Sunday, August 9, 2009

Crime isn't about you. It's about us.

A toddler and a man were injured in a drive by shooting at 54th and Highland on Friday night. This is the kind of story I can't blog right away because the details cause my mind to go off in different directions. 40 people were hanging out in the front yard around 8 pm. The shooting victims were on the sidewalk, with the toddler in the man's arms. The linchpin of oddness in this story is the comment from Capt. Lockhardt that the man does not want to prosecute.

My initial response to his disinterest in prosecution was to assume that the man (not seriously injured) knows who shot him and has every intention of carrying out his own prosecution. But then I got distracted, wondering what are the odds the shooters hit their intended target? I don't associate our local criminal class with good marksmanship. Someone else suggested to me that the man may have been using the toddler as a shield. Did the shooter really intend to harm that particular man and intentionally shoot through a damn child to do it? What's really going on here?

The NBC story described the location as being near the Rockhurst campus. I don't know if they did that to aid the viewer in grasping the location, or to signal that it was close to the concerns of whitey, or to inspire hush hush payoffs from the Jesuits.

Anyway, back to the announcement that the adult male does not want to prosecute. Never mind why the guy feels that way, why on earth did Lockhart include that detail? That stand alone quote leaves the reader with the impression that this situation is handled similarly to the shopkeeper who busted someone stealing. I'm not familiar with the inner protocols of the KCPD, but I am familiar with elements of proof. The Prosecutor does not require the victim's cooperation to prove that he was shot. They can call the doctor who removed the bullet from him.

Victims refusing to cooperate with the police can substantially hinder prosecution. And in cases like theft or assault, it's practical to let the people involved say "I don't want to press charges." We have limited resources for law enforcement and they're better spent prosecuting crimes where the victim feels aggreived. Psychologically, one can choose not to be a victim. But under the law, you really don't get to choose. Because when you get shot, it's not just an offense to you personally, it is an offense to public order.

Prosecutors love standing in front of juries and explaining how they are there on behalf of the state. I've known former federal prosecutors who've said that they never lost that sense of thrill from saying "Appearing on behalf of the people of the United States." It's that sense of doing something bigger than redressing individual wrongs. Criminal prosecutions are not about getting justice for individuals, they are about justice for us all. They are about defending the security within which we exercise our freedoms. And when a man who has been shot states he doesn't want to prosecute, he's not merely waiving off the protection of the state, he's waiving off the security of his fellow citizens.

Given that, people are understandably angry at the man. Some commentors are confused and think this means nothing can be done to prosecute the shooters on behalf of the little girl. Now, we have little information about how much cooperation the police received from the witnesses, and that's a whole nother bag of worms. But we do know that Capt. Rich Lockhart is KCPD's information officer. Exactly what information was he trying to communicate with the "does not want to prosecute" tidbit other than a big ol F you to the community from that victim? Was that really constructive?

If someone calls Lockhart up in a few months and asks "why have there been no arrests in the shooting of that poor little girl?" I can understand him then saying that the investigation has been stalled by a lack of cooperation from the witnesses. But why set it up at the start like that? Why leave readers with the impression that absolutely nothing is going to be done about this horrible crime? I really don't get it.

1 comment:

  1. Love your perspective on the law. It's a shame, and perhaps the KCPD's statement is meant to encourage people to break the silence, i.e. create outrage?

    I don't know.