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by Peter Moskos

August 25, 2007

Escaped Prisoner - Wrong Justice

A prisoner escaped from a Jamaica Queens police station yesterday while being questioned by two detectives. Here's the New York Times account.

The article says, in part:
The suspect, Maxie Dacosta Jr., 27, of Queens, remained at large last night. The detective, whose name was not released, was suspended without pay and was forced to turn in his badge and gun, Mr. Browne said.

Mr. Dacosta, who had been convicted of car theft and weapons possession, was arrested Thursday morning in the death of Darnell Angevine, 25, of Amityville, N.Y., who had been fatally shot in the chest on July 28 in Jamaica during a dispute involving a group of men, Mr. Browne said.

He was questioned by the two detectives at the station house, a four-story brick building on 168th Street near Jamaica Avenue, for about two hours. For much of the time, he was shackled to a bench, but at one point the detectives took off his handcuffs and allowed him to sit at a table so that he would be more comfortable, the police said.

The detectives left the room for two or three minutes to talk about the interview and returned to find the window open and the room empty, Mr. Browne said. The other detective, who was not the lead officer on the case, was not suspended, Mr. Browne said.

What bothers me is that the police officer is suspended without pay and forced to turn in his badge and gun. Meanwhile his partner got off because he wasn't the "lead officer." Talk about dumb-ass distinction. Just from the paper's account, you never know if you're getting the whole story, and you're probably not. But assuming the Times is correct, what did the detectives do wrong?

It's too easy to say, "He let a bad guy get away." Well, yes. And he shouldn't be rewarded. Now don't get me wrong. It's not good that a guy who very likely killed somebody escaped. But so what? He'll be caught again. Easy come, easy go. What exactly did the detectives do wrong?

Handcuffs hurt. Taking them off a cooperative suspect is allowed. It's not like these sessions are short. They last for hours. If detectives are forced to keep handcuffs on, people are going to be that less willing to talk to police.

The only error the detectives made was assuming the room was secure when it almost was. But come on, it was on the third floor. It should have been secure. If there's a problem, it seems like it's that the police station doesn't have a more secure room to interview people. Why take it out on the cop? It's one this to bang a vacation day or something. But taking away a good cop's gun is wrong. Especially when there's a murder suspect on the loose and he's the lead detective.

Besides, anybody who is willing to jump an 8-foot gap from a window three floors up deserves some credit.