Ten reasons 2011 tested my faith in law enforcement

If just one cop abuses his authority, that's one too many.

I still believe the vast majority of police officers act in service of the public. That won’t ever change, and what you won't read in this list are the countless saved lives, prevented acts of violence, apprehended assholes, reassured neighbors and inspired kids for which great cops are responsible. Fortunately, there are far too many to recount, and for that I thank and support our law enforcement agencies. But cops must be held to a higher standard; even if just one abuses his or her authority at the expense of the citizenry, that's one too many.

Cleveland, January 1. Police officers arrest Edward Henderson after a crash ends a lengthy pursuit. A police helicopter films the arrest; when allegations of excessive force arise, Henderson's attorney is shown the tape and proclaims the violence "shocking." In March, four officers are charged with felonious assault. Those specific charges are dropped when the case is taken over by federal agents.

Washington D.C., March 18. Following a ten-month investigation, the Justice Department issues a report concluding the New Orleans Police Department engaged in systematic misconduct with regard to the city's African-American population, including illegal arrests and racial profiling. The report points out that between January 2009 and May 2010, NOPD officers used deadly force against 27 individuals — all of whom were black.

Martinsville, Indiana, March 29. Two police officers responding to a call about an "out-of-control child" at Tender Teddies Day Care first use physical force and then Taser a 10-year-old boy.

Victorville, California, April 6. Former Sheriff's Deputy Matthew Linderman, 34, is sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was convicted the month before of 15 counts of soliciting bribes and sexual favors from 10 different women in exchange for reduced charges. Among other things, he was found guilty of sexual battery by restraint and a felony count of oral copulation under control of authority.

Miami Beach, Memorial Day. In the course of using lethal force against a single dangerous suspect, police allegedly shoot four bystanders by accident. Multiple witnesses claim they were detained at gunpoint, and that their cameras and phones were confiscated and destroyed; those with the presence of mind to remove memory cards produce video that seems to support reports of wildly excessive gunplay.

Palmetto, Florida, August 19. David Filipiak, a 45-year-old veteran police officer with a lengthy disciplinary record at Palmetto PD, is arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He allegedly brandished an AR-15 assault rifle and stun gun at his wife, 14-year-old stepdaughter and 8-year-old stepson, telling them he could kill them anytime and get away with it. The charge is reduced a month later to a handful of misdemeanors.

Oakland, October 25. Police fire tear gas canisters into the Occupy Oakland crowd, resulting in the hospitalization of 24-year-old Marine veteran Scott Olsen for a cracked skull and possible brain damage; upon his release from the hospital, Olsen asks that members of the Occupy Movement nationwide "stay peaceful."

Seattle, November 15. Activist Dorli Rainey, 84, stops by the Occupy Seattle encampment near Seattle Central Community College to discover an "eviction" is in progress; during the operation, she is pinned in by police and pepper sprayed.

Albuquerque, November 17. Two police officers are fired for use of excessive force. The local TV news shows the footage that got them canned; watching, it's tough to keep count of how many times one of the cops kicks the suspect in the head and face.

South Florida, December 4. The Herald-Tribune begins a special report on the inability of the Florida law enforcement bureaucracy to police itself. Part One is a profile of Opa-Locka Police Sergeant German Bosque, who has been fired five times and arrested three. At the time of the report, Bosque is still on duty; in it, he basically admits to using excessive force on occasion, and tries to impress the reporter by boasting that even having a civilian in the cruiser is a violation of departmental procedure.

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