Bad cops: When the police can’t be trusted, we are all endangered

It is one of the nightmares of a free society when bad cops break their oaths and crush the very laws they are sworn to uphold.

That’s what happened recently in Camden, N.J., when one Camden police officer pleaded guilty in March to federal conspiracy charges. According to reports in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the officer and at least four of his fellow officers “planted evidence and threatened suspects with arrest if they did not provide information about drug dealers,” according to the paper.

Close-up of a police badge

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Worse, these actions by the rogue officers, which also included writing false police arrest reports and falsely testifying in court, meant that hundreds of people went to jail on trumped-up charges. Since an investigation into the incidents began late last year, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office overturned 185 of the tainted convictions, according to The Inquirer. Many of those prisoners, including many with criminal records, have since been freed from prison.

“The simple fact is that the questions raised about these officers’ conduct left us with no confidence in the evidence supporting the charges,” Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk told the Philadelphia Daily News in a story in March. “We couldn’t say with certainty which cases were grounded in proper, legal police work and which were not. As a result, we had no choice but to dismiss all cases closely associated with these police officers.”

In the aftermath of this travesty, the legal team at MyPhillyLawyer is representing at least one of the improperly-imprisoned persons.

The covert actions by these out-of-control police officers is absolutely inexcusable. Their conduct violates the rights of every one of the suspects who were arrested and charged with crimes in Camden.

The impact of their conduct on the almost 200 victims and on the community is immeasurable. Some of the suspects likely committed some of the crimes in which they were charged, but by piling on false evidence and bolstering the charges illegally, the officers devalued our system of justice and tried to become cops, judges and juries, all at once. It is completely and utterly outrageous and their conduct has to be punished to the full extent of state and federal laws.

The conduct of the rogue officers has been under investigation since the summer of 2008 and has been the focus of an on-going federal probe, according to the papers.

The legal system has yet to deal with the other officers involved in the cases, but that will happen.

In the meantime, those who were illegally imprisoned and falsely accused continue to piece together their lives after being victimized by these bad cops.

Yes, some of these suspects would possibly have been found guilty of some of the charges had the police simply arrested them and processed them on the evidence and information they had legally gathered. That’s not, however, the issue in these cases.

The true issue is that if these bad cops could arrest and charge these individuals and stack up illegal evidence against them, they could have done it to anyone – to any of us. We are all victims when incidents like this occur. And we must demand from our governments and courts that these kinds of illegal acts shall never happen again.

The Camden Police Department and the Camden County District Attorney’s Office must continue to push hard in the investigations of these cases and get to the bottom of them so that no bad cops go unpunished.

Our system of justice only works when actions like these are not tolerated and when every citizen can respect the actions of our law enforcement agencies and personnel.

This cannot happen again in Camden or anywhere else across this nation.