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[personal profile] elena23

Sometimes, my job is tough. For instance:

Situation #1: I worked with a woman last week. She's not from America (or from any culture that puts women on anywhere near an equal playing field with men). She was raped by her husband.

If she doesn't follow through with it, he goes free, and gets to do it again. He may kill her. He will certainly continue to beat her and abuse her.

If she follows through with it, she will be shunned by her community. Her family will be shunned, and possibly killed. She will be homeless. She will now be in the country illegally. She'll have to proceed in a system where people will do their best to metaphorically crucify her.

I could force the issue, and prosecute him for her (and, in fact, I have a duty to do so if I believe there is probable cause). But if I do that, all of the above things will still happen. Of course, some of them can be mitigated...but it doesn't make it a lot easier.

Situation #2: A woman with three children has been stalked and threatened by the father of her children (with whom she is no longer together).

If she doesn't follow through with it, he gets to keep semi-stalking her and threatening her and may actually do some of the extremely heinous things he has been leaving on her voicemail. He gets to beat whatever girlfriend he has next, and who knows what he may escalate to in the future.

If she follows through with it, she loses her child support and can no longer afford to provide for her children. She may lose her apartment. She gets dragged through a lengthy court battle in which he may or may not actually serve any time in jail. And he may continue to do the above anyway.


I'm prosecuting the second, and we're working with an immigrant organization to help make decisions on the first, in case anyone is curious.


People who are not involved in the legal system often have a very simplistic view of what happens. A) Bad person breaks law. B) Bad person goes to jail. C) Good guys win. (Okay, maybe nobody actually thinks it's that simple -- after all, they've seen Law and Order, but you get the idea).

The moral considerations I make every day are tremendous. Do I prosecute or not? How do I balance the needs of the victim and the needs of the State, knowing that I am, ultimately, an agent of the State? Am I causing harm to the victim, or her family, or her children, by taking action? What if future harm comes to someone by my not taking action?


I don't like violent movies. I especially don't like realistic violence. I can mostly handle vampire movies and stuff involving fantasy creatures (though zombies tend to squick me out) and situations that don't actually exist.

But the regular, "real" violence (like war movies, or crime movies, etc.). I see that every day. I don't want to be reminded what a two-year-old looks like beaten to death with a hammer, or a seven-year-old shot 15 times. I know the vacant face of death on someone who was dead when I got there, and I've seen and heard people die in front of me. It's chilling. For that matter, I've seen what they have to go through when they don't die...and sometimes, that's worse. At least, in death, the suffering of the victim is over.

And too, it's important to understand that the people responsible for these crimes have lied to my face (or another detective's face) about having committed them. And a lot of them look just like you. Yes you, whichever you is reading this. I don't know, on a traffic stop, or in an investigation, which people are going to be the liars and which are the law abiding citizens. I don't know which might suddenly decide to pull out an AK-47 and shoot up my car, or a handgun and shoot at me. So in every situation, I have to be prepared for the possibility (because who wants to be wrong in this case)?


I guess maybe all of this is why I get so defensive when people start talking about how cops should or shouldn't act, or why they did or didn't do x, y and z on a traffic stop or in an investigation, or why they may have spoken to someone in the wrong way.

Nothing about it is simple. It's not morally simple. It's not legally simple. There's no, "just do this and it will always turn out right." Sometimes you will do everything correctly and it still won't turn out all right.


I have a lot of laws to follow -- federal laws, state laws, county laws, and workplace rules. And then, I have my own rules.

1) I treat everyone with respect until they lose the privilege. Your gender, religion, sexuality, political party, economic station, age, etc. do not matter to me.

2) I am always truthful, because my reputation for truthfulness is the most important aspect of my job (and by this I mean to my supervisors, in my investigation, and on the stand -- I do lie to solicit information or a confession).

3) I make the best possible decision that I can make under the circumstances, and pray that it is the right one.

4) I try not to lose my temper (and I usually succeed).

5) I don't burn any bridges, and I try not to speak badly of people.


This is a whole lot of thoughts just sort of thrown together, and only loosely related. So it's not precipitated by any incident. And most of the people on my friends list are awesome and completely supportive (because why would you be on my friend's list if you were not?). This kind of stuff just rattles around in my brain, and occasionally I have to let it out.

Date: 2010-05-14 10:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miss-adventure.livejournal.com
Just a thought-it sounds as though the complainant in Situation 1 may be eligible for a U-Visa or VAWA (depending on whether her spouse has legal status), which in theory (if not always in practice) are designed for people in her situaion.

Date: 2010-05-14 10:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elena23.livejournal.com
Oh definitely. Our Sgt. Is the U-Visa rep for the department, so we have quite a few of those come through. Some of the stories are really gut-wrenching!

Date: 2010-05-14 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miss-adventure.livejournal.com
That's really great. (That your boss is the U-Visa rep, not the awful stories.) I was horrified to find that the layers of bureaucracy in my own $Department stymie the process for many applicants, and that the District Attorney's Office isn't much better in processing them in a timely fashion...not to mention how many member of this $Department or the DA's Office have no idea that such an out exists for undocumented crime victims who cooperate with LE.

Date: 2010-05-15 02:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elena23.livejournal.com
He takes a very practical approach to the whole process. Generally, for us, we don't involve the lawyers at all. The paperwork is completely filled out by the attorneys from whatever volunteer organization is helping the victim (Catholic Services, often, but we also have a bunch of area-specific organizations like Southeast Asia, RAKSHA, etc). The only part my supervisor has to fill out is the small police portion, where he simply certifies whether or not the victim is cooperating. It takes about ten minutes, all told. Quite a few times, I've had to fill out the paperwork, tell him about it, and then he signs off on it. So I've gotten well acquainted with the process!

Date: 2010-05-15 08:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miss-adventure.livejournal.com
They're in the process of streamlining our own procedure to make it easier on the victims. As it stands, the visa applications have to be signed off by literally thirty (!) separate people all the way up to the Police Commissioner, so it frequently takes a couple of years during which the victim is sitting in limbo. We're lucky at least that in NYC there are numerous local law schools whose legal clinics do a lot to help as well as private attorneys who take on cases pro bono...but it would be nice if we didn't have to resort to their good will, as it were.

Date: 2010-05-15 02:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lucv-cate.livejournal.com
I grew up in a small town (7,000 people). I, and my family, were friends with much of the local police officers and fire fighters. Ever since I was young, I've always supported those who put themselves in harm's way- soldiers, as well as police and fire fighters (even in my punk days).

I've always tried not to, but especially since reading your posts and hearing you talk, make it a black and white issue- but it happens here and there. I try to think things out and understand all the things that could result from this or that, but because I've not been in the middle of situations, and until hearing you talk, I'd not thought about the full implications- like the ones you laid out in those two examples.

It really wasn't until moving down here that I heard stories about "bad cops", or actions that might be suspect or not popular in the public eye. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to do your job. I commend you for your integrity. When I hear people nay-say the police, or try to smear them in one blanket-policy as doing the wrong thing...you are the ones I point out to them.

Date: 2010-09-28 12:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] christine eclavea mercer (from livejournal.com)
I'm glad it's you handling these issues. It's a lot to think about. The more I read about your work, the more tricky it seems to become. I'm sure it's been tricky all along - I just didn't know much about it.


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