General Council At Disciplinary Hearings
So many good cops have lost their jobs, pension, deferred compensation, union benefits, health care for life in and all their additional retirement benefits in the one second they make a wrong decision. Then on top of losing all these benefits, cops all to often go to jail. Sometimes it is best to have someone you can talk to under the protection of the law of attorney-client privilege. Once an attorney – client relationship is established it is “bullet proof.” So long as Iyour attorney is not told informed about a pending criminal action about to be committed, your intention to hurt yourself or another. Almost everything else is covered by the attorney-client privilege (there are still exceptions, discuss these with your attorney). Similar to your clergyman/woman, and at one time your doctor (the state has invaded physician/patient privilege in their effort to curtail the misuse of prescription drugs. It is a subtle invasion of your privacy and off topic herein). Nevertheless, the sanctity of private communications between a doctor and patient is being slowly and subtly eaten away by the state. Conversations with your clergy and attorney are still protected.
The stress of a cop’s life is something a person never being a cop will never be able to understand. A kick, punch, or even putting the cuffs on “too tight,” in this day of cell phones and cameras everywhere puts the cop’s movements and decisions under a microscope. The Mayor is telling cops to take mints to calm down, at the same time as cops are being killed. How many cops have been killed this year? In Baltimore 6 cops were charged with various degrees of homicide to appease the mobs of the city. The attorney for the city in announcing the scapegoating of these cops used the term “no justice, no peace.”
It is necessary to have an attorney you can talk to before, you make a mistake or worse, a perceived mistake. Someone you can talk to who by law cannot divulge the contents of your conversation. Years back a white Bronx cop shot someone with who had been threatening people with a simulated pistol. The suspect had been drinking and treating to shoot people, the police were summoned to the scene by the local neighborhood (black and Hispanic). The criminal pulled out the simulated gun, on the white cop’s partner who approached him (to frisk him, which is now an issue under the current political climate). The white cop shot and killed the criminal who was threatening the other officer with the simulated pistol. The white cop did this thinking he was saving his partner from being shot. Remember however, everybody in the neighborhood stated to the police that the criminal had a real gun. The criminal with the simulated gun died from his wounds.
Naturally, there were claims of racism (notwithstanding the very people who cried racism, were the ones who called the police). Rumor was that Al Sharpton (he was unknown at the time) was going to demonstrate. The Twana Brawly scandal broke and Sharpton started his career. What however, happened to the cop who shot the man with the fake gun? The New York Times wrote a scathing article as to what a bad guy this white cop that did the shooting was. What the New York Times deliberately failed to mention was that the white cop’s partner was black. This however (given the political climate at the time) did not stop the Bronx District Attorney from bringing the white cop before the Grand Jury. Fortunately, the Grand Jury refused to indict. Until that time however, the white cop went through his own personal hell.
It is sometimes good and comforting to have a person with whom you can safely share your inner thoughts, feelings and fears with. Someone who is legally and morally bound to keep your secret, and who knows the law. Someone outside the Department, and who is not on the City payroll. Remember the city pays the prosecutors, the delegates (indirectly), and trial room judges. Moreover, if the union does not pay for an attorney, who do you call? Someone a friend recommends, or whoever sounds the best on TV?
You need an attorney who knows the law, who knows the way the Department thinks, the way IAB thinks, and the way the DA’s office thinks. An independent adviser who knows what you are going through, be it (hopefully never) a shooting, or just a problem with a boss. Sometimes just having someone to talk to who is legally bound to keep your secret is your best friend.
What if you know of a cop selling drugs? Who do you talk to? No one wants to rat on a fellow cop, especially if they are friendly. Yet, the orders are that you report this to IAB. You can not talk to a fellow cop, as if you do, you put him in the same precarious spot as yourself. You can not talk to a boss “off the record” (do you really think the boss will risk his career for you)? You can talk to a clergyman or woman, but he or she likely does not understand police culture. Or, you can talk to an attorney, with trial and appellate experience, who lived twenty years with the police culture, knows the law, and will keep your confidences.
In sum, sometimes it is just good to have a person you can trust implicitly, that will not break a confidence, who knows the law, and owes nothing to anyone except you. Furthermore, in an emergency, your attorney will be there for you 24/7.