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by Peter Moskos

May 4, 2011

Were those the days?

It what might be end of a long (and glorious?) Baltimore police tradition, two officers were convicted of misdemeanor for picking up two 15-year-old boys and dropping them off far from home, one of them barefoot. The officers were acquitted of far more serious kidnapping charges.

These officers were certain not the first police officers to pick up trouble-making youths, and, rather than dragging them through the juvenile justice system, decided a fearful two-hour walk home would be more effective punishment. (I never saw this first hand, but I heard many such second- and third-hand stories.) Such shenanigans certain fall under then category of "informal justice," but it was never clear if it was illegal discipline. Is a long lost walk good punishment all of the time? Certainly not. But might it not be the right punishment some of the time?

I'm all for (legal) alternative sanctions. One time I guy in my squad caught two kids throwing and breaking bottle early in the morning. We were a few months out of the academy and the kids were "gigged" with push-ups (ironically that is what we learned in the academy). Was this punishment technically legal? Probably not, but I thought it was one of the smartest thing I ever saw this officer do. A little discretion can go a long way.

[also published at The Agitator]

6 comments:

Dean Kimball said...

A long walk may or may not be good punishment but it is not the job of the police to provide punishment. That is for the courts. So, any police assigning punishment are very much in the wrong.

Gotti Rules said...

Hey Pete,
Right or wrong, most cops have done stuff like this. It is just part of the job. I know you remember Ms. Joyce, the one who liked to call me fathead. Do you remember how we started talking to her? I made the local drug dealers sweep up the street by her house because they were littering. I could have easily locked them up for littering, but it just seemed more appropriate to have them clean the street and apologize to her. Was that really so wrong?

PCM said...

And that was probably the smartest thing *you* ever did.

I'm all for street sweeping, fat head! "Doh, don't tell him I said that!"

PCM said...

And Dean, what is a misdemeanor arrest but punishment? Of course police punish. They should punish (do you really the courts clogged with loitering and dis-con arrests?). The only question is how.

College Cop said...

This is where I get confused, by a society that doesn't know what it wants. They says it's not the job of the police to punish, that's the court's job, but when police stop "punishing" and simply let the courts decide (which is a modern concept, Law Enforcement in the past "punished" all the time, such as giving a graffiti artist the opportunity to clean up his mess and do a little informal community service or go to jail), those same citizens get all up in arms about how we put to many people in the system and how bad our incarceration rate is.

The only option left is for police to ignore people who commits minor crimes all together, which THEN leads to the same citizenry saying we aren't doing our jobs and then electing "tough on crime" politicians who make even MORE minor things illegal....

All of which could be avoided if people not only understood but accepted the traditional place of police in society, which is not only "crime fighting" but general order maintenance.

Anonymous said...

Know what I would welcome the po-po doing more of? Flogging. I'm just saying...