Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Best Lawyer Money Can Buy

Boston Police badge (Wikipedia)
We have seen time and again that police officers have been given preferential treatment in our justice system. The trend continues, this time involving a Boston police officer. Officer Paul Durkin pleaded guilty on Monday to shooting a fellow officer while off-duty. Apparently, Durkin shot Officer Joseph Behnke for the egregious act of offering the officer a place to stay for the night. You see, Durkin and Behnke had been drinking and Durkin thought it would be a good idea to drive home to Easton from West Roxbury, a 17 mile drive which involves navigating the 93/95 split in Milton which is construction-laden and involves numerous lane shifts. Behnke realized that this was a bad idea and offered Durkin a place to stay, but Durkin insisted on driving. At this point, Behnke pressured his friend to stay, but Durkin was having none of it and, according to the article, "unholstered his service weapon and fired once at close range." What makes this story even crazier, is that once Durkin shot Behnke, he just walked away and arranged to stay at the house of another friend, leaving Behnke's wife to tend to her wounded husband. Durkin was given quite a light sentence - he must be on probation for 3 years and leave the BPD.

The message this sends to the residents of Boston, who are experiencing a spike in gunplay recently, is underwhelming. Here is a cop who was playing around with his government-issued gun while he had a few too many and ends up shooting his friend. This is not some novice policeman; Officer Durkin has been on Boston's police force for 27 years. He is able to court, strike a deal with the prosecutor and get no time whatsoever in a state penitentiary. His probation alone is shorter than some jail sentences that the Boston area has seen in the past involving non-lethal shootings. Not only does Paul Durkin get to avoid jail, but he also gets a city pension because technically he will be voluntarily resigning from his position.

Boston Police car (Hill Holiday's Flickr)
No one seems to want to talk about this case, as Police Commissioner Edward Davis declined an interview and gave a generic "Violence is bad," statement, Durkin would not answer the phone at his home, Durkin's lawyer declined to comment and Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley did not want to be interviewed. No surprise there, as everyone involved most likely knows that Durkin is getting off way too easy and they do not want to draw attention to themselves in the context of this injustice.

It's insulting that Durkin won't end up in jail, and it's just throwing salt in the wound to give him his pension. How are Boston's police expected to control gun violence in the city when their own officers clearly have little regard to the responsibility involved with owning a gun and the courts refuse to punish them when they abuse their power?

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