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Betrayal of the Public Trust

Wayne Lutz

Mr. Lutz is the editor, publisher and chief writer of The Tocquevillian magazine. He also writes and maintains a fitness website, and has been widely published in print media and on the web, mostly on health and fitness topics and on men's issues.

He is a member of the NRA, the Home School Legal Defense Association, the Heritage Foundation, and Judicial Watch. In his spare time he helps old ladies cross the street and is kind to children and puppies - habits which, admittedly, belie his unusual appearance.

Mr. Lutz is available to conservative organizations for speaking engagements, and may be reached at eic @ tocquevillian.com

by Wayne Lutz
August 19th, 2001

The courtroom dated back to the early 20th century and was as beautiful as it was imposing. The ceilings loomed far overhead, ornately carved and painted with murals. Behind the judge's bench, dwarfing it, were gigantic paintings depicting scenes from the Revolutionary War, the war that won the American right to fair and impartial treatment before the courts.

I did not whine, complain or make excuses when I received my latest summons to jury duty. I consider it a privilege to serve in this way, and I've done so in the past to the best of my ability. But there was something different this time, and the difference lay within me, I knew.

As a conservative I am an ardent supporter of the police and law and order. The United States is a nation of laws, and it is the immutability of these laws that makes us a free people, governed by laws and endowed by our Creator with natural rights, as opposed to those unfortunates in other times or other nations who bow before the tyranny of popular whim or are crushed by the power of dictatorial evil.

The defendant in this case was a young man who had been accused by the Pennsylvania State Police of driving under the influence of alcohol. Open and shut case – the judge assured the jury pool with a smile that he did not expect the trial to last for more than a couple of hours – a day at most. No problem, you'll be back in front of your TV sets before you know it.

I sat in the back row of the pool of potential jurors, number 43 of 43, as the judge asked questions. Anyone responding in the negative was to raise the card with his juror number into the air, at which time he would be given the opportunity to explain himself, publicly or later in the judge's chambers if the answer might be sensitive.

Any reason why one cannot serve? Does anyone know the defendant personally? Anyone familiar with the case?

Is there anyone who would not be able to weigh the testimony of a police officer objectively – or would you automatically assume truth, simply because he is a police officer?

Ah. Sorry, Judge, ol' buddy, but in my case, the opposite would be true, although that question wasn't asked.

Now, before you dismiss me as an anarchist cop-hater, let me assure you that nothing could be farther from the truth. I admire, and, as I said, support the men and women who put their lives on the line each day for our protection – especially given the meager returns for their sacrifices. A man who I consider a close friend is a police officer in New York, and a more solid, honest, hard-working man I've never met.

Here comes the "but."

I have personally witnessed, not just once, but repeatedly, police officers lying under oath, for no better apparent reason than that it was expedient for them to do so. I have seen police officers lie with bland, matter-of-fact ease – an ease that indicated to me that it was nothing new, that it was routine.

My own experience is with the police officers in just one major American city. And my experiences are anecdotal, of course. I have no data on which to draw that would point to a pervasive problem with the honesty of police officers – I have only my own experience.

But it is personal experience that forms perceptions, and perceptions are what count in the court of public opinion. My perception is that police officers cannot be trusted to tell the truth in court, that they are more likely to lie than not – and I come by that perception honestly.

So what's the big deal? Everyone lies. There are good apples and bad apples in any profession – good and bad roofers, good and bad writers, good and bad cops. But writers and roofers have not taken an oath that holds them in the public trust, cops, politicians, clergy – they have. Not that this excuses lies from roofers and writers. It does not. But when a roofer or a writer lies, as loathsome as any self-serving lie is, he has not violated the public trust, as a police officer or an elected official would.

These are the men and women in whom we have placed our faith in the integrity of the system designed to serve and protect us. When that integrity cracks, the entire system is in danger of collapse.

For that reason, police officers, like elected officials, must be held to a higher standard of ethical conduct than other citizens. When a police officer lies under oath, or when an elected official deliberately obstructs justice, he has destroyed the credibility of his entire profession, perhaps irrevocably. He has isolated himself from those upon whom he depends and who depend on him and created a "them against us" mentality. When lies become commonplace among those in "authority", they have forfeited any right to be indignant when public opinion turns against them.

I answered the court's questions honestly. Needless to say, I was not chosen for the jury. Being the honest guy that I am, I may never sit on a jury again. It's a shameful indictment of the state of our culture when honesty becomes a disqualifier for public service.

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"...Is there anyone who would not be able to weigh the testimony of a police officer objectively , or would you automatically assume truth, simply because he is a police officer?..."

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