It is with deep regret that a bad apple has once again tainted the honor and integrity of the hardworking men and women within the Fullerton Police Department.
On November 1, a former Fullerton corporal plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of destroying evidence and another misdemeanor for vandalism. He was charged for smashing the only audio recording of his arrest of a man for suspicion of DUI–only to have that man tragically take his own life in jail after he was booked.
This news is especially disheartening since Audio Recordings are so essential to police duties — as well as for the integrity of both defense and prosecutorial investigations.
Countless times, defense lawyers attempt to obtain recordings of arrests in order to discover whether or not important civil and constitutional rights were preserved and to get a great glimpse into the investigative tactics used to arrest someone.
Many times, we find that the police work that was done was much better than what the accused feel was unfair–which helps get to the truth and find a just settlement to the case. This saves a lot of time in court. It also helps juries because they no longer will have to listen to cases that should not be litigated.
Other times, we may find horrendous violations of people’s rights to privacy and dignity. To put it all in perspective, everyone is shocked when they see a video tape of officers brutally beating someone that has no chance AFTER there has already been an arrest for Resisting an Officer or Battery against an Officer. These videos are diamonds within the legal landscape of finding credible witnesses. With audio recordings, it is not as powerful–but still incredibly helpful to hear what kinds of statements are used and what kind of behavior is revealed at the time of an arrest or investigation.
In fact, there are countless instances where the lack of audio recordings place enormous doubt into the honesty of investigations–where law enforcement agencies nation-wide have found serious police officer violations when recordings are claimed to not exist. Sometimes, it is revealed that there were in fact recordings–and a cover up is eventually exposed. Unfortunately, this occurs only after countless efforts are made into Internal Investigations where it is finally discovered.
It comes to mind that with news like this, it is no wonder that more civilians are taking investigative work into their own hands by recording police with their phones in order to preserve some kind of evidence. This is very unfortunate. Since it probably would not be this way if not for the few bad apples that violate the position of trust in the community.
As in many cases, there are so many unsung heroes in so many police departments that begin recording their encounters with every person they meet so that they can cover their bases when someone falsely accuses them of misconduct. These diligent officers are the ones you rarely hear about because their good habits ensure that evidence points to the truth and is revealed early on. This of course, saves everyone a lot of time and heartache. For those who don’t practice these important and fundamental steps–we are all left with embarrassing stories such as those that make our jobs in the justice system more and more difficult.