I was reading this article with a list of wrongful shooting lawsuits settled by the state. “Good,” you say, “Make them pay.” As if this is justice. In fact, these are mere bribes. The police are in a uniquely privileged position, one unlike any other, in that they are absolved from responsibility. The state (that is, the taxpayers) cover their damages. Then I saw this one:
Lawrence Allen, 20, of West Oak Lane, was a friend of a teenage boy who on Nov. 7, 2008 had assaulted Police Sgt. Chauncey Ellison’s teenage son and had stolen a pizza from the boy. Sgt. Ellison and Officer Robin Fortune, who were dating and off-duty, went searching for the pizza thief and found him. Allen, who had had nothing to do with the robbery, tried to diffuse the situation and offered to pay for the pizza. Fortune allegedly encouraged Ellison to shoot, saying “Pop one of these m___f___.” Ellison shot Allen in the back, rendering the young father of three a paraplegic. Allen died three months later. Settlement: $650,000.
This is an unambiguous murder. Not even common cop excuses (“he went for my gun”) are trotted out. In fact, Allen and Fortune were convicted for this 2008 shooting. In 2011. Don’t imagine that they spent those years in a jail as they awaited trial, no. Oh, and they weren’t sent to prison for a murder. These two officers were sentenced to eleven and twenty three months in a county jail. Not even two years. They received the maximum misdemeanor sentences for reckless endangerment.
The double standard; one law for us, one law for them. We often rightly speak of a separate law for the wealthy. Yet, it is actually power that defines class lines better than wealth. Wealth is simply one path to power. And it’s difficult to imagine even the most wealthy person escaping a murder rap for this. How many murderers are allowed to plea down to a misdemeanor? Even rich murderers? Not many. But cops, always.
The police constitute a fundamentally different class in society. It is not only that they are treated differently. It reaches beyond this. The laws enshrine their special treatment in statute. They have many legal contacts and, in many cases, personal relationships with the courts; but it is the law itself that mandates their special privilege.