The Deal on Cop Interrogation
I've always known that police officers get special treatment when accused of a crime, but I always assumed it was just a good deal that the cops gave to other cops. I never knew there was an official court ruling about it.It's not just a perk of the job. It's the law.
In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court resolved it with what came to be known as the Garrity Rule. It says a public employee can be compelled by threat of discipline to admit criminal activity, but the information cannot be used for prosecution.
Wikipedia puts it a slightly different way:
The Garrity warning is an advisement of rights usually administered by US federal agents to federal employees and contractors in internal investigations. The Garrity warning advises suspects of their criminal and administrative liability for any statements they may make, but also advises suspects of their right to remain silent on any issues that tend to implicate them in a crime. It was promulgated by the US Supreme Court in Garrity v. New Jersey (1967). In that case, a police officer was compelled to make a statement or be fired, and then criminally prosecuted for his statement. The Supreme Court found that the officer had been deprived of his Fifth Amendment right to silence.
Mark reacts by saying he doesn't understand the rule. My guess is that he understands Garrity v. New Jersey perfectly; what he doesn't understand is why cops get a completely different rule than everybody else. The irony is that the Garrity Rule is based on the rationale that police officers don't lose their 5th Amendment right by virtue of being cops, when the point of the rule is give cops a level of protection that no one but cops enjoy. Essentially, while the rest of us can be questioned after an arrest, provided we've been given Miranda warnings, not cops. What's really going to make Mark's head explode is that the Garrity Rule isn't the only problem. It gets worse.
Police officers are invariably represented by a union, and invariably, the union contract provides that an officer cannot be interrogated after arrest without either a cooling off period or a union representative present. The ability to investigate a crime, when the suspect is a cop, is thus controlled by a union contract. What a deal! Welcome to NLRB v. Weingarten, which applies in a special way for cops than it does for any other union employee since the cops would be interrogated by their own.
So why are police given special treatment? Is a crime committed by a police officer less of a crime, less harmful, less significant than a crime committed by anyone else? Is the harm to the victim less painful? Is the harm to society less worthy of prosecution? It might well be argued that a crime committed by a cop is more significant, more blameworthy. After all, we give cops an enormous amount of power and authority, and if they can't be trusted to conduct themselves lawfully, it's a far bigger problem than crime in general. If anything, cops should be held to a higher standard of behavior by virtue of their oath and position.
But it's just not the way things flesh out. The rationale in favor of protecting a police officer's privilege against self-incrimination is fine, even laudable. It's just that the same rationale doesn't apply to everyone else. Cops are allowed to use any weapon to get us to confess, short of ignoring our invocation of the right to remain silent and counsel. Even these qualifications are mangled, subject to the greatest precision lest the invocation be deemed equivocal. It's a trap for the unwary.
So while the Garrity Rule is wrapped up with a nice ribbon by the typical lofty love language of the Constitution, it's a gift only for police. Mark's initial reaction, that it's just a perk of the job, was right. The only aspect he misunderstood is that it's not a gift from one cop to another, but a gift from an appreciative court to the police. It's tough to be a cop. Don't they deserve those great rights that they happily ignore when it comes to the rest of us?