Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Culture of crime

   Richard White Piquette was a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who worked in the Twin County Correctional Facility, the jail in downtown L.A.
   Then why did he, according to the Los Angeles Times recently, build an automatic assault rifle? In addition to manufacturing the Noveske Rifleworks N–4 .223-caliber rifle with an eight-inch barrel (never mind that federal law requires that the barrel be at least 16 inches), he possessed a shotgun that had been stolen from the Sheriff’s Department and three assault weapons banned in California. He has plead guilty to all of these.
   Excuse me if I’m being terribly naive, but I thought law enforcement officers were supposed to discourage and stop crime, not engage in crime. I thought peace officers were supposed to keep the peace, not disturb it.
   The L.A County Sheriff’s Department is well-known for such behavior by its officers and is under investigation by various agencies. Officers have been found to form tattooed cliques or gangs in the jails and beat inmates, harass and intimidate African-American and other minority tenants during Section 8 housing inspections in Lancaster and injure each other in a fight at the department’s Christmas party a few years ago. Piquette’s was the first plea agreement by one of 20 sheriff’s officials charged or indicted since December.
   Again, at the risk of being terribly naive, I ask, why is this even an issue? Why are police officers criminals? Police corruption is nothing new, for sure, but it is no less disturbing, no less alarming.
   Piquette’s attorney, Ronald Hedding, describes his client as “a good man” and, interestingly enough, adds that he believes that it is common practice for sheriff’s deputies to have weapons like the ones Piquette had. As if by way of explanation, he said, “A lot of these criminals are carrying these types of weapons on the streets.”
   Like that makes it all okay. Or are “these criminals” the officers?
    I once knew a guy who did a brief stint working for campus security at the colleges here in Claremont, and what he told me about the job really fits here. He said that the people working for the department, even though they were only pseudo officers, “really like putting on their black boots and acting tough.” He said they liked being tough, if not bad, and getting away with it.


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  2. Don't get me started on the attitudes i saw in 22 years of volunteer work in prisons. When i did police trainings, i was required to do ride-arounds with cops on duty. I saw some of the most inspiring competence and compassion by certain officers and heard some of the most derisive and abusive anti-democratic attitudes i've ever had to suffer thru. My protective coloration allows me to hear the true thoughts of a number of WASP macho bigots, some of whom were shocked to discover i didn't like their true thoughts -- at least not in a fire-arms-bearing, tax paid, "sworn officer of the law".
    In the Criminal System, the difference between the criminals and those prosecuting is not always apparent to the unaided human eye. The very system draws them like moths to the flame…