Saturday, May 20, 2006

Crime And Justice

This is an article from the May 2006 issue of American Police Beat, on page 21 written by Marshall Frank. Mr. Marshall is a retired police officer and an author. His latest work is "The Latent."

Meet Stephanie Mohr, criminal, now serving time in federal prison. Mohr's crime? Her dog bit a man in the leg. Valk, a German Shepherd, worked for the Prince George's County Police Department. Officer Stephanie Mohr was his K-9 partner.

The victim was an illegal alien from El Salvador, complete with criminal record, caught with an accomplice at 1 a.m. atop the roof of a commercial building. Prosecutors asserted that the dog bite wasn't necessary, thus violating Ricardo's civil rights. For that, Stephanie Mohr, age 35, decorated cop, devoted mother, is spending ten years in a prison cell.

Where our constitution is designed to protect Americans from injustice, the justice system creates its own injustice. The main prosecution witness, another cop, faced long-term prison sentences on other charges and testified in exchange for a deal.

In a time when our society laments over too many one-parent homes, Mohr's son, Adam, age 4, will spend his formative years growing up without his mom in the home. And some truly dangerous criminals will remain free to commit violent crimes against innocent civilians because Stephanie Mohr occupies that prison bed.

Police officers today are but reporting agents who are afraid to make one wrong move for fear of Monday morning quarterbacks demanding"justice." Stephanie Mohr serves as an example why cops don't dare do proactive police work any more, lest they end up in prison instead of the criminals. Perhaps the release of the dog wasn't absolutely necessary. I've often heard such arguments by sofa-sitting second-guessers, but few know what it feels like in that moment requiring a split-second decision. If Stephanie Mohr was truly guilty, she would deserve recourse, but she does not belong in prison.

Where is the outrage? Where is the voice of 800,000 plus American cops who stand just as vulnerable to this kind of persecution because they carry a badge? Police officers are our first line of protection. A bad cop here and there must be dismissed and even prosecuted. But for a dog bite on an illegal alien dope dealing thief? Ten years of a police officer's life wasted? This is beyond wrong. It is abominable. (

Now there is some controversy regarding Ofc. Mohr's actions in this and other incidents. I do not advocate ignoring violations of the law by a police officer (if indeed she did) and there seems to be enough doubt that she did. But ten years? And Mohr was already tried in a Maryland state court. The jury refused to convict her.

This reminds me of the Rodney King fiasco where juries refused to convict four LAPD officers in a California state court. The ensuing riots created a federal tsunami that swept through the local political scene. But this tsunami did not go after the perpetrators of the violence, the mindless criminals, the rioting felons that killed 50 people, injured 2,000 more and caused nearly a billion dollars in damage.

Of course not, that's too hard.

No, the feds went after the four cops who were already exonerated in state court of using excessive force in restraining some drunken, PCP addled moron who endangered the lives of who knows how many citizens by driving through LA at speeds well in excess of 100 mph.

Two of the four officers were convicted in the federal kangaroo court. In April 1993, Sergeant Stacey Koon and Officer Laurence Powell were sentenced to thirty months' imprisonment.

And what, pray tell, what did the federal government do to the rioters? If you recall, Reginald Denny was a white truck driver who was ripped from his vehicle and severely beaten by rioters. One of whom, Damian Williams, danced over Denny's helpless body after caving his skull in with a slab of concrete.

Read the extent of Denny's injuries:
"Paramedics who attended to Denny said he came very close to death. His skull was fractured in ninety-one places and pushed into the brain. His left eye was so badly dislocated that it would have fallen into his sinus cavity had not the surgeons replaced the crushed bone with a piece of plastic. A permanent crater remains in his head despite efforts to correct it."

This was an overt act of racism clearly in violation of Denny's civil rights but the feds did absolutely nothing. The California State courts prosecuted Denny's assailants while the feds went back to what they do best, ignoring a possibly difficult prosecution and shoving their thumbs up their collective asses as far as their elbows will allow.

One assailant, Gary Williams, pled guilty and received a 36 month sentence (only six months less than the two cops). Please refresh your memory by reading Denny's injuries again.

Two others, Henry Watson and Antoine Miller, somehow were found innocent in "payback" for the four cops. So just like the LAPD cops the first time around in state court, these dirt bags were found innocent and the feds do nothing.

Damian "The Dancin' Machine" Williams was found guilty on one misdemeanor and one felony charge and in December 1993 was sentenced to ten years in prison. He did less than four years and was a free man by 1997. He has since committed murder and is now in prison until 2047.

And the feds did not intervene in this travesty.

When there's no justice from the courts, sometimes the only justice and the only deterrent to prevent future attacks are the measures you deal out yourself. As they say, the best learning is often accomplished when accompanied by trauma.

And that's the danger. Cops are not judge and jury and we must always be careful to use only "necessary and sufficient force" to effect a legal arrest. A pissed off cop has got to remember who he is pissed off at. If it's the judge, taking it out on a defendant is only going to jam you up. But I will say this. Cops who are hurt and angry will not do their job properly. They will not stick their necks out when they feel that they have been betrayed by the system. And liberal judges delight in doing just that.

We had that situation back in 1981 when three SPD officers were indicted for felony assault and weapons possession. The weapon? Their nightsticks. These officers arrested a heroin addict who was breaking into parked cars. He violently resisted arrest and later died in the hospital after suffering a massive heart attack. The officers were suspended and later indicted. When grand jury members were polled as to why they had indicted the officers, they stated that "Well, the chief of police suspended them so they had to have done something wrong."

One of those suspended officers was working relief in my normal assignment while I was on rest. The PBA was furious, absolutely furious. About 300 of us came to the station when the officers were arrested and arraigned (the jail, courts and police station were all in the same building back then) to show our support. Once the officers were released on bail, we went through the building pounding our batons on the walls. It was quite a sight and quite a racket. We marched up to the fourth floor and threw our police batons into the Chief's Office. The receptionist's desk area was completely buried in cocoa bola. For some reason the Chief and his deputy chiefs were not in the building that entire day whilst the rank and file manifested their displeasure. They may not have been in the same county.

Those batons were issued equipment and we refused to carry them. Every one of us was in violation of the equipment manual for months until the trial ended and no one dared to write us up.

The trial resulted in complete exoneration for the cops. Only then did we go to the property room and retrieve all the wood. But the hard lesson we learned (which was accompanied by a great deal of emotional trauma) struck a responsive chord throughout the department, and the mistrust and disdain it engendered for the Chief and the City administration lasted through the remainder of our careers.

Cops have a highly developed sense for political BS. If the cops suspect that Officer Mohr's imprisonment is nothing but another example of the federal government flexing its muscles, it may have accomplished similar effects within the Prince George's County Police Department. If I were a federal prosecutor working for the US Justice Department, I would make sure that I did my drinking in a county far from Prince George's County. Pissed off cops make elephants seem like Alzheimer patients.

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