Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs President Wayne Quint were both furious – Wayne had steam coming out of his ears, according to one associate – at District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, and more specifically at his press spokesperson, Susan Schroeder, for a few matter-of-fact comments she made after a recent mistrial. When asked why the office was not going to retry the excessive force case against a deputy who used a Taser on a handcuffed suspect, she gave an honest answer: "We argued in closing arguments that we felt there was a code of silence – what is it? A thin blue line. We're very disappointed. … It's very important for the District Attorney's Office to have ethical and law-abiding law enforcement officers."
The D.A. believes OC deputies had "blue amnesia" – they lied, or conveniently "forgot" critical facts – when testifying in a case involving one of their own. It's the latest incident in a string of cases involving sheriff's deputies who allegedly covered up for their misbehaving colleagues, ranging from the D.A.'s allegations of departmental perjury and witness tampering following the John Chamberlain jail murder in October 2006 to the possible cover-up by sheriff's officials of a deputy, Gerald Stenger, accused last year of child molestation.
The jury voted to acquit the Taser-happy cop, Christopher Hibbs, by an 11-1 verdict. According to Rackauckas, speaking at a press conference on May 12, it did so because the key witnesses changed their stories.
Deputies painted a clear picture of Hibbs and his Taser abuse in an internal investigation and before the grand jury. But they told differing accounts of the event once the trial got under way. The public knows that cops frown on "ratting out" one another, even though this undermines the rule of law. While a "code of silence" is no surprise, the sheriff's overreaction to a few words certainly is surprising.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Steven Greenhut Exposes the Blue Wall of Silence
It seems that Durham, North Carolina, is not the only place where the "Blue Wall of Silence" of the police exists. Steven Greenhut, an editorial writer and columnist for the Orange County Register, writes about a recent incident in Orange County, California: