No Apology Necessary

There’s a dirty little secret about small town, local-yokel police departments.  There’s nobody watching.  In the back of our heads, we all believe that there is someone out there overseeing cops to make sure they aren’t out on their own like Visigoths, raping and pillaging, doing whatever they please, an armed and authorized bunch of banditos.  We believe this because the alternative, that they answer only to Lord of the Flies, is too absurd to believe.

Welcome to Jericho, Arkansas. Population 174.  Seven cops. One fire chief, now hospitalized.

It was just too much, having to return to court twice on the same day to contest yet another traffic ticket, and Fire Chief Don Payne didn’t hesitate to tell the judge what he thought of the police and their speed traps.

The response from cops? They shot him. Right there in court.

And the article, bizarrely enough, speaks only to Payne’s stable condition.  So what did they do about the cop who decided to shoot him, right there in court?  They are investigating, natch.  But the police chief has taken a strong position.

Now the police chief has disbanded his force “until things calm down,” a judge has voided all outstanding police-issued citations and sheriff’s deputies are asking where all the money from the tickets went. With 174 residents, the city can keep seven police officers on its rolls but missed payments on police and fire department vehicles and saw its last business close its doors a few weeks ago.
The mayor couldn’t be reached for comment.  I bet.  Not even an apology to her Fire Chief.
If you think that this is just some backwater phenomenon, you’re kidding yourself.  Who do you think watches the cops in small towns and tiny villages?  Where do the management skills, oversight, integrity, “new professionalism,” come from?  Contrary to popular belief, there is no backroom filled with competent, qualified professionals scrutinizing the operations of every two-bit police force. 

While Jericho, Arkansas, offers an extreme window into utter law enforcement failure, do you really think it’s not happening in a police force near you?  How much do you know about what goes on in the backroom at the police station?

H/T Turley

9 comments on “No Apology Necessary

  1. Sojourner

    Thank you for this post. This type of thing definitely happens in my home state of Texas, where there are many small towns and cities (such as my home Galveston) where everyone is afraid of the cops and bad things happen to those who speak out.

    If the man shot hadn’t been the fire chief, there would have been a story about him ‘threatening’ someone in the courtroom.

  2. John R.

    I think ultimately the towns where this kind of thing happens die out. Basically their police departments drive everyone out. People might be afraid and put up with it, but they tell their children to move elsewhere, and no one wants to come in and do business. Over time that means the place empties out.

    In the meantime a lot of people get hurt though.

    I think the courts bear a lot of responsibility for situations like this. When they just rubber stamp police conduct over and over, they encourage the worst.

    I know some towns and villages in western NY state that are dying out because of this phenomenon.

  3. SHG

    There’s plenty of responsibility to be spread around, though the courts bear the lion’s share as its the duty of judges to serve as a check on police power, rather than the enabler that they’ve become.

  4. Windypundit

    There’s probably also a unit of the state police that’s supposed to keep an eye on the local police. My guess is that they’re far more concerned about corruption (or even worse, mishandling of state grant money) than about abuse of power.

  5. SHG

    There’s probably also a unit of the state police that’s supposed to keep an eye on the local police.

    Everybody assumes that somebody, somewhere, is supposed to keep an eye on ’em.  Somebody.  There has to be somebody, right?

  6. John Neff

    The investigation is done by officers from another department. If there is a federal tie-in the FBI may be called in but they usually drag-their-feet.

    In any case the cops are investigated by other cops.
    It is not uncommon for them find that “Everything is just fine and the children all turned out well”.

  7. SHG

    Sorry if I was unclear John. The question isn’t who investigates after a scandal, but who is keeping an eye on the shop beforehand.

  8. Jdog

    Maybe they have one, there; we don’t, here. Largely, the only agency monitoring the behavior of a given PD’s badged guys and guyettes is the agency itself. (I’ve no objection at all to a given agency making sure that its guys and guyettes behave well — that’s the command guys’ and guyettes’ job, after all. It’s the “only” part that clearly fails.)

  9. John Neff

    I agree that most reviews are internal.

    Citizen reviews are not taken seriously by the police but I think they would take peer reviews very seriously. In the few cases I where I know about peer reviews the review was requested by the department in an attempt to improve police public relations. The peer reviews helped some.

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