The American people are continually told several things by law enforcement personnel in this country.
We are informed that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” when charged with crimes; that we are to submit to any and all directions by police officers at any time; and that cops are held to higher standards than the public at large.
All three of these statements are often proven false as illustrated by a recent case out of Baltimore County, Maryland, another “officer of the year” gone bad after he tried to use his badge to rip off a local drug dealer.
Baltimore County police officer Joseph Harden was caught last July attempting to break down the door of a local drug dealer to obtain narcotic painkillers. Worse, Harden allegedly announced that he was a cop during his break-in, so that the people inside would immediately surrender and follow his commands.
That is just about the highest abuse of their authority an officer can commit as people have mostly been conditioned to follow any and all officer directions. Anyone who misuses this high level of power for personal gain, especially to facilitate other crimes, should be punished to the fullest extent of the law as the officer is guilty of breaking the public’s trust.
Sadly, none of that happened here, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Because Harden broke into the house with the specific intent to steal drugs, he should be at least guilty of 3rd degree burglary, defined in Maryland as “the breaking and entering of a dwelling of another person with the intent to commit any crime”, which is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
In fact, he was initially charged with attempted robbery, which carries a maximum 15 year sentence.
And none of the earlier news reported indicated whether or not he had a gun, but he was wearing a badge around his neck when he was arrested, even though he was off-duty at the time.
But if he was armed, and we should assume he was armed, he could have been charged with attempted armed robbery, carrying a maximum sentence of up to 20 years.
But instead of being prosecuted for any felonies and despite Harden knowing quite well both the criminal nature of his actions as well as the penalties for committing them, he was allowed to plead guilty to attempted 4th degree burglary and possession of oxycodone, two misdemeanors.
And he will serve no jail time.
Harden will merely remain on probation for two years and have to perform 100 hours of community service, a trifling penalty for his crimes, a break that almost any other citizen certainly would not receive.
As long as police officers are not held to the same standards as the people they purport to serve and protect, they will continue to lose credibility with citizens, whom will continue to scrutinize their every action, including audio and video recording officer to ensure they remain accountable for their actions.