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Don't deny police officers their rights

Baltimore police commissioner Kevin Davis (left) and Mayor Catherine Pugh (right) announce that Det. Sean Suiter, 43, has died after being shot in West Baltimore.
Baltimore police commissioner Kevin Davis (left) and Mayor Catherine Pugh (right) announce that Det. Sean Suiter, 43, has died after being shot in West Baltimore. (Kevin Rector / Baltimore Sun)

I see now that the Baltimore Civilian Review Board feels that the police are overly protected by the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (“Baltimore Civilian Review Board: We need more authority to oversee police,” Nov. 17). One might think that they are so hungry to extract their pound of flesh that they would have the bill of rights altered or rescinded. There is something inherently wrong when the police are considered to be an enemy of the people and are demonized in the rhetoric by both the media and, sadly in some cases, the political structure itself.

Are there some “bad apples” among our police? Most certainly! Are they in the majority? Most certainly not! One might also ask the questions: Are there some bad apples among our politicians; our lawyers; our doctors; our clergy? Once again, the answer would be, most certainly! But once again, they would be in the minority. It is totally unfair and unjust to single out the police. The reality isn’t bad police, bad doctors, bad lawyers, clergy or bad media; the reality is that there are bad people, a concept that our progressive society seems to shun for some reason. One example is the constant referral to “gun crime” where the gun is demonized, rather than the killer who wielded it!

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Let us consider justice for our police for just one moment. I have been retired for quite some time so maybe this has changed (I hope that it has), but, as I recall, that Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights that seems to strike fear in the hearts of the anti-police faction literally has no teeth. As I recall, there is no actual penalty attached to apply to those who violate those rights. Again, this may have changed and I hope that it has. Also, I recall from my days in the city police department the procedures for reporting misconduct to the Internal Investigation Division. Back then, a person could make a complaint against an officer very easily and that complaint would be investigated. In some instances, the investigation would reveal that the complainant had lied about the misconduct and to lie to the police to cause an investigation is a crime.

Essentially, when the investigation proved the complaint to be false, the complainant was subject to being charged with the crime of making a false report to the police. However, none of those liars was charged with that offense. I was told that’s because the department didn’t want to do anything to discourage people from making complaints — even if they were lying. That policy was alleged to have come from the Office of the Police Commissioner. If true, the commissioner is guilty of ordering officers to violate their oath of office, specifically the promise to enforce the law.

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No one considers the extreme pressure on police officers who are under investigation, and should that pressure be the result of a false report, the affected officers are, again in my opinion, entitled to have their accuser pay the price for lying. I say again, I hope those procedures have changed. But they did exist and that was abhorrent. In the world of justice, police have the same right to it as any other citizen.

Robert L. DiStefano, Abingdon

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