Longtime courthouse observers can't remember the last time an Orange County jury convicted a police officer of abusing his power. It's not that abuse doesn't periodically occur. Several months ago, I watched the trial of an Irvine cop who got an erection and ejaculated on a female motorist in Laguna Beach. He escaped criminal liability.
In recent years, the Weeky's Nick Schou and The Orange County Register's Steven Greenhut have shown that independent oversight of the county's police officers is zero.
In Sunday's Reg, veteran reporter Norberton Santana Jr. had a good article about Republican Supervisor John Moorlach's new push for a civilian oversight panel and the forces that stand against him. (I would link to the story, but the Register's website is an unworkable maze.)
Moorlach's move comes in the wake of an inmate being beaten to death while, mere feet away, an allegedly oblivious jail deputy enjoyed a televised baseball game - or was it a porn flick as some sources say?
Nice perks, fellas!
Does your pocorn have the right combination of melted butter and salt while you're on duty?
Last year, two heavily armed Huntington Beach cops claimed a tiny, distraught teenage girl holding a small knife had frightened them. They put 15 bullets into her body. She's dead.
Allegations of police/deputy abuse in recent years are too numerous to recount here.
But Moorlach's courage deserves intense public applause.
Elected officials who don't follow the deputies' labor union agenda are commonly threatened with political annihilation by the well-funded group so on the ball it didn't know one of its own embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from its coffers not long ago.
In nearly 12 years of covering Orange County politics, government and crime, I've learned there are excellent public servants wearing badges. In fact, there are no better human beings in this county than those men and women.
But I've also seen the ease with which a few bad cops shamelessly abuse their awesome powers. In an era when CYA (cover your ass) dominates bureaucracies, relying on police management to protect the public from problem officers has proven to be sheer folly.
(Originally published 4-16-07 on the OC Weekly blog.)
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