonable perceptions are more accurate. Video or audio footage does not capture the physical struggle from the officers' perspective, nor does it capture the officers' reasonable, split-second decision-making and thought processes in tense circumstances. This is the case especially when the video or audio is gathered by illegally wiretapping/eavesdropping Police Officers in public.

  20. Anon says

    I sit on a liquor board and felt that a prosecutor in a violation case against a licensee was over-zealous in her understanding of the events that occurred. She was seeking revocation of a restaurant owner's liquor license, but us non-lawyer citizen appointees worked through the complexities and "aggravating factors" and found a standard violation deserving of a standard penalty. We heard from 6 officers and had next to zero physical evidence to consider. I'm proud of my fellow board members for standing up to it.

  21. CJColucci says

    NI

    The short answer is "no." Witnesses in criminal trials, even deliberately perjurious witnesses, have absolute immunity. See Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S. 325 (1983).

  22. says

    Come on, Ken, the guy is head of the local cop's union. It's his job to say stuff like that, and if he didn't the other cops would vote him out. I can promise you that if, tomorrow, a Portland officer is caught on video sodomizing a parrot, the day after Turner will be announcing that the parrot was asking for it.

  23. Yon Anony Mouse says

    Not saying it's the union's fault, just that it isn't remotely surprising. The union exists to represent its members. Hearing a union president denying reality, logic, and common sense to defend a member's actions isn't remotely shocking or unusual.

    Frankly, the surprising thing would be if he said, "the judge was right, we fucked up."

    I bet crap like this happens at least once a day, but there's no @PipefittersBlock account to follow.

  24. Dictatortot says

    Well, no one's saying that it ISN'T the union's function, or the union head's job. Turner's not the wrong man for the job: it's just that the job has no business existing in the first place. The incident helps show why de-unionizing the police is essential.

  25. says

    Speaking as a Portlander, I can assure you Daryl has been 100% unapologetic scumbag from day zero. Dig a little and you'll probably find some choice statements from him about the Capt. Mark Kruger Nazi-shrine-on-public-property case.

    I'm a strong believer in organized labor (mainly because I prefer the corruption on the side of the little guys) but police and corrections unions are a bug or glitch which need to be fixed with tight regulation. Any job which involves a reasonable expectation of depriving others of life, limb or liberty requires tight regulation of both the job and any collective bargaining arrangements by the workers.

  26. CJColucci says

    bluedanube2:

    I understand and appreciate the force of the sentiment, but our whole criminal and civil justice system depends on people coming forward and serving as witnesses. Losers have a natural tendency to think they lost because the witnesses against them lied, rather than that they themselves were not persuasive or that they were simply in the wrong. If the losers could sue witnesses because the loser says they lied — a claim that would hard to dispose of short of trial — witnesses would have it much harder than they do now and would be even more reluctant to do their part. Not to mention that whether a "lying witness" lawsuit involves an actual liar is almost entirely random.

  27. says

    On The Good Wife a few months ago, a young man was on trial for drug dealing. His lawyers were trying to show how the Federal agent testifying against him was lying, when the judge rejoined: "If he were lying, he'd be taking a serious risk of going to prison."

    Ummm…as opposed to drug dealing?

    It's an indication of how much all lawyers have to stay on judges' good side that the attorneys didn't say something like: "Yes, and our client would have risked prison if he'd dealt drugs…after all, that's why we're here today. Since this is his trial, he's the one who enjoys the presumption of innocence, not the prosecution witness. If and when the agent is ever tried for something like perjury, that will be the time to presume he's innocent too."

  28. bst says

    @bluedanube2, My first reaction was like yours, but then I looked up the decision that @CJColucci cited and found that the principle is that witnesses in criminal trials have immunity from civil lawsuits for their testimony. That does not give them immunity from criminal prosecution for perjury. But it is considered important for the judicial system to work that a witness need not fear being sued by anyone who might be damaged by their testimony. The fear of criminal prosecution is supposed to keep them honest.

    Of course when any member of an LEO has no need to fear criminal prosecution for lying on the witness stand, that leaves nothing to hold them back. And so that is the situation we have. I don't like it, but the fault is in the effective criminal immunity that police officers have, not in the civil immunity that all witnesses have.

  29. GuestPoster says

    It is GOOD if cops are considered guilty until proven innocent. After all, unlike everybody else, they have been entrusted with a great deal of power to do things which WOULD be illegal if anybody else had done them. When they do these things which, again, would be illegal had anybody else done them, it is GOOD that they must justify why they did them. After all – what is not in doubt is that a crime was committed – the cop did something which is illegal for anybody else – a crime. What is in doubt is whether it was 'ok' for the cop to have done this – whether it fell into the supposedly narrow realm of allowedness to which we place crime-but-not-crime-when-done-by-cop.

    Trust must be earned, after all, and power deserved. If they think it is no longer important to earn trust every day, and to every moment show that their power is deserved, it's time for them to seek new occupations.

  30. pjcamp says

    I'm old enough and have had enough encounters with police that these days I routinely assume cops are lying until proven otherwise.

