Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Benefit of the Doubt

Yesterday, I was finally able to watch the latest Jesse Stone movie Benefit of the Doubt.  In it, Tom Selleck plays Jesse Stone as the former police chief of a small Massachusetts town outside of Boston who gets reinstated after the current police chief (who replaced Jesse in a previous movie) is killed in an IED explosion.  All signs point to the late chief as being corrupt, but Jesse Stone, despite not liking him, states that “cops deserve the benefit of the doubt.”

This statement struck me.  Not because I considered some kind of pro-cop propaganda, but because it seemed to me that his is the correct attitude to take in matters of justice.  Not just cops, though, but everyone suspected of a crime should be given the benefit of the doubt.  A more apt term is innocent until proven guilty.

As for the character of Jesse Stone, he is portrayed as a police officer who knows what his job is and performs it how he thinks it should.  In the last movie, his therapist, a former cop himself, mentions that he won’t get convictions with mere hunches, to which Jesse replies that he’s not interested in convictions but justice.  This is another sharp contrast in the ideal attitude of law enforcement versus the actual attitude of law enforcement these days.  Most of the time, prosecutors, cops, and judges aren’t interested in justice, but merely convictions.  Convictions should be the end result of the pursuit of justice, not the goal.

Too often in real life, however, cops are given the benefit of the doubt by the people who matter while the rest of us are assumed to have committed some crime (which is true given the thousands of laws on the books) and so we are subject to different treatment.  I agree that cops should be given the benefit of the doubt, but what about the rest of us?  Should we not be given the benefit of the doubt?  Instead we are given tickets for speeding when police officer routinely use their cars to run red lights and park illegally without having to worry about a ticket.

Also, when cops are caught committing egregious acts of police misconduct, they are often given a slap on the wrist and sent on their way.  Even if they are kicked out of the police force in their locality, they are able to find work in another police locality.  Jesse Stone himself was kicked off of the LAPD for being drunk on the job only to land a police chief job in the town he resides in.  While in his case, he was able to pull through and become a good cop, this is tragically not always the case in the real world, especially in cases where the former officer has engaged in police brutality.

Look, I’m not saying that all cops are bad.  I am merely pointing out the reality that our justice system has different standards for cops than for the rest of us.  This discrepancy goes against the spirit of the founding of this nation and really, we should reconsider the proper application of law enforcement.

As for Jesse Stone, I encourage you to check out the movies.  They are really good movies overall.

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