After the deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, many stories about law enforcement doing nothing to help angered the country. But long before Parkland, there were other cases of police inefficiency and corruption that was mind-boggling.
Now, a report by the Baltimore Sun shows that a group of local officers kept toy guns at hand in case they “accidentally hit somebody or got into a shootout, so we could plant them.”
The revelation came as part of a corruption trial involving members of Baltimore’s Gun Trace Task Force who kept fake guns in their patrol cars. One of the officers involved, Detective Maurice Ward, said that Sergeant Wayne Jenkins told him and his partners to have the replicas handy. According to the prosecutors, officers involved in the scheme were tasked with finding illegal guns and getting them off the street – not planting fake guns as evidence. As such, they said, these cops abused their power.
Oftentimes, we hear people making the case that all police officers are bad because they are part of the law enforcement community. By default, they suggest, that any cop is a bad cop. Others will make the case that people who go into law enforcement are good people and only a few of them are “bad apples.”
The reality is that neither argument is true. Instead, we must look at incentives to understand why people act the way they act and why some will abuse their power if given an opportunity.
Police officers are seldom prosecuted for crimes they commit while on duty. When an individual is allowed to act without fearing the consequences, he or she might have a tendency to act more carelessly, thus illustrating how dangerous it is for individuals to be given a blank check without ever having to be responsible for their actions. While this case might be unheard of, it’s not surprising to those who have followed news stories about police corruption closely. But then again, what are police officers other than bureaucrats following orders?
While the mission of law enforcement might be mighty and virtuous, not all men and women who join the force are equally motivated to “protect and serve.” No matter how many new policies to protect the public from police corruption are enacted, officers will always be given reasons to act mischievously.