I am an attorney and do a lot of municipal court work.
One day I was at court and it was very cold outside. Raining, in fact, and the temperature was hovering around the freezing mark.
Many people were thus cramped into a small waiting room, waiting for the courtroom doors to open. There were only a limited number of chairs in this waiting room. Meanwhile, there were a large number of unused chairs behind the courtroom's still-locked doors. The time for court to commence came and went and an hour and a half went by, and still, the doors to the courtroom didn't open.
Anyway, there were many elderly people and two handicapped people among the throng in the lobby. The elderly people were complaining vociferously that they couldn't stand anymore. One was shaking on her walker and nobody would give her a seat. It looked like she had a bad case of Parkinson's.
One handicapped man, in braces and on crutches, was almost in tears, because nobody would give him a seat, either.
I made a little bit of a scene in the lobby and told people they should really give up their seats for the elderly and handicapped, but nobody did anything. The seats were taken by selfish, self-absorbed types and they had no intention of giving them up.
Anyway, I went to one of the courtroom police officers and told them about the situation. I mentioned the fact that there were elderly people and some handicapped people who were being forced to stand and had been standing for over an hour and that maybe extra chairs should be brought out for them, due to ADA concerns or what have you.
Anyway, the officer gave me a dirty look, put his hand on his large leather belt (not far from his holster) and said "I don't know what they taught you in law school, son, but the ADA doesn't apply in this town."
I looked at him and said, huh? He then started a conversation with another police officer, as if to show me that he wasn't concerned in the slightest with the plight of elderly folks or handicapped people in the lobby. He had the demeanor of somebody who considered the people there as "guilty" and not worthy of consideration. Of course, many of the people there were family of defendants, victims, witnesses, etc... Regardless, the officer truly didn't seem to give a damn.
I mentioned this to the prosecutor, but he shrugged it off and smiled, as did the desk seargent on duty.
The doors soon opened, to the great relief of everybody in the lobby. That said, I was disturbed by the officer's response.
Although the vast majority of the officers I have met in municipal court have been wonderfully professional and decent people,there have still been a large number of arrogant, cocky and authoritarian officers who seem to love abusing their power. Although their numbers are small, they are still a problem, because they can totally use their immense power to give somebody a hard time in a way no one else can.
For example, one day I saw an officer give an attorney a hard time at a courthouse metal detector. Normally, attorneys don't have to go through metal detectors if they have their Bar Association Attorney ID card. But this officer didn't seem to care and made him go through it anyway. Then, the officer went through the attorney's wallet, fingered through his money and credit cards, counted his money out loudly and went through a zipper compartment in the wallet. It seemed as if the officer was using the courthouse weapons check as a pretext to engage in a drug-contraband search on an attorney, and she did so in an unnecessarily arbitrary