Are the Police better than regular people?

I always wondered what the “WWJD” on those bumper stickers stood for. I guess now I know that it stands for “What Would Jones Do.”

When I woke up this morning and checked the news I was not surprised to see that a former Narcotics cop had been arrested.  Cops are, after all, regular people.  Regular people can get arrested.

According to the news it looks like they have accused him of skimming some of the seized cash- although that didn’t surprise me either.  Dale Hojnacki is the guy’s name.  I wouldn’t say I know Hojnacki, although I have dealt with him on the witness stand at least 3-4 times in the past few years.  I don’t really know him at all on a personal level, so I can’t say I was either surprised (or expected) to find out he is the accused.

What did surprise me, though, was the comment by his chief.  Among Chief Jones’ comments were that “…I will not tolerate any act that makes him no better than the criminals we arrest on a daily basis.”  Whoa.

I don’t like that.

Apparently the good Chief has never arrested an innocent man. Ever.  And, according to the Chief, one bad decision or horrible lapse in judgement makes any arrested person “not better” than the police.  Even before they’re convicted.  I always wondered what the “WWJD” on those bumper stickers stood for. I guess it stands for “What Would Jones Do.”  Now I have the moral standard-setter I have spent my life looking for.  He is better, after all, than the people he arrests every day.

Newsflash: The people he arrests every day are the people I deal with every day.  Most of them are regular, normal people.  Most of them will never get arrested again.  Most of them will get through their issues without any lasting effects.  Most of the people arrested every day are actually arrested on traffic charges.  You know what they say about driving without a seat belt? It’s a gateway crime.  First you drive without a seat belt, next you’re dressing like “Pogo the Clown” and burying bodies in the crawlspace.  We can’t have that.

Aside from Jones’ comments, I was asked a little bit ago what I thought about this whole Hojnacki arrest.  It seems that people assume that, since the police and guys like me can often have contentious relationships, I’d be excited at the news.  I’m not.  I’ve represented police officers before.  Despite what the good Chief thinks, they’re regular people, too.

Cops have the same rights as everybody else, and I have no problems helping protect them.  If Hojnacki walked into my office tomorrow, I’d help him without reservation.  Even if I have strong opinions about they way police are generally trained, I don’t “hate” them.  There is no doubt that I’m disgusted by what I have seen out of a few of them (and there certainly are a few that shouldn’t be carrying guns on the streets).  I am, however, here to help people (even cops)  with their problems.  And, that’s what I do.

So, while I love to see people exercise their rights upon arrest, I don’t get excited when anybody gets arrested.  It’s not in my nature.  George Zimmerman, the police, my neighbor, that annoying lady down the street, some random person… I don’t care.  I don’t see an arrest as a cause to celebrate.

The fact is that I feel bad for the whole situation.  The life Hojnacki knew is over- whether or not he’s guilty.  If he stole money or didn’t steal money, that’s sad.  The intensity of a criminal arrest for a cop is off-the-meter when compared to a non-cop.  It’s possible to be empathetic without condoning what somebody has done or is accused of doing.  It seems they don’t teach that in Police Chief school.

I get that Chief Jones has a serious potential P.R. nightmare on his hand. I also get that he’s a trained cop- not media relations guy.  I don’t get his comments about being “better” than anybody, though.  If I can be rational enough to make individual judgment calls on the individual police I deal with, shouldn’t he do the same when it comes to the accused?

Seems only fair to me.

Author: matthaiduk

Matt Haiduk is a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois. He loves his dog. And pizza.

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