We imagine that many readers of our criminal law blogs at the proven Denver criminal defense law firm of Shazam Kianpour & Associates have heard the phrase “the thin blue line.”
That expression refers to the metaphorical wall of protection provided by law enforcers that renders society safe and safeguards citizens against wrongdoing. Police officers are perceived as the agents centrally securing public safety goals and promoting just outcomes.
What happens when they act in ways that undermine those laudatory aims?
The answer is readily provided by a dozen individuals in one state who testified at the trial of one officer recently convicted on multiple misconduct charges.
In fact, that now ex-sheriff’s deputy was found guilty on nearly 20 charges of wrongdoing. An in-depth media account of his case and trial spotlights those acts, noting that they spanned “racketeering, false imprisonment, fabricating evidence, official misconduct and drug possession.”
Notably, all that collective wrongdoing stemmed from that individual’s similar conduct in potentially hundreds of cases criminally implicating innocent people and upending their lives.
That was this: falsely planting drugs in their vehicles during stops and then “finding” them during searches.
“There ain’t no way, man,” says one detained and clearly shaken motorist taped on body cam video following the alleged discovery of methamphetamines hidden in his vehicle. “Oh, my God,” he said, “you gotta be … kidding me.”
As noted, high numbers of other individuals expressed similar fear and incredulity during scores of the deputy’s stops conducted over a lengthy period.
In one perversely ironic moment, the officer is heard on video telling one of his victims that, “You’ve got to be careful who you let in your vehicle.”
Many drivers are, of course. They just don’t remotely suspect that the criminal acts of a third party are authored by a police officer.