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Time to “Burn” the False Accusers

Sep 12, 2017 by

Last week a tabloid published a story about two brothers who had accused a New York City cop of brutally beating and falsely arresting them. Serious charges. If sustained they should cost the officer his job..

Despite the sympathetic mythology that normally surrounds the police when they are antagonists in a case with sensationalist appeal, the public, for the most part, felt compelled to draw adverse conclusions about the cop.

He was called a monster. That’s not a description that guardians of law and order want to live up to and neither is it one that they should be unfairly forced to have to live down.

The officer swore he was innocent, but who wouldn’t?  The investigative process needed to be played out.

Are officers more or less  or just equally entitled to the “benefit of the doubt” as civilians whose work does not involve split-second and life-threatening decisions?  What difference, if any, does it make when entrusted with a deadly weapon?

In this particular case, the humiliation and hurt suffered by the complainants was so disturbing that our flawed instincts of compassion lead us to accept at face value that they were indeed victims. But reflexive empathy, though commendable, can also be, when premature, the spur to ugly false narratives.

Turns out that the accusations against the “monster” cop may have been malicious and calculated fantasy. They may have been the predator and the cop their prey.

The police officer was completely exonerated by the Civilian Complaint Review Board.  He wasn’t a mere technicality that got him off the hook. It was found that he was in no way involved in the “incidents”. Official time-sheets proved that he wasn’t even working on the day of the events in question. Further, because at the time he had no gun or badge, as a result of a pending unrelated inquiry into a fairly common routine matter, he couldn’t have been engaged in the kind of police scenario during which supposedly the abuse occurred.

This officer has 89 other complaints of misconduct lodged against him, but only two were upheld and just one led to any disciplinary action.

Some critics suspect that this is evidence that the Civilian Complaint Review Board is a sham because it is stacked with adjudicators with a pro-cop orientation. Other analysts will observe that such a tiny percentage of substantiation suggests that there is a disposition to entertain and encourage frivolous charges against cops.

Some people who have run afoul of the law pursue retribution in expectation of eventual rewards by means of  lawsuits that the City has demonstrated an unethically pragmatic interest in settling, no matter how warrantless, just to make them go away.

They throw a bunch of accusations against the wall figuring something is bound to stick. These are opportunitistic grudgeholders and the loss of a cop’s career whets their appetities. It’s the cherry on top of the sundae of a cash settlement. And if they don’t succeed, they pay no price. It’s worth a try as there is no harm done to them.

But the police officer must sit out a grueling and drawn-out wait to see whether he will be cleared of charges that wre as grave as they are meritless.

The cop in the tabloid story is doing something about it. He is suing the City for hastily paying out disbursements to litigants, many of them perpetrators or suspects, who filed claim against the City just as a revenue-generating scheme. It has become a bizarre entrepreneurial venture.

This cop is fighting the good fight. His knows his reputation is lastingly damaged despite an absence of guilt.

The only “damage-control” left to him is to try to forestall the nightmare happening to other officers. “What’s the consequences for them clearly telling lies? If cops lie on a report, we go to jail. It should be the same for them. There should be a punishment”, he says.

Depending on what he means by “report”, perhaps this cop is exaggerating. But his thesis is valid.

At least equally with teachers.

When teachers do their jobs right, they are vulnerable to pressure and extortion from some parents, administrators and even students. The presumption of innocence does not in practice apply to teachers accused of relatively minor transgressions and the penalties that are exacted from them are often disproportional and heartlessly harsh.

When there are allegations against them, they must bear an oppressive and literally unbearable burden of proof. Often the establishment of actual exculpatory truth is insufficient to “make them whole.”

Punishment of the exonerated teacher persists as his false accuser skates home free.

There should be redress for vindicated teachers. Teachers should be able to sue, with DOE support, individuals who it can be demonstrated willfully concocted allegations of criminal conduct against teachers.

This option should be widely available throughout the civil service. Let those who recklessly light matches to the careers of honest workers get burned themselves.

Ron Isaac

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