    I hasten to add that it was the lies I have seen police tell, as well as in the news, that created this situation. Should they not wish to be seen as liars, the correct procedure is to stop lying.

  31. Ryan says

    I think Turner must have misread the verdict. From his fear of officers having their actions questioned to his assertion that officers' reasonable perceptions matter to his invocation of the presumption of innocence, it's clear he thinks the officers were convicted of a crime. Someone please explain it to him. Poor guy, he probably doesn't even realize that this simple misunderstanding makes him look like an authoritarian dickhead.

    literacy?

  32. Zetopan says

    Taiganaut said: "Speaking as a Portlander, I can assure you Daryl has been 100% unapologetic scumbag from day zero."
    As someone who also lives in the area let me point out that poor little Daryl has not been fairly characterized. In today's Oregonian (an essentially scientific illiterate gossip publication, but it is all that we have) it was reported that the IPR (Independent Police Review) panel has found that Daryl harassed and intimidated a second IPR investigator in 2014. This will no doubt come as a shock to anyone who has watched (with their eyes closed) the Portland police in action. Excessive force and celebrating the death of people that they have killed in that manner are the norm for them. Remember their "Don't Smoke Them – Choke Them" T-shirts after they "accidentally" killed a perp with a choke hold? It only takes a couple of seconds to render someone unconscious with a properly applied choke hold (collapsing a carotid artery), but about 5 minutes to kill them that way.

  33. David K. says

    I HATE when cops refer to non-cops as "civilians." Sorry, Turner, all of the members of your public employee union are also civilians unless they are in the armed forces.

    To quote the late, great Terry Pratchett,
    "A policeman is a civilian, you inbred streak of piss!"

  34. andrews says

    No one should have immunity from their actions, ever.

    Immunity for testimony serves a valuable purpose. Without immunity, witnesses will be more reluctant to testify against state or other party perceived as powerful or wealthy. If they testify against the powerful, and lack immunity, they may reasonably expect suit.

    The cases in Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S. 325 (US 1983) present some unfortunate sets of facts. Assuming the facts for the non-suited plaintiffs, as we must, the officers probably lied on the stand in order to obtain convictions.

    States attorneys do not prosecute police officers for perjury. It would be risky for them to do so: how could they criticize the officer for the same perjury which they elicited?

  35. Ryan says

    States attorneys do not prosecute police officers for perjury. It would be risky for them to do so: how could they criticize the officer for the same perjury which they elicited?

    Hmmm…. what did people do before Robert Peel and Prosecutors?

    I guess private citizens were able to prosecute criminal cases on their own.

  36. Terry Cole says

    Ryan: before "Robert Peel and Prosecutors" people were perfectly able to bring their own private prosecutions and in many places still are.

    If you're referring to Robert Peel's "peelers" or police as starting prosecutions, in England etc. the decision to file a prosecution is not made directly by the Attorney-General but by an official called the "Director of Public Prosecutions," appointed by the A-G. The same is true of many other jurisdictions in the old Dominions including Ireland and South Africa.

    But your instinct that the Police can make such decisions isn't totally wrong; places like New Zealand, actually do leave the decision to prosecute with the Police.

  37. bacchys says

    This isn't just an union official doing his job and representing the members of his union. There's nothing about meeting that obligation that requires an union official to lie or be a complete asshat.

  38. MelK says

    @BlueDanube
    > Facts and objective reality are often obscured by tactics and technique.

    And the prevalence of cell phone cameras these days is bringing much more objective reality to the court room. Thus the turmoil.

    But when all you have are eyewitness accounts, you do not have any objective reality. You have some number of subjective realities. In this particular case, one of the officers thinking the kid was attempting to strangle her, or the other officers who … may be lying, or may have false memories of the kid "punching wildly". Memory is a tricky thing, especially when you're hopped up on adrenaline. And even worse when it is in your interest ** and expectations** that the "perp" struggled.

    The kid got off here because a) there *were* cameras, b) the cops couldn't put together a convincing reason for detaining the kid in the first place, and c) one of the officers used force beyond restraining the kid, triggering a valid self defense defense.

  39. Arthur Kirkland says

    Our society needs to find a way to attract a better class of citizens to police work. Entrusting our public safety to someone with the judgment and character of our Daryl Turners, and to officers who perform in the manner our Daryl Turners strive blindly and mindlessly to defend, makes little to no sense. We can do better, even if they — and the cop succors who try to defend them — can't.

  40. Woff1965 says

    In the UK people can bring private prosecutions with the permission of the DPP.

    If you want a decent police force then you should avoid recruiting from the shallow end of the gene pool and not ban applicants with IQ's higher than the idiots they are chasing.

  41. babaganusz says

    Memory is a tricky thing, especially when you're hopped up on adrenaline.

    we can hope a confluence of this and related findings of psychology and neuroscience with (trying to type this with a straight face) good-faith application of optimally-reliable recording equipment might lead The Cops of the Future to a higher standard of accountability, before toy-surplus militarization renders such concerns irrelevant (or as the latter less-efficiently removes the worst cowboys from employment/ gene pool).