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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Truth: The Greatest Ally of the Powerless In Portsmouth

"The powerful have no need of intrinsic worth, for they have the means to create and rely upon more convenient values - wealth, prestige, 'success.' Truth is above all the ally of the powerless, because no bully can take the truth away from him. That is what it means to say that truth has intrinsic worth - its worth cannot be taken away."
--Saul Tobin, philosopher, composer, writer

Is there intrinsic value in the truth? In other words, does the truth have value relating to its essential nature or "for its own self"? Although we seem to live in a world where the truth, in itself, has less and less value to the masses, a person's "word" has traditionally been his sacred bond fueled by constant integrity. In our world, it may seem the truth pales as power and greed overtake those bent on personal gain. Yet, truth is definite and certain without the slightest compromise.

Winston Churchill once said, "The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is."

Tobin relates, "Other values bow before power, but truth cares not who you are or what you have accomplished, only the correctness of the content of your speech and thought. No person is infallible. Therefore, to seek truth is to be constantly humble, willing to adjust one's beliefs in the face of the absolute. The arrogant, whatever they espouse, can do no more than pay lip service to truth."
 (Saul Tobin. "Is there intrinsic value in the truth?"

People respect a truthful voice -- it illuminates pure motives, and it helps establish a wholeness of personality. For a person without the benefits of class and privilege, the truth is a golden possession in a world full of deception and opposition. A truthful individual finds peace of mind in the knowing of his personal veracity.

Nevertheless ...

All it takes for an honest person to question everything is the first incomprehensible lie he faces from another. Our justice system, enforcement community, and political office holders relentlessly lie to maintain control and to gain power. They do it routinely without realizing the devastating results. The lack of respect held by the public for these vaulted protectors of justice dies with the first falsehood told from a representation of a trusted organization.

In my own town of Portsmouth in Scioto County, Ohio, I faced the realization that there is no equality of justice when ...

I was shocked to hear a state enforcement officer lie in court under oath.

I was in disbelief to discover that officials from the police department redact information and reformulate justice to protect their chosen allies.

I was devastated to hear lies from high-ranking enforcement officers about how "things would be taken care of" and about "how indictments had been made."

I was conveniently dismissed from receiving redress without being given ample reason or sufficient opportunity to reveal the falsehoods of certain authorities.  

I couldn't believe how the system used lie after lie merely to appease people like me who evidently threatened to uncover deceit and unlawful behavior. It is no secret the lack of transparency in my county is maintained by little "white lies" and major perjury.  

I understand what Tobin believes when he says "the powerful have no need of intrinsic worth, for they have the means to create and rely upon more convenient values - wealth, prestige, 'success.'" My town is controlled by politics and good old boys, so deception by enforcement likely stems from lack or veracity from on high.
Michelle Alexander of The New York Times says this of police deception:

"Are police officers necessarily more trustworthy than alleged criminals? I think not. Not just because the police have a special inclination toward confabulation, but because, disturbingly, they have an incentive to lie. In this era of mass incarceration, the police shouldn’t be trusted any more than any other witness, perhaps less so....

"In September it was reported that the Bronx district attorney’s office was so alarmed by police lying that it decided to stop prosecuting people who were stopped and arrested for trespassing at public housing projects, unless prosecutors first interviewed the arresting officer to ensure the arrest was actually warranted. Jeannette Rucker, the chief of arraignments for the Bronx district attorney, explained in a letter that it had become apparent that the police were arresting people even when there was convincing evidence that they were innocent."

(Michelle Alexander. "Why Police Lie Under Oath." The New York Times. February 02, 2013.)

Peter Keane, a former San Francisco Police commissioner, wrote an article in The San Francisco Chronicle decrying a police culture that treats lying as the norm. In his article, Keane gave these two major reasons the police lie so much:

* "First, because they can. Police officers 'know that in a swearing match between a drug defendant and a police officer, the judge always rules in favor of the officer.' At worst, the case will be dismissed, but the officer is free to continue business as usual."

* "Second, criminal defendants are typically poor and uneducated, often belong to a racial minority, and often have a criminal record.  'Police know that no one cares about these people,' Mr. Keane explained."

(Peter Keane. "Why cops lie." San Francisco Chronicle. March 15, 2011.)

When police officers lie to the public and even lie to judges and juries, it's because they know they can speak falsely with impunity. In the criminal justice system, too often it's like the old saying: "the foxes are guarding the hen house." 

True, a finding of dishonesty can carry major professional consequences for an officer. Yet, consider a judge who thinks an officer’s testimony is not that believable, but who is not certain, so the judge errs on the side of crediting the officer because of the severe consequences to the officer. Thus, the severe consequences to being caught lying likely cause judges to underenforce the requirement of honesty.

Lies have devastating impact on the population. Today, there are 7.5 million people under the control of the U.S. criminal justice system and countless more impacted by the kidnapping and caging of their family members, loved ones, employers, employees, coworkers, and neighbors. The disproportional impact on demographic groups with darker skin -- primarily people perceived to be Black, Latino/a or Muslim -- has been well documented. Certainly, police deceit, which should be intolerable, is a factor in many incarcerations.

As misrepresentation, deception, and outright lying appear to be part of a police officer’s job description, the term testilying, is now common vernacular for police falsifications. The term was actually coined by NYPD officers as something of an inside joke.

Nick Malinowski of the Brooklyn Defender Services claims "testilying," even done in the interest of public order, or some imagined ideal of keeping the bad guys off the streets, has wretched results. Malinowski says ...

"It is the exception, not the rule, that these lies are exposed by judges or prosecutors in the courtroom for the public to consider (for the defendants the lies are quite apparent), and the results, when it happens, are twisted."
(Nick Malinowski. "Testilying: Cops Are Liars Who Get Away with Perjury." February 03, 2013.)

Most devastating of all, lies from powerful groups formed to safeguard the public -- groups such as enforcement officers and court officials -- obliterate all trust in government. Without sufficient trust, citizens "without power" become hopeless individuals forever distrusting those institutions meant to provide equality of justice. This has happened in Southern Ohio, in Scioto County, in Portsmouth.

You can write it off as a few bad apples or as a matter of irresponsible leadership. Still, you must ask yourself if the present population is more accepting of pathological liars because society is simply indifferent to the problem, or perhaps, because they are totally brainwashed under the control of deceitful authorities. 

Exposing police lying is difficult largely because it is rare for the police to admit their own lies or to acknowledge the lies of other officers. Part of this reluctance derives from the code of silence that governs police practice and from the ways in which the system of mass incarceration is structured to reward dishonesty.

I know this: Those who believe in the intrinsic value of the truth will not compromise their belief. It is too important for their ability to live with themselves. Yes, I do believe truth, in all its simple virtue, is the greatest ally of the powerless.

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