It’s OK when we do it

In Massachusetts, a corrupt police officer stayed out of prison by arguing everybody did it but he was unlucky to get caught. In California, another officer complained about lack of professional courtesy when he was caught transporting illegal immigrants.

Heath McAuliffe was one of many in Massachusetts State Police Troop E who lied about making quota. After pleading guilty he complained to the judge “only a handful of us were singled out for federal prosecution.” The judge bought it. He stayed out of prison. Technically, he was sentenced to time served when he was taken into custody and immediately released.

LAPD officer Mambasse Patara was used to flashing his badge to stay out of trouble. That didn’t work when he tried to rush two illegal aliens through an immigration checkpoint.

He was acquitted. There was reasonable doubt about his intent. Unlike speeding, human smuggling is not a strict liability crime. The law does not require you to ask every brown-skinned passenger, “are you here legally?” More the opposite. Sheriff Joe Arpaio got in trouble for expecting Hispanics to show their papers. If you didn’t know your friend’s status the jury should find you not guilty.

Now Mr. Patara has learned that reasonable doubt does not equal proof of innocence. Reasonable doubt does not refund your legal fees or give you your job back.

I accept that Troop E was corrupt top to bottom and the feds didn’t get everybody. I respect the jury’s verdict of reasonable doubt of human smuggling. Still, I don’t care for either officer’s attitude.

Mr. McAuliffe in Massachusetts earned his pay by picking out victims from a crowd. His specific job was to write speeding tickets on a highway where the average car is going over the speed limit. He’s fair game to drag in for any technical violation, much less a federal felony.

Mr. Patara in California, “a patrolman and traffic investigator,” should understand how the legal system works. It’s a statistical certainty that a long serving police officer has been involved in some cases where the jury voted not guilty. He’s bitter over taking back what he’s dished out over the years.

But it’s worse than that. He’s even more bitter over not being above the law. “My own people … law enforcement, the ones that are supposed to watch my back … the ones that I could die for every day, are the ones that put me in a hole?”

A badge doesn’t give you the right to be above suspicion. Knowingly or not, he was involved in criminal activity. His passenger was convicted.

Police officers would behave better if they were held accountable like the rest of us. We could do without a lot of the federal government, but I like the ability of federal law enforcement to come in and remind government officials that they may be above state law but they are not above federal law. I wish they could patrol the highways targeting only state government officials. I remember a state lawmaker talking about driving 75 to vote on whether to reduce the speed limit from 65 to 55. He thought it was funny. I thought he needed two speeding tickets a day retroactive for the past year.

One level down, I want State Police to detour along town roads and randomly enforce town traffic laws to the letter. It would be great if the police chief driving away at 30 in a 20 zone were dragged off to jail. He could have asked the selectmen to change the signs, but he didn’t.

What would be even better is if the selectmen were already in jail.

The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

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