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Police and the history of "street justice"

 You don't hear the term, "street justice", much anymore, but it was used and practiced when I started my law enforcement career in the early 70's. On my very first arrest for public dunkenness, the veteran booking officer at the neighboring police department came around the counter and punched my prisoner in the face for no apparent reason. The unfortunate drunk fell to the floor with blood flowing from his nose (per U. S. Department of Justice):


"Street justice is a police response to a community mandate calling for action to be taken when formal institutions will not or cannot respond for various reasons. This street justice function has created widespread concern, particularly when police officers simultaneously display ethnic or racial prejudice."

Street justice was dealt by a number of officers, and hardly a peep was heard from the victims, their families or the media. Things changed in the ensuing years, and particularly in liberal Massachusetts, there were penalties for officers crossing such a line.

I was responsible for the firing of three of my officers for wrongdoings during my law enforcement stint, one of which involved physical abuse of a prisoner. In that specific case, officers stepped forward to report the abuse, and the firing was successful. That made all the difference.

Now comes the tragic, and horrific, death of Tyre Nichols. The five officers, all black, have been charged with murder in the beating of Nichols, who is also black. The body cam videos have been released, and they visibly tell a tale that never should have happened. What possessed these officers to dispense street justice in such a horrific and deadly manner? Time for a reset on the violence that has become so common in our society of late - at all levels.


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