Though only slightly more than half over, the year 2012 has been a particularly rough for me and thousands of my brothers and sisters in blue. Not only are more of us being assaulted and/or killed than in years past, it seems that more of us may be crossing over the thin blue line and falling prey to the darker side.
Having never witnessed it myself, I have- until this year vehemently defended against all accusations of police corruption. Sadly, no longer will I be so naive.
It actually all started in the latter months of 2011 when the FBI, ATF and DEA along with state and other local agencies executed Operation Delta Blues in my home town of Helena-West Helena Arkansas. Like many former and current residents, I was initially elated to hear that something was finally being done to rid these once glorious towns of the criminality that had all but ruined the quality of life they'd once offered. Elation soon turned to horror when it was announced that five actively serving police officers were also arrested as part of the sting. For just a few hundred dollars, these officers sold their souls to the devil by providing criminals with confidential information, aid, and protection.
I started with the West Helena Police Department and served side-by-side with two of the arrested officers- Dean Jackson and Marlene Kalb. Dean has since plead guilty and Marlene is still pending trial at the time of this article. Although a sergeant when arrested, Marlene was a captain during my stint with that department and was my direct supervisor. When I left to go to a much larger agency, Marlene gave me a police related coffee mug as a going away gift and I drank my coffee from that mug every morning for the next 17 years. I was devastated by their fall from grace and the mug now sits on a self in my office and serves as a reminder to place honor before all else. Never again will I enjoy my morning cup of coffee from it.
The harshest sentence handed down to the officers arrested in Operation Delta Blues was a mere 6 years in prison.
As if Delta Blues did not tarnish our badges enough, in March 2012 three more Arkansas officers were found guilty of robbing an armored car. For their crimes, one was sentenced to 12 years in state prison, one to 1 1/2 years in prison while the third received only 2 years of probation.
Adding salt to our wounds, two brothers- both of whom are employed by the Little Rock Police Department were arrested May 24th, 2012 for conspiracy to aid and abet possession with intent to distribute over 1,000 pounds of marijuana; aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute over 1,000 pounds of marijuana; and possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. It was later learned that one of the brothers conspired to sell drug dealers and other criminals, Social Security numbers he'd obtained as part of his police duties. They have yet to be sentenced.
The punishment handed down thus far to these disgraced officers is hardly sufficient. They violated the public's trust and without that trust, we cannot be public servants. Crime is a constant in America and its associated costs, both financial and social are a greater threat to our nation than terrorism. Officers who conspire to aid, abet or work with narco-criminals are guilty of no less than treason and once convicted, they should be forced to live-for the rest of their days with the criminals with whom they chose to associate. There should be no reprieve, nor parole. To protect our honor, all police unions should lobby for harsher sentencing for officers found guilty of engaging in such acts.
Although deterrents through harsher sentencing are needed, I can honestly say that the vast majority of the outstanding men and women that I have the pleasure of knowing and working with would never, for any reason violate the public trust. That trust is what gives our badges their shine- it is a sacred honor that we should never forsake nor take for granted.