Crime Pays, but not who you think
Many criminal justice employee performance systems and municipal budgets are based off of number of convictions with bonus points for severity of offense in those convictions. Say huh? A good defense lawyer is measured by good deals cut or innocence proven. District Attorneys receive career promotions and pay raises for number of convictions averaged per month. Police officers and detectives are measured by number of arrests. The more severe the offense, the better it looks for them come next performance review.
The amount of money a police department gets from our taxes is based on criminal statistics of the area. Sounds fair right? Um, no. Here’s what is happening behind closed doors. At roll call the shift sergeant tells the traffic cops, “Hey y’all, we need a few hundred more DUI arrests per month and we will get ten new latest and greatest breathalyzers.” Or “Let’s get those speeders and we will get new speed guns.” Sounds like a quota system doesn’t it? When officers are instructed to target particular offenses, their other duties are less priority. Solving a domestic issue or traffic control functions are less lucrative. Officer doesn’t get a kudo for pulling over a slow driver in the left lane. Just as dangerous as a speeder by the way. When an officer or detective has to service a petty call, they are motivated to escalate to get a more serious offense, so their performance numbers are good for their next performance review. They forge crimes against those that they know can’t defend themselves in court. Police officers will throw as many charges against the accused in hopes something sticks come court day. And thus the handshake to the District Attorneys.
DA’s are strongly measured by number of convictions. How do they get as many convictions as quickly as possible per month? Plea Bargains! They are no bargain at all. Let’s say Timmy and Tommy are your average run of the mill non-violent thieves. Timmy walks by an open garage and sees a $1800 electric bike. He walks in and rides off with it. Timmy calls Tommy and says I got a bike for you to sell. Tommy takes bike to pawn shop to sell. Pawn shop runs serial and oops, it’s stolen. Pawn shop secretly calls police and stalls Tommy. E bike is recovered and Tommy gets a ride to the station. Detective looks at the original report and charges Tommy with burglary. Tommy jumps up and says he didn’t steal the bike. Timmy did! The detective says oh really? Detective goes off to get Timmy (I’m summarizing here so don’t knit pick the details of how Timmy gets cuffed) Timmy and Tommy are charged with burglary AND felony possession.
This is where the DA gets crafty. DA and detective have no evidence against Timmy other than Tommy’s word. They have evidence of Timmy with the bike. Timmy is truly guilty of felony possession and Tommy’s case of burglary is hard to prove. DA intimidates and threatens max penalties if case goes to trial. DA strikes a plea bargain of felony possession and probation for the two because they know cases are weak, but hopes the two’s public defenders don’t try to actually defend. Public defenders save their favors for cases that can boost their career and someday get promoted to District Attorney too. So the DA get’s two felony convictions and justice served. Or was it?
Here’s the problem. That $1800 dollar electric bike wasn’t worth $1800. $1800 is the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. The victim actually bought the bike from the first owner who paid $1300 for the bike new as no one pays MSRP. The victim paid $800 for the bike used. Guess what? The value of the electric bike is far under the $1500 requirement the law has for felony conviction. The two misrepresented criminals agreed to the plea bargain, so it’s legal. If the case had gone to trial, one would have misdemeanor possession of stolen property and the other would be misdemeanor theft. DA’s want felony convictions as it makes them look like they are taking crime off the street.
Now Timmy and Tommy are felons. They are branded and will struggle for years for jobs and housing. These struggles lead to more criminal thinking and they offend again to survive. They are caught in a circle of recidivism and the arresting detective and the DA get felony arrest and conviction on their performance review that leads to promotion. This does not serve the public at all. It costs tax payers for probation, incarceration and parole of these these criminals and feeds the private prison industry. There’s a better way. Read on to the Restorative Justice Model.
New York Times - Tough on Crime DA’s
New York Daily News - Detectives pressured to corruption