Thursday, July 31, 2008

Observations on the Randleman Story

Observation #1: Without debating the journalistic merits of the level of detail in the recent story on Randleman, I think it was a bad move rhetorically to run that level of detail in the newspaper.

Why? I think it created more backlash than there would have been otherwise, and the story has become at least partially about the Express, and not about Randleman and how the whole thing was handled by the LPD and LCSD staff. Speaking of...

Observation #2: Why are more people not talking about the fact that a) at least two other officers had an idea of what was going on, yet b) neither is being formally disciplined? Oh, sure - Fiala got talked to by Schulte (and probably Healy), but under what circumstances should he have ever given Randleman the benefit of the doubt upon seeing the cars of female high students in Randleman's driveway on multiple occasions?

At the very least, I would think that would demand a very serious conversation with Randleman about what was going on, almost certainly followed by a VERY uncomfortable conversation with Schulte or Healy. The former seems to have happened. The fact that the latter did not happen - as far as I know - does not reflect well on Officer Fiala. Arguably the same could be said of OSP trooper Schott, though I used Fiala as the example because he's part of the LPD and lives near Randleman.

Observation #3:
Police officers have a long history of closing ranks and protecting their own regardless of the nature of the incident (see, for example, almost any incident in which an officer shoots and kills an unarmed civilian and/or Tasers someone to death). Clearly, in this case, Randleman got thrown to the wolves - not only were the other LPD officers probably very, very upset with him, but, to be perfectly honest, they probably realized that there was no way to defend his behavior. And, of course, what Randleman did was wrong, and the LPD was right to investigate immediately, etc. etc. That should go without saying.

Back to the larger point: I'll bet ranks have closed around Fiala. The LPD is not going to punish him for this - they're going to deflect the blame onto Randleman. That strikes me as a shitty thing to do. It also strikes me as one of the reasons police officers get a bad reputation.

... adding, that it's certainly an understandable reaction from police officers, given their training, the fact that they are willing to put themselves in danger, their sometimes-rocky relationship with the public, etc. That doesn't make it right, but it is understandable.

Update: It strikes me that my last point might be better explained by noting that the LPD, like many police departments, is probably choosing to punish Fiala internally and informally (and I use the term 'punish' loosely). This is also understandable, but will also probably contribute to any negative reaction, as it provides the appearance of covering for someone's mistakes. Internal policing is tricky.


noa said...

" Respect is something that is earned by having an ethical code of conduct and trying to live up to it every day - that's called integrity."

thank you. i was wishing i had not started in on the comments until i got there.

there were so many incidents where this should not have fallen through the cracks. how infuriating.

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