In our country, we are proud of saying we have the finest justice system in the world. In my opinion, we have a great foundation to build upon. That it is not perfect should be evident. I’m no lawyer, so I am relying on my own observations over seven decades of living the American dream.
Providing justice for society requires establishing laws to guide judges, prosecutors, lawyers, enforcement officers, and the public in navigating the freedoms and boundaries agreed upon by the people’s consent. Laws should be guideposts, not absolutes. Police, prosecutors, and judges should be trained in such a way as to use wise judgment while enforcing those laws. A society in which rules are rigid and unbending is likely to fail.
I was reminded of the movie Les Misérables. In this version, Javert, played by Russell Crowe, was a prison workforce supervisor, rigid in his application of the law. He failed to see that the man he pursued doggedly had fully reformed and had provided employment to dozens who otherwise would have been living on the street. His past crime was stealing a loaf of bread while starving. He’d already served nineteen years of hard labor. Javert could only see that he’d broken probation after serving his full term. It might seem Javert was an evil man, but it was clear that he was only a product of an inflexible system. He did his duty as he understood the law and by what he saw as the “will of God.”
The application of laws and justice must allow for mercy, forgiveness, penance, or amends, as deemed appropriate at any level. Mandatory sentences, or ones unduly harsh, work against true justice. In any instance, justice for the proven offender should be about consequences for violating the law. Judges should ask themselves, “Which specific action can I take to benefit society and the individual the most?” They must take a discerning look and assess the full situation. Some seem sensible, locking the guilty away for life. For others, justice might be served better by having the guilty make amends and reparation to the victim. Judges at any level should only be evaluated for their knowledge of the law, their temperament for justice, and their ability to correctly assess those actions best suited to the needs of society and the individual as well.
Prosecutors should be evaluated on their ability to correctly charge offenders, not promoted or rewarded for the number of convictions only. Seeking the exact truth should be their primary goal. Testing and training of police officers should be thorough in dealing with every situation they might become involved in, not limited to only laws and public rights. Those who can’t handle the stress, allow fear to cloud their judgment, are unable to assess changing conditions accurately, and react accordingly should be washed out during initial training. When I served in the military, basic training took thirteen weeks. A few unsuitable recruits were sent home. It’s better to know in advance those not suited to the job before the future officer or citizen suffers the consequences.
In my opinion, each applicant for police work should be evaluated and trained at a state facility for that specific purpose. It would be far more effective, standardized, and professional to train at one location. A well-trained, motivated, and resourceful professional police officer is worth more than ten inadequately trained ones.
One riot, one Texas Ranger.