Sunday, June 3, 2007

Letter to many Durham Police Officers

The names of many important figures within the Durham Police Department can be found here. It is frankly a little late for any of them to start talking honestly about the case. But late, I think, would be better than never. So I'm sending many of them this letter:

William Jockusch
[street address omitted] (without the xxx)
June 3, 2007

Major B. J. Council
Chief of the Patrol Bureau
Durham Police Department
505 West Chapel Hill Street
Durham, NC 27701

Dear Major Council,

The recent report of your Chief on the Duke Lacrosse Case, and the silence of the rest of the Department, have left many Americans asking: is there one officer in the Durham Police Department with the courage to tell the country the truth about what happened?

I realize that speaking the truth could be personally and professionally very painful for you. You would face scorn from many of your colleagues, and you would certainly anger your Chief. You might even have to leave your job. Furthermore, even without these consequences, the truth itself is a painful thing to face, and speaking it would be painful on a personal level.

However, I also believe that, because this case has received so much national attention, the truth will come out eventually. That pain is going to have to be faced, one way or another. And I believe that in the long run, it will be better for everyone if someone inside your Department has the courage to bring it out.

Furthermore, although it would be painful, and could cost you your job, there are benefits that could come to you for speaking out. I would point you to the example of Sherron Watkins of Enron, who spoke the truth to CEO Ken Lay. Afterwards, Ms. Watkins could not find a job at a major corporation. However, she was also later asked to testify to Congress about her experiences, and she received a warm welcome there. She was written up favorably in Time magazine, and was also written about several times in Fortune (though they did criticize her for failing to take her concerns public before the scandal broke). Last year she was interviewed on BBC. She also wrote a book about her experiences, and she now runs a consulting firm. So, although speaking the truth about Enron carried considerable costs for her, it also conferred her great benefits.

You might ask yourself: if I speak the truth and lose my job, will it do any good? Will I no longer be able to fight crime? Will I be giving up everything I have lived for? My answer is: put yourself in the position of an ordinary juror in an ordinary criminal case. You hear testimony from a police officer. Do you believe it? I submit to you that, if that juror has been following this case, as many Americans have, the police officer (and, for that matter, the prosecutor), will have poor credibility. The juror might still believe them, but it will be more difficult to do so. And, if the jurors don’t believe the prosecutor or the police, a criminal could go free.

Speaking out now will not undo the damage that has been done. But if you do so, that juror will remember that there was at least one police officer who was honest. An officer who was unafraid to speak the painful truth, and to take the heat for doing so.


William Jockusch

No comments: