Frustrated, Disgruntled, and Complaining about His Job… An Officer Laments the System

Sometimes, I wonder whether the title of my article is too stern for any given subject, because I will be the first to admit that I am trying to describe the subject of my blog in those few lines, but after reading Too Many of Us Hath Surrendered by Jim Donahue, I really found that I appreciated his perspective but questioned his attitude, hence the title of my entry.

In an attempt to be fair to Mr. Donahue, I want to say that I understand his argument that police work is cumbersome due to the amout of paperwork involved.  I can say this because I am a former deputy sheriff in central Texas who like other officers has chopped down my percentage share of the rainforests in writing reports, probable cause affidavits, and the countless other number of forms that go along with any given type of arrest. But, I must disagree with his assessment that the paperwork is out of line, regardless of the amount that is required.

One of two portions that stand out in Mr. Donahue’s article was written as follows:

The real fact of life is that paper and procedure have created so enormous a burden on the street cop that it’s led to non-enforcement. Drunks are not being taken to jail. Illegal aliens are routinely cut loose when they should be deported. Domestic Violence participants are counseled into withdrawing or changing their complaints.

My interpretation of this is vastly different from that of the author.  Instead of seeing this as a burden that is just overwhelming, I learned to see it as a challenge when I worked the street, and now as a defense attorney I am grateful for the role these documents play in the process.  What do I mean? Simply put:

  • Cops who follow the model set out by the author are lazy.
  • These cops do not want to do their job with any sort of accountability–paperwork that can be reviewed.
  • Officers subscribing to this philosophy have lost the tenet of "to protect and serve" and dare I say, even fail to believe in the constitutional principle of "innocent until proven guilty".

Why else would an officer elect not to arrest a drunk or process a perceived illegal immigrant? Whether an officer is driving the street or sitting in a station completing  paperwork, that is part of the job description. And, technology has made it ever simpler to complete this paperwork. Having computers in the car and the ability to wirelessly transmit it where a given department’s policy requires eliminates the argument that the officer is no longer available to serve the public.

And, without having the paperwork, what documentation is there for managing the case, by anyone… the officer a few months down the road who needs to review the report, the prosecuting attorney who needs all of the information as possible evidence, the victim services coordinator who needs to provide assistance to the victim, a defense attorney working to make sure that the Constitutional principles that all of us cherish are maintained, or the jury who has to decide whether there is sufficient proof to take someone’s liberty away…oh ya, I forgot, let’s just take anyone that has a differing opinion and toss them in a cell to be forgotten … let’s just ignore the Constitution… surely that is not the preferred method.

Now, in his article, Jeff Baker was referenced, and some Google research on my part led me to the one linked here.  Hoping that this is the same person, I must comment on another part that jumped out of Mr. Donahue’s article:

The entire process has become perverted by practicing lawyers and lawyers who have moved on to become judges. To quote a recent article from fellow columnist, Jeff Baker, these people have "sodomized" our basic freedoms and our representative form of government through these egregious and perverted acts.

I would really like to find the exact article that is being referenced in this excerpt, as I think it must have been taken out of context or that the relatively inflammatory word "sodomized" was just tossed into a statement and spiced up with other descriptions of "egregious and perverted acts".

My reading of Mr. Donahue’s statement leads me to conclude that he is not a fan of lawyers and that those of us who would dare question him or cause him and his fellow officers to do additional work and to document their actions are somehow attacking our "basic freedoms" and government.  Without dragging this out further, I would like to know how requiring the government to prove its case and to not simply arrest and incarcerate persons at will is sodomizing, or "pervert[ing]" the system.

I invite Mr. Donahue to reply to this post and would like to get to know more about his perspective, as I am a former officer, who resigned to pursue a career in criminal defense work.

In sum, neither me nor Mr. Donahue would be writing these blog entries today were it not for lawyers and other great thinkers like the Founding Fathers who created a document so great and so inclusive as to give us the right to Freedom of Speech and the many other cherished rights that are so often taken for granted.