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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Secrecy and the Myth of Transparency in Government Generally and Policing in Particular

     There is nothing more ludicrous than a politician, standing in front of a television camera with a straight face, telling citizens that our government is transparent. By transparent, meaning open and honest in the way it operates in our best interest. That, of course, is pure baloney. Government, on all levels and across the board, is secretive. It is in the nature of the beast, and for good reason. If the pubic ever fully discovers what our "public servants" are really up to, there would be much less government.

     In many ways, the government functions a lot like organized crime. Government protects itself through a code of silence, whistleblower intimidation, perjury, evidence tampering, and the shielding of the leaders from criminal culpability. And like soldiers in the Mafia, government employees are in for life. To expose the government, investigators would have to rely on the same tactics the FBI used on the Mafia. Problem is, the FBI is part of the government.

     Anyone who trusts the government, or accepts as truth what politicians and bureaucrats tell us, is either a fool or an idiot who deserves the government that we've allowed to grow into a Frankenstein type monster. There may come a time when the public does figure out what's going on in government, but by then it may be too late to do anything about it.

     Anyone who knows anything about policing--federal, state, and local--knows that law enforcement agencies do not welcome public scrutiny. Police officers hate cellphone cameras, civilian review boards, oversight committees, police commissions, and other watchdog groups. Cops also hate their fellow officers assigned to internal affairs units. For decades, police administrators, working hand-in-hand with friendly politicians, have engaged in shameless fear-mongering to scare the public into putting up with highly militaristic, zero-tolerence, policing tactics. Because very little in law enforcement is on the level, it's in the best interest of our police authorities to keep civilians in the dark. It has been this way since the beginning of professional policing

     Alex Bustamante, the Inspector General for the Los Angeles Police Department, a police watchdog group, recently presented his oversight board with a report that detailed how LAPD administrators handled use of non-lethal force cases. These police-involved incidents include body holds, punches, baton strikes, and the firing of Tasers and bean-bag guns. Such cases account for 95 percent of the department's use of force incidents.

     According to the inspector general's report, while lethal force cases are investigated internally by a special investigations unit, the less serious cases are merely reviewed by regular field supervisors. The supervisors in charge of these inquiries make certain that statements by involved officers and witnesses are not recorded. Moreover, departmental policy dictates that only a single account of a use of force incident is written up for the record. And that account is from the officer's point of view. As a result, these reports often do not present the true story of the incident under review. This, of course, is the intended result. These are essentially cover-up exercises. Public employees have become masters of the white-wash.

     Inspector General Bustamante told reporters that the above LAPD internal policies and procedures have made it impossible for his group to assess the quality of these in-house investigations. Moreover, there is no way for the watchdog group to determine if LA cops are abusing their power.

     Government agencies, to maintain their authority and to grow, need to operate in secret. It's a matter of institutional survival. As far as most politicians and bureaucrats are concerned, the public has no right to know anything. We are told by our government leaders that it is our job to trust them. In law enforcement the message to the public has always been: leave policing to the professionals. We know what we are doing, and do not need you sticking your nose into our business. In other words, we don't work for you, you work for us, so shut up and go away.  

3 comments:

  1. Wow, I will spend time chewing on this for sure.
    I so want to believe that there are some people in all agencies mentioned that we can trust. Actually, I do in fact believe that to be true.
    I also believe that, as in all agencies, there are those people we cannot trust.
    However your post encourages me think about this more, and free thinking is what I value. I don't think I am an idiot though! I hope not!
    I really do believe that corruption exists everywhere, but in saying that, I also believe people with pure motives also walk in all of these agencies.
    I am guessing you were one of those people. I am guessing that you were doing the work you did out of honest passion for the truth.

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  2. There are, of course, honest and decent people working in our government. But if they report what they see and know, they will lose their jobs and have their careers ruined. So they go along because they are completely dependent upon the government. Everyone who works for the government knows that whistleblowers are crushed. Most people, with families to support, can't afford to be heroes. Thank you for your comment.

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    1. You are absolutely right about that, from my personal experience, over many years with exactly what you said. And being crushed, more than once, more than twice! No place in particular. And not everywhere for sure. I was only able to move on, when I did so, because of two incomes in the family. The life savers at those work places were people like yourself who I would gather close and do the job that we knew was right. Wish I would have known of a different way. (*This is not about any place in particular as I have worked in many venues over the past 25 years.) Love your honesty! :-)

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