It is always a distressing thought to consider that police officers trained with the motto, “to serve and protect” are capable of becoming the victimizers of lawful citizens. However, that unfortunate reality is exactly what has taken place within Indianapolis this past week with the trial conviction of Indianapolis Metro Police Officer David Butler.
Former police officer Butler has been convicted of both Robbery as well as Official Misconduct for his active role in extorting money from Hispanic motorists he would stop during the course of traffic stops. Butler’s routine mode of operation would be to direct his attention to Hispanic occupants of vehicles; individuals he suspected could be vulnerable to potential immigration problems. After stopping such vehicles, trial testimony illicited indicated that he would search the automobiles in search of valuables most notably cash. Men subject to these “searches” testified to missing thousands of dollars of cash from their wallets and/or vehicles.
For vulnerable individuals the prospect of having to confront a traffic cop with accusations of this nature could be a terrifying experience. Many are reluctant to believe such assertions against a police officer. In fact, the guilty verdict came after the first jury trial directed against Butler resulted in a mistrial as jurors could not agree on the allegations bearing upon Butler’s culpability in this shakedown of Hispanic motorists.
Utilizing my perspective of Indianapolis as a defense lawyer, I find it curious as to how media outlets have chosen to report on this story. Not only has it appeared to be underreported but the headlines typically highlight the term “Officisal Misconduct” as opposed to the clear cut acts of Robbery that Butler took great pains to commit.
For recently appointed Indanapolis Police Chief Rick Hite, this has been one of the first significant public relations challenges to be dropped in his lap. By way of pure speculation it would not be beyond the pale to suggest that the new Chief has been given a “honeymoon” period by the press in return for future access to news events to be developed during his newfound control over the department.
The next such development to be responded to will be in the wake of Butler’s sentencing now set for February 22, where the former officer faces up to sixteen years behind bars. How Butler is sentenced will go a long way toward Chief Hite’s next challenge in demonstrating to the public that the new force under his command will be lead with policies determined to root out the presence of active criminals under his control.
Such incidents should continue to ensure that motorists are ever vigilant in protecting themselves in whatever way they can when met with the challenge of confronting police abuse and/or misconduct. Should one be in the unenviable position of having to consider reporting such misconduct, it is always a prudent move to discuss the proper course of action with a defense attorney experienced in such matters.
I am always of the belief that pro actively reporting such activity through email, facsimile or even recorded calls will establish a firm proven timeline with which a citizen can rely to head off potential credibility challenges down the road. Once again, to meet such a challenge effectively please take the time to consider a well thought out plan of response with experienced legal counsel.