I am tired -- tired of attorneys, judges and "experts" with academic credentials who don't know anything about crime telling the police how to solve the crime problem. They have no concept of the day-to-day problems faced by police officers.
Despite great strides by police departments, it is never enough. The police are continually told to improve, but the courts, a contributing cause of the crime problem, continue to do it their way--and damn the American public.
Gadgets and innovations were the answer of the "bleeding hearts" to adverse and often ridiculous court decisions in the '50s. These same individuals were quick to shout down protesting police administrators during the controversial Warren Court decisions. They encouraged police administrators to accept these decisions as challenges to be solved with innovation and leadership.
One famous attorney interviewed on television pointed out that the decisions were having no impact on cases brought to trial and that the police had overreacted. What he failed to address was the adverse effect the decisions had on crime-prevention activities by the officer on patrol, which subsequently afforded the criminal additional movement without fear of arrest. Police officers have been so intimidated that they are afraid to act.
The police administrators of that era were street-wise. They recognized the consequences of the court decisions, but the policy was to refrain from speaking out, thus keeping police departments nonpolitical. The administrators who did speak out--often those on the brink of retirement--incurred the wrath of the press and of the shocked but vocal idealists.
After 20-some years of modernizing police departments without substantially reducing the crime rate, the "experts" are again blaming the police, this time for cases being lost in court. There is always room for improvement, but how did the courts manage to come out unscathed?
Usually, the police officer who makes an arrest on the scene, or shortly thereafter, is faced with a jumbled puzzle that he is required to piece together quickly under the pressures of the particular crime and the necessity of handling other calls or investigations that are waiting; or, he makes an arrest based on brief observations of a violation during rapidly changing situations.
During the initial on-scene investigations, additional personnel are not available to solve the crimes as easily as shown on those television programs. In actual practice the officers must do the best they can with the available facts and whatever else they may be able to uncover between assignments. Certainly the cases cannot be solved as meticulously as the courts, in their sterile environment, want--as desirable as that may be.
The court system makes these demands while making it difficult or impossible to obtain evidence to fulfill their demands. Prosecutors want the ideal case, but the "school" solution is seldom attainable in the streets. The police officer must deal with the facts that are available--legally available. Frequently, these facts are elusive and are lost with time.
The good prosecutor should be able to help the officer strengthen the case and then demonstrate his ability to successfully prosecute, not "wheel and deal," as is often the case, to avoid a long trial.
Chief Justice Warren Burger demonstrates a concern and a knowledge of the problem, although some of his solutions could make incarceration an even more acceptable alternative to the criminal who is devoted to a life of crime. But it is a better option than a recommendation being proposed to reduce the use of prisons.
Actions in the Maryland correctional system again demonstrate the futility of releasing hardened criminals into community programs. A federal appellate court judge argues against the expenditure of billions of dollars for prisons, stating that the ugly realities behind street crimes have not been confronted. But the immediate problem is not political, as he implies; rather, it is a result of years of liberal interpretation by the judge and his associates who feel that, say, a 10-year sentence for a narcotic wholesaler with prior convictions is "cruel and unusual punishment."
Frequently, what appears to be a long prison sentence is not. If the sentence is concurrent, the individual merely serves one term. It is a farce to sentence an individual to concurrent prison terms for multiple charges. Even a stiff sentence by a judge will be substantially reduced by early-release programs, good-time release, parole, etc. An individual sentenced to life plus 50 years may be out in approximately 12 years.
Crimes committed by juveniles have become a serious national problem, yet instead of teaching our youngsters the difference between right and wrong, we are teaching them to remain silent and to request an attorney when arrested. We are teaching them how to beat the system. The state of Virginia publishes for the juvenile a step-by-step guide through the Juvenile Justice System. The National Council on Crime and Delinquency published a booklet, "You Have the Right, If You Know It." Is advising a juvenile of his rights supposed to be a crime deterrent?
We are dealing with immature youngsters's lives, not playing a courtroom game. Why does the criminal justice system need an "angler" to find loopholes or a "burlesquer" to put on a show for the judge and jury? What the juvenile needs is a more personal relationship between the judge, the parents and the juvenile during the early stages of delinquency.
Our judicial system is a mockery and will continue to be as long as judges are too concerned with root causes of crime or with technicalities to worry about justice for the community.
Apparently that appellate judge is waiting for Americans to take the law into their own hands--as has happened in some jurisdictions in our country: attempts to form vigilante groups; an attempt to pass a homeowner's bill in Florida authorizing the shooting of trespassers; a Baltimore grand jury's recommendation that unrehabilitated rapists be castrated; an increase in gun purchases; or the beating of criminals by citizens.
As Chief Justice Burger pointed out, we have carried the question of constitutionality far beyond its intent--to the point of being unreasonable. Can our nation afford to permit so many of our young people to go down the drain while we argue about the constitutionality of paraphernalia laws? Did the framers of our Constitution envision movies and magazines depicting abnormal sex acts as "freedom of speech?" Could our forefathers have envisioned a judge placing technical constitutional values over our citizens' personal safety? How far are we going to distort the intent of the Constitution.?