January 18, 2005

Criminal Procedure (a.k.a. Cops: The Class)

I'm in Criminal Procedure this semester - mainly so I can eventually pass the Cal Bar Exam. I thought it was going to be like Civil Procedure, which teaches you the basic nuts and bolts of what you need to do to sue someone or defend against a suit. However, Crim Pro is apparently about how much cops suck, why we need regulations to (try to) check their powers and how those regulations work. A 1978 study quoted in my book notes that "Neither the amount of police training nor the length of recruit training had a positive effect on attitudes toward "probable cause" limits on searches or toward interrogations - the subject of Miranda . . . However, college educated officers were somewhat less likely to see the rulings are harmful." The author of the study goes on to say that this is due to the fact that legal rulings are communicated to officers in a negative way and officers are encouraged by the superiors to barely follow civil rights standards. While the idea of a systemic problem with police training on respecting citizens' civil rights isn't shocking, the book points out earlier that most cops come from blue collar backgrounds. This makes me think the real source of police attitudes regarding suspects' rights are probably due to strong moral beliefs about good guys and bad guys, as well as an entrenched belief in behaviorism and other fun socially conservative moral beliefs. This seems relatively natural since such beliefs seem almost required to want to go into police work, rather than, say, drug treatment counseling or social work. A 1978 law review article seems to back me up on this, noting that "To police... who view many deviants and lawbreakers are outside the protection of the law, the constant concern for the civil rights of such people makes little sense, unless it reflects moral weakness on the part of the liberals, or more dangerously, is an aspect of a plot to undermine legitimate authority."

Anyway, I really started writing this because I love to give a shout out to my lovely law books when something risqué appears in one of them. This is from a book written in the early 80's about the NYC police, "[Management cops] do not, like the street cops, regard community relations, for example, as "Mickey Mouse bullshit," but as something that must be done for politically expedient reasons if not for social ones." I need to find a way to work that one into the final.


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