Organized Crime as Police Department?

It is a really convenient situation for the United States to have Puerto Rico nearby. We can divert people from noticing our sins by pointing the finger at theirs.

Don’t get me wrong. Their problems need to be fixed. But it is amazing to me how many people (I imagine) can read this story and not wonder about what is going on in their own municipality.

From CNN Justice: “Puerto Rican police indicted for running ‘criminal organization’”

Sixteen current and former police officers in Puerto Rico are being indicted for allegedly participating in a “criminal organization, run out of the police department,” the U.S. Department of Justice said Thursday.

The officers allegedly “used their affiliation with law enforcement to make money through robbery, extortion, manipulating court records and selling illegal narcotics,” prosecutors announced.

“The criminal action today dismantles an entire network of officers who, we allege, used their badges and their guns not to uphold the law, but to break it,” Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. O’Neil said in a statement.

Corruption has dogged the island’s police force in recent years.

Yes it has.

But I wonder if people will read this and tsk tsk about an island where things are bad. Or will they consider what might be happening locally and nationally that is not reported in the media?

I often wonder the same thing about law enforcement dramas on network television. Invariably they show an individual or a team that is super competent and super dedicated. They make one think the police could do no wrong. But in every show eventually one finds the wider department is full of people who oppose the heroes of the show. They are corrupt and ambitious, arrogant and incompetent. I keep hoping people who watch such shows figure out which part is escapist fantasy and who is based on bureaucratic reality.

So, here, instead of asking why Puerto Rico has it so bad, why don’t we ask instead, “Why would career criminals want to have a career in law enforcement?”

As soon as you ask that question you know the answer. A criminal with a badge has an easy way to stop his competition (selectively enforcing the law) and little chance of being caught. I have been told that there are three kinds of people in the world—wolves, sheep, and watchdogs. But I can’t help but think that the smartest wolves would try to get the job of watchdog.

That’s why, the places known for the biggest government in the U.S. are also known for the worst corruption. That’s also why some of our greatest presidents are also our most criminal. The more power a police department or a government has, the more it attracts career criminals.