The laws need to change and be strengthened….”abuse of power”, or “misconduct” in and of itself in a law enforcement setting is in reality the abuse of an individual or individuals who are vulnerable as they are facing either charges or handling of their cases with due process and dignity and where there are often long term consequences to those individual[s] if cases are not worked with integrity and honesty. There is also the impact of abuse of power and misconduct on the secondary victims – the families, the friends, the relatives of the victims who did or did not live, the innocents who undergo trials because evidence is hidden or denied, and the tremendous damage these actions do in general to those who are harmed by “misconduct” and “abuse of power”. What if we classified sexual abuse as “misconduct” or “abuse of power” – would the laws protect the victims – I doubt it. So, the laws that reflect these actions of those in the justice system need to change also to match the sanctions society has placed on other forms of “misconduct” and “abuse of power”.
There are rarely prosecutions for “abuse of power” and “misconduct” – instead excuses– and law enforcement has managed to protect itself from criminal action through immunity by retirement and by closing its ranks – but that needs to change. In the Bundy cases, evidence that was incriminatory to Bundy, and to the officials who were hiding it, was moved into areas where the public could not access it, where it could be forever hidden or destroyed. The Ted Bundy cases, as they occurred in WA State, are a prime example of this concept of abuse of power and the ramifications from the Bundy cases are far reaching and with a ripple effect:
1]victims never were identified, remains were “lost” or destroyed such as in the cases of Ott and Naslund and Hawkins and there was the potential of at least 1-3 other individuals who were never identified even though the police had their remains in a timely manner – they failed to protect those remains and they failed to give those victims a chance for their own justice
2]families were never notified that their daughters were originally found on Taylor Mountain and had to wait decades for their remains to be identified and for them [families] to be notified, while certain individuals entrusted with public protection due to their role in the justice system profited on the case and put out lies;
3]the public was deceived so that some could profit and sell books and make movies and documentaries based on lies, but the profiling of the cases was false as it was based on false evidence and the case was taught at universities again inaccurately based on the original lies
3]and finally, the evidence collected in WA State which could have been used to prosecute Bundy and wasn’t and which could have been worked and wasn’t and the numerous articles of clothing and other evidence which could have identified other unknown victims and wasn’t protected – was ordered destroyed per internal memos.
The bottom line is that abuse of power is abuse of people: it is on the same level as sexual abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse and domestic violence because the person or persons on the receiving end are powerless. They need the police and justice system to do its job – not hide or alter its findings.
Abuse by definition cannot occur unless a person is vulnerable and has less power than the abuser. This conduct within an investigation isn’t a job situation where someone does not function in their job – these actions of hiding evidence, lying about evidence, ordering evidence destroyed when a case is being worked are predatory and planned behaviors that are abusive regardless of whether some official thinks it is in the best interest of the state or a political party such as is possible in the Bundy cases….noble cause corruption is still corruption and abuse. Altering outcomes is abuse.
Anyone in authority or any colleague within a law enforcement community that looks elsewhere when this occurs and has the power to stop it is an enabler – if these stigmas are attached to this type of action perhaps then and only then will the law enforcement community stop its “blue wall of silence” types of alignment and start recognizing these types of actions as abuse and that an officer or official who steps forward and exposes it or tries to stop it is not a “traitor” but rather a professional, who like anyone who knows of sexual or physical abuse, is trying to right a wrong.
Abuse of power is abuse. Period. It occurs at all levels of the justice system. Imbalance of power is a requirement of abuse and it occurs in all abuse situations from sexual and physical abuse to domestic violence to within our court systems …. so for law enforcement to classify their abuse as work related with terms such as “misconduct” and “abuse of power” lessens the significance of what is actually occurring. It directs blame into concepts associated with their work rather than on the people who perpetrate it and make no mistake, the actions of tampering with evidence, lying about evidence, hiding evidence and denying evidence are predatory – they occur because the person perpetrating these actions knows there will be a wall of silence and little consequence or they would not attempt it. How many years did it take for society to finally pull back the curtain on sexual abuse and physical abuse? Decades. No one wanted to call it out or get involved fearing the ramifications of being critical or being wrong. Now society’s attitudes have changed. The actions of hiding evidence are not reactionary such as split second decisions on the street when everything is happening in real time and mistakes can be made – hiding, altering, denying evidence is planned. It is predatory.
It is time for society to add one more area of abuse into its policy of intolerance and that is abuse of power or misconduct within the justice system – whatever term you want to use. It is not enough for a person who commits this act to “retire with benefits” or to be protected by the wall of silence of other officials who want to look the other way or try to correct it internally and quietly so no one knows – that secrecy is also the action of an enabler to the original abuse. It is not enough to say “well, we need to respect law enforcement even if this occurs”. That’s not true – there are very good people in law enforcement just as there are good people in churches and other industries and businesses where abuse of others has existed…abuse can happen anywhere. It doesn’t discriminate on where it occurs – only in how it is perceived and handled. It is an individual liability and flaw of character and not an institutional flaw. That is an important distinction. Allowing any person within the justice system of any rank to commit such acts without punitive consequences is not helpful to the public and not reflective of those who risk their lives every day within the justice system trying to do the right thing. Such actions violate the very nature of what the justice system stands for: fair, impartial and thoughtful evaluations of a case as originally defined by the Constitution.
Those people who do not stand up for the victims being created by these abuse of power situations in the justice system are enablers and they are as guilty as the person who commits the initial act. The public is held accountable by police and society if they enable a crime so why are officials who look the other way when the crimes of hiding evidence and destroying evidence are occurring not held accountable? Why are investigators and officials “forgiven”? The actions are not split second in the heat of a rapidly occurring series of events: hiding of evidence, manufacturing evidence, lying about evidence again are planned and predatory actions.
Misconduct, abuse of power are acts of abuse- they are not terms associated to a job – they are crimes committed against vulnerable people. Laws need to be changed to reflect this and perpetrators of misconduct and abuse of power within the justice system need to be viewed and prosecuted as the criminals that they are – if the actions are planned and not accidental they are abusers, their actions can have long-term consequences, and they have victims and they are criminals who deserve consequences.