When Police & Prosecutors Are Partners in Crime (Part 1)
The Testimony of Spooky Brown, Esq. (Second Series)
For the start of the First Series, click here.
(Part 1 of 4)*
I Will End You!
“What are you doing to represent us?”
A chubby Latino uttered these words to me as he repeatedly jabbed his right index finger into my chest. The last jab forced me to step back a bit. He was a smelly mess — reeking of cigarettes and Old Spice.
“Aren’t you supposed to be on our side?”
He was now five inches from my face, so much so that I had to turn my head sideways to prevent our lips from touching.
Unfortunately, I had to restrain myself since we stood in the back of a crowded courtroom in my professional capacity as a deputy district attorney. As a representative of the People of the State of California, I had to keep my cool.
Plus, the man in my face was a police officer — a detective who had no problem “fucking” with my career if I didn’t show him “some respect.”
I was in court that day because a colleague called in sick; I later learned that my colleague did that to avoid this particular detective. He was upset because I allowed the defense to reschedule a trial, without his permission, for a case that he was investigating.
After he got in my face, I calmly asked him to step outside the courtroom to discuss the matter further. Outside, there were five other officers waiting for me: one was Black, two were White, and one was Latino. They all surrounded me as the detective, once more, threatened to end my career.
While I wasn’t physically afraid, I knew to tread with caution because a complaint from a police officer to a supervisor or the District Attorney would surely cause problems for me. This was the case even if the officer was wrong.
One popular way to punish line prosecutors was to give them “freeway therapy.” I’d heard of several colleagues who were transferred to assignments far from their homes after a complaint from a dissatisfied police officer. Such punishment could add several hours to one’s commute, disrupting child care routines for deputy district attorneys with families.
In other situations, colleagues were transferred to less desirable assignments, left to languish with absolutely no hope of getting promoted.
For supervisors who challenged police officers and their practices, many were stripped of their positions and relegated to filing cases, the absolute worst job for an ambitious prosecutor. This humiliating tactic was the office’s way of sending you out to pasture, hoping that you’d either retire or resign.
So, in an effort to reduce the tension, I spoke to the detective in a respectful tone. He, on the other hand, continued chastising me like a little child. As the investigating officer on the case, he was “tired of all these continuances.”
He pointed at the other officers, claiming that the “animal” almost killed “his guys.” He wanted the maximum punishment for the defendant, and he wanted him to go to state prison “as soon as possible.”
As he talked, I could see his fellow officers looking at each other and nodding their heads.
“Oh boy,” I thought. “These dudes want motherfucking blood.”
*The opinions here do not reflect the official views of the L.A. District Attorney’s Office, my current employer. To avoid fierce harassment and oppressive retaliation, I’ve decided to conceal my identity, for now.