Last week I was a juror in the trial of a man accused of selling a $10 bag of heroin to an undercover police officer. At the end of the two days of testimony, I concluded that the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I also concluded that he should be acquitted.
In my mind, it came down to a simple, unsettling question: Is it worse to let a drug dealer go free, or to reward the police for lying under oath?
The reporter's statement "...the willingness to cheat, I think, is a poisonous corruption of a system designed to protect the innocent at the risk of occasionally letting the guilty walk free. It's a good system, fundamental to freedom. I think a police officer willing to cheat is more dangerous than a two-bit drug peddler." pretty well sums up the basis of the issue.
Far too many police believe that the end justifies the means. But where do they find support for that belief? Part of the answer lies in the message from elected officials and citizens - get tough on criminals. But when the cops do get tough, they sometimes receive mixed messages like this one from the jury and the prosecutor.
The other interesting aspect of this story was the insight into the "war on drugs." Has the war evolved to the point of contributing to the corruption of the police mission? Do we understand the impact of a "few bad apples" on the public's perception of the police? What about the financial costs of drug prohibition?
It's time to step back analyze the impact of the policy that produces acts such as this one before more damage is done to public confidence.