Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Serpico"; and how the good guys are somehow the bad guys

Last night I watched the 1973 film “Serpico” starring Al Pacino. “Serpico is based on a true story about an honest New York police officer, Frank Serpico, who blew the whistle on widespread police corruption. Serpico did not set out to bring down bad cops; the bad cops turned on him when he would not accept bribes and payoffs. Serpico’s actions in standing up to crooked officials in the police department and city government only got him labeled as a “bad cop.” When nobody in the system would do anything about rampant police corruption, Frank went to the newspaper. Shortly after the New York Times published a front page story about the corruption in the New York City Police Department, Serpico was sent to the dangerous ranks of the narcotics unit where he was shot in the face by a drug dealer while his fellow officers did nothing. Luckily Frank Serpico survived the incident and it brought forth sweeping reform to the department. Unfortunately, Serpico was still seen as a traitor amongst other police officers and received little recognition from the New York City Police Department for his bravery.

How can government spiral so far out of control to the point where the “majority rules” mentality kicks in and decides that if the bad guys outnumber the good guys, then the bad guys are right? “Serpico” is somewhat of a metaphor for government corruption on many different levels. I can liken it to my experiences in dealing with the Indiana Court System. One thing I feel that I share with Frank Serpico is a public perception of naivety. If individuals stand up against government corruption and civil rights violations in matters which the majority perceives to be impossible, the individuals are often labeled as being naïve. If the “naïve” individuals start asking too many questions, they are considered to be a threat. If the “threatening” individuals’ persistence begins to attract the ear of the public, then they are deemed dangerous. “Dangerous” is a label that dishonest officials place on people who pose a serious risk to their convenient unethical and/or illegal activity. In three simple steps, the new naïve guy in the system can somehow evolve into a danger to society. Corrupted officials need to label their opponents as being dangerous because it provides a means of justification to take almost any action necessary to eliminate the danger.

“You can’t beat the system.” I’ve heard that many times during the course of my dealings with the Indiana Court System and Dearborn County Law Enforcement. What people fail to understand is that I’m not trying to beat anything. I just want to be able to exercise all of my rights guaranteed to me by the US Constitution and I want those who are in a position to enforce the law to OBEY the laws they swore to protect. I was punished because I questioned the ethics of the Court’s expert, Dr. Edward J Connor. I was punished because I got Judge Carl H Taul to recuse himself because he violated the Indiana Judicial Code of Conduct by communicating with Dr. Connor outside the presence of the parties. I was punished for publicly writing about Dr. Connor and Judge Taul’s unethical/illegal conduct. Then I was punished for being persistent in trying to obtain the evidence against me. When I continued to question the system, I became the subject of a “secret” investigation by the Dearborn County Special Crimes Unit. When I began to request public records pertaining to the secret investigation and Judge James D. Humphrey, Dearborn County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard sent me an email where Mr. Negangard threatened to “make every effort to prosecute” me if I break any laws. Why is the Dearborn County Prosecutor threatening me? Is he threatening me because he believes I am dangerous, or is he threatening me because I am naïve? I guess it depends on what side of good or bad Mr. Negangard falls on.

Frank Serpico left the New York City Police Department after recovering from a gunshot wound to the face. The New York Times did an article on Mr. Serpico earlier this year. Frank Serpico was a victim of the NYPD yet he was viewed as a villain by many in the NYPD. The only thing Mr. Serpico was guilty of was failing to distinguish the difference between the criminals on the street and the criminals on the police force. Frank Serpico’s “inability” to differentiate the “good” criminals from the “bad” criminals prematurely ended his law enforcement career. In the January article by the New York Times, Frank Serpico said, “They took the job I loved most. I just wanted to be a cop and they took it away from me.” In a sense, I feel that I can relate to Mr. Serpico. Why should a person be punished because other people are angry that the person follows the law? I haven’t broken any laws in Indiana yet Indiana treats me as if I am a criminal. Indiana took the job I loved most. I just wanted to be a dad, and Indiana took it away from me.

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