Law enforcement must be regulated

Chelsea Boushka

Over the course of the past month, Austin ABC affiliate KVUE has revealed a practice within Texas law enforcement that allows almost all police officers who are arrested for committing crimes to keep their badges.
 
While only 4.2 percent of Texas law enforcement officials have been arrested since 2008, that adds up to 4,870 officers. That number is unacceptable.
 
Imagine you are assaulted by a stranger, and you call the police to come to your aid. You feel safe once they arrive, and you should. They exist to serve and protect.
 
But that security falls away when you find that the person who assaulted you is part of that very same force made solely to protect you. This experience has happened to 1,205 people in Texas since 2008. Assault is the most common offense for which officers were arrested.

Law enforcement as a whole is not at fault. Rather, it’s the laxity that allows would-be criminals the privilege of staying on the force.
 
Arrested officers are often granted deferred prosecution, which means the State will wait a certain amount of time to see if they “stay clean,” and if they do, the charges will be dropped, even if they have confessed to the crime. KVUE reports that the vast majority of arrested cops retain their law enforcement licenses or are able to renew them.
 
Victims of this system can easily see the injustice. A woman named Rachel Legsdin was verbally harassed and then violently choked by an off-duty officer at a downtown Austin bar. Her assaulter is still a Travis County police officer. She makes a very simple appeal to common sense to describe this problem.

“[It] just doesn’t seem like you should have criminals upholding the law,” Legsdin said.
 
Kevin Lawrence, the executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association, however, argues that it’s only human to make mistakes, so we should give these officers a second chance. Reintegrating ex-criminals into society and helping them find jobs is clearly important for the U.S., where we have one of the highest percentages of inmates per capita in the world. But not charging these criminal officers is an unfair loop in our legal system, and it also inhibits the effectiveness of our law enforcement.

Police who exhibit dangerous behavior are a liability for their police departments, and liability translates into wasted taxpayer money. KVUE reports the combined amount law enforcement agencies across the state have paid because of claims and lawsuits against their officers since 2009 is at least $54 million. Dismissing officers who have broken the law would not bring this number to zero, but it could certainly reduce it.
 
Former adjunct law professor Jim Harrington suggested that employing a cop who has committed a crime could potentially obstruct justice in the prosecution of other criminals.
 
“That officer’s credibility will be challenged in court, the jury will look at that [crime and] probably not believe [the officer], which means that you’re not solving crime,” Harrington said in an interview with KVUE.
 
Allowing people who have committed crimes to remain in law enforcement is not only impractical but also unjust. We need to revoke offenders’ licenses and ensure they can’t work in any law enforcement agency in the state.

Boushka is a psychology sophomore from El Paso.