U.S. Law Enforcement Officers Should be Screened More Carefully

Long, long ago, when I was a young reporter in Canada, I interviewed a recruiting officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He told me that anyone who applied to join the RCMP had to undergo a battery of psychological tests to ensure their personality was right for the job. The RCMP did not want anyone who might “go off half-cocked,” he explained (in that understated Canadian way).

I bet that isn’t the case in Florida – or any other state in America. Stories of police brutality abound in these United States, and I suspect that some of the people who become cops could just as easily have become hit men. If you think about it, you can see why law enforcement would attract sadistic brutes. The badge is a license to inflict pain – and even kill. Combine that with racism and the other prejudices that abound in mankind and you can get a very dangerous individual.

I got to thinking about this ugly situation because of a case that’s currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the justices to rule that a law enforcement officer’s excessive use of force with a Taser was unconstitutional. You know what a Taser is, I’m sure. And you probably remember that University of Florida student who begged. “Don’t Tase me, dude!” In that incident, the cop repeatedly zapped the kid because he disrupted a political meeting on campus.

The cop seemed to be enjoying himself. And I suppose the fact that Tasers are not usually lethal gives the officers using them even more leeway to indulge their sadism. The ACLU wants to rein these officers in. I don’t know whether the officer cited in the ACLU case (Florida Sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Rackard) is a sadist. You can judge for yourself in this video:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWC7iSGCk-s]

The ACLU complaint states that Deputy Rackard administered three five-second-long 50,000-volt Taser zaps to a man named Jesse Buckley – with the Taser pressed directly against the man’s skin. The ACLU lawsuit alleges that the deputy’s actions violated the Fourth Amendment (which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures), since the deputy’s only purpose was to inflict pain upon a handcuffed and unresisting suspect. Buckley was arrested on March 17, 2004, after refusing to sign a traffic citation during a routine traffic stop. He was handcuffed and when he got out of his vehicle, he fell. The deputy zapped Buckley to try and make him stand up.

In the court system, the deputy’s actions were first ruled a violation of Buckley’s rights, then that decision was reversed, and so on until the case finally found its way to the highest court in the land. Now, it’s up to the justices to decide just how much police brutality is permitted by the American Constitution.

Perhaps this kind of decision would not have been necessary if law enforcement officers in America were screened as closely as they are by the RCMP.

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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