When Political Leaders Tell You, “Don’t Do Police Work”
By Steve Pomper
Many law enforcement officers are being overcharged or falsely charged with policy violations and, worse, crimes. Suspects are engaging in bad behavior and too many cops are being held responsible for those behaviors. But officers must make sure they don’t become their own worst enemies.
A major reason is because anti-police politicians have created policies that set up cops to fail. Police officers have an instinct and have taken an oath that obliges them to enforce the law. It’s difficult for cops not to enforce legislated laws leaders have arbitrarily nullified.
The New York Daily News recently reported authorities have charged Washington D.C. Metro police officer, Terrence Sutton, with murder. The indictment stemmed from 20-year-old Karon Hylton, on a moped, attempting to elude police officers who were trying to stop him.
Hylton was reportedly riding a motorized vehicle on a sidewalk, which is illegal because it puts pedestrians at risk. The prosecutor has also indicted Sutton’s supervisor, Andrew Zabavsky, for obstruction of justice and conspiracy.
Prosecutors allege the officers attempted to conceal the incident, essentially “cover-up” what should not have been wrong: pursuing a public safety danger. Still, I can’t defend any deception, if the officers engaged in any, regardless of their reasoning. But their example is a cautionary tale for other cops.
When I was still active, I often spoke with other officers about our city, implicitly, not wanting cops to enforce the law. One fellow officer told me she didn’t care and would continue enforcing laws because it was her job. A couple of years later, the city fired her over an incident that didn’t even involve force or any criminal allegations.
The Daily News described, on Oct. 23, 2020, Hylton was riding a moped in a D.C. neighborhood. He was reportedly riding on the sidewalk without a helmet, “which are traffic violations in the nation’s capital.”
Sutton attempted to pull Hylton over, as cops do—in a sane world. However, Hylton refused to stop, thus committing his third violation: not stopping for the police. People should understand regardless of what cop critics say, officers don’t pursue suspects for “minor traffic offenses.” Cops pursue criminals who refuse to stop and attempt to elude the police.
Zabavsky joined Sutton in the pursuit. Speeds reportedly “reached up to 45 mph” and continued for “10 blocks.” The Daily News reported, “As Hylton came to an intersection, he was struck by an oncoming civilian van and suffered serious injuries. He died from those injuries two days later.”
It’s so obvious to thinking people that Hylton died primarily from his own foolishness. Putting people in danger driving on the sidewalk, running from the cops, and then riding into an intersection unsafely, causing a collision with another vehicle, is why he died. He had the power to stop at any time before he crashed.
Here is where leftist politicians comes into play. “D.C. policy rulesprohibit officers from engaging in car chases for traffic violations.” It’s interesting to note officials have, in part, charged the officer with a crime after allegedly violating department rules. However, some other alleged officers’ actions, after the collision, if true, may be less defensible.
Prosecutors allege the officers did not immediately report the collision, turned off their body cameras, so they could hold a private conversation. They also say, once back at the precinct, the officers gave a “misleading account” of the incident and “didn’t mention Sutton’s pursuit….”
The indictment claims Zabavsky eventually provided details to his supervisors after he became aware Hylton had a fractured skull and was on a ventilator. The Daily News reported this has led to a department and a DOJ investigation. Both officers pleaded not guilty, and the department will likely suspend them without pay.
Cops must understand, no matter how powerful their instincts, it’s clear many political leaders in leftist jurisdictions don’t want cops to enforce some laws. And these leaders don’t seem to care if they’re putting law-abiding people at risk.
A couple of decades ago (yes, our city’s socialists were ahead of their time), our department instituted a policy against arresting people caught in stolen cars, even if they bailed out and ran. They said we couldn’t “prove” the driver knew the car was stolen (Yeah, my head hurts too). During one shift, my partner and I had stopped a reported stolen car. Incidentally, we had a county prosecutor (one of the good ones) riding along with us that day.
Sitting behind that suspect vehicle, we did one of the hardest things we ever had to do, after the driver and a passenger jumped out and ran away between the houses. Every instinct screamed for us to chase them. But we knew if it developed into a use of force, we, not the suspects, would be held accountable for the suspects’ actions. We could have been in those D.C. cops’ positions.
But it seems the officers may not have taken responsibility for violating department policy because they’re cops, and their job is to catch bad guys. If the reporting is correct (or even if it’s not), as reported, this incident serves as a cautionary tale for cops in anti-cop leftist cities. Your leaders do not care about you. They will defend a violent felon even (or especially) if it means firing you or sending you to prison.
Please, don’t hand them the rope they can use to hang you. Don’t violate even stupid policies and, if you absolutely can’t help yourself and violate a stupid policy, at least stand behind your actions. Remember, it’s not the original incident that’ll get you; it’s the coverup. Don’t relinquish your moral authority.