In an extensive investigation by the Herald-Tribune, we get a very close look at how the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, designed to discipline officers accused of violations, may be sheltering the problem officers instead. The reason could be that the commission is filled with union representatives and members, who are notoriously interested in protecting police officers no matter the violation they are accused of.
According to the report, beginning in 1999, state lawmakers repaid the two state police unions for support by giving them prominent placement in the commission.
Ernie George was then the president of the Police Benevolent Association. He was given a seat on the commission by former Governor Jeb Bush as a sort of thank you for union endorsement of his campaign. George is still on the commission today, as the chairman, incidentally in the spot that is saved for a “Florida citizen”.
Police unions are designed to organize the interests of the officers on the various law enforcement forces throughout the state. They get much criticism for seeming to back officers even when they are accused of completely unethical acts, no matter how strong the evidence against them is.
It seems this behavior may have moved over to the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission as the union members did. The Commission is frequently criticized for doing nothing to ensure ethics among law enforcement in the state. Data shows a 20% drop in the number of police officers losing their certification since 2000.
Supporters of the way things are say that the board is simply using more lenient judgment, not taking away certifications for violations that aren’t glaring. In other words, they look for officers that are “salvageable” despite their violations.
These supporters say that the board needed more union-types, more “street-level officers” to counteract the harsher discipline more frequently handed down by chiefs, sheriffs, and other administrative types.
“Eight of the 19 commission members have current or former ties with a union,” says the Herald-Tribune. This means almost half of the commission members may be incapable of rendering an unbiased opinion about a police officer’s possible violations.
The police are tasked with enforcing the laws and (arguably) protecting the people. But these men and women are only human, subject to error and law violations themselves. When the people cannot trust a commission designed specifically to police the police to do so without bias, how can they be expected trust the police at all?
When you are accused of a criminal offense, it’s not unusual to be leery of everyone in the court system. The cops certainly didn’t have your best interest in mind and the prosecutor is interested in a conviction. Your defense attorney is often your only advocate.
If you are accused of violating the law, contact our offices today for a consultation on your case.