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Friday, November 22, 2013

Why People Don't Trust the Police

I was having a perfectly uneventful morning whilst sipping my coffee and catching up on the latest news through my social media sites.   I stumbled upon a “NBC Investigates” clip with the headline that read, “Former Detective Admits to Coercing Confessions.” 


That got my attention so I clicked on the link to hear former Rockford police officer Doug Palmer declare that the “justice system is broken”.  My heart sank and my stomach ached while I watched as he vomited the transgressions he committed while holding a position of public trust.

He was the lead detective on a 2002 murder case where an 8-year-old boy was shot to death.  The suspects were three African American men who Palmer reveals were gang members, but were falsely convicted of the murder.  Palmer admitted he coerced confessions by beating the men.   He went so far as to fabricate witness statements.  In one instance, he handcuffed a woman while her baby lay crying on the floor in order to force a false statement from her.

As a result of Palmer's misconduct, the men were found guilty and served 10 years of their 50-year sentence until their attorney’s sought out Palmer who agreed to testify on their behalf.  The man responsible for putting them away was now the catalyst in overturning their convictions.

Palmer blames his actions on his supervisors.  He said he believed two other men were responsible for the murder, but his superiors felt those individuals would be difficult to convict.  In essence, he claims he did what he was told.  He said that if he didn't follow orders, he would be 'in a life-boat all by himself'.  And so he chose not to speak out.

In the interview with NBC, they reported that Palmer left the police force.  They omitted the fact that Palmer left in 2005 after an “unethical” relationship with a female informant lead to the dismissal of a dozen drug cases. 

I don’t know why Palmer’s conscious got the best of him 10 years after the wrongful conviction but certainly you can argue that at least it did.  I agree.  The time is always right to what is right.  

Palmer stated that he was at the mercy of his superiors and under immense pressure to solve this case.  Why then, when he separated from service 8 years ago and was released from the pressure of his police department and his superiors, did he not come forward?  It would seem that his life-boat was safely docked.

Former Rockford Detective Doug Palmer
The truth is, Doug Palmer disgusts me.  This is obviously a man whose values and principles were askew when he entered this profession and his actions during his tenure tarnished every badge in the Rockford police department. 

It’s tarnished mine as well because he said in his interview that the police will always win because people believe the police.  When asked if they should, he answered, “Not all the time, no.”

Mr. Palmer, it is people like you that cause public trust to erode.  You and those like you who enter the law enforcement profession dishonorably do a disservice to the community you serve and to your fellow officers – and especially to the 3 men who were wrongfully convicted because of your actions.

I stand shoulder to shoulder with men and women who fight against injustice by following the law and upholding the Constitution of the United States.  The majority of police officers would rather lose their job than follow an order that is illegal or unethical.

I’ve dedicated my life to social justice and I know that our system has flaws.  But I take exception when you decide to clear your conscious 10 years too late and leave the public with the impression that our system is broken and the police are untrustworthy just because you are.