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View Diary: Updates. In 2010, A Man Was Brutally Assaulted by the Philadephia Police. Today He Was Acquitted. (98 comments)

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  •  Until the passage of the Federal Tort Claims Act (12+ / 0-)

    in 1947 and similar state legislation, all public officials enjoyed immunity from having their actions reviewed in any venue under the principle of sovereign immunity. This situation apparently persisted as a hold-over from British law where the crown was considered above the law. The Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 gave foreigners the right to sue, usually in connection with maritime law.
    It took several years for suits to be filed and to be successful in holding public officials to account on a personal level. Various challenges have ended up conceding "qualified immunity" law enforcement officers, if they are acting according to orders and consistent with departmental policy (something that communities probably need to address), and prosecutors enjoy absolute immunity because their function is supposedly purely ministerial -- i.e. they transmit information from the executive to the judiciary and presumably have no personal axe to grind. Ambition doesn't count.
    Law enforcement agencies have tried to preempt citizen review of their policies and procedures by setting up various "professional" assessment programs such as CALEA

    IMHO, the problem is the culture of obedience. Law enforcement has become very militarized and hierarchical and the officers think that because they have to obey, they are entitled to demand obedience from the citizenry. Also, "serve and protect" implies a covering or restricting posture, akin to the in loco parentis stance. Not to mention that the public is everywhere in low regard.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 03:47:57 PM PST

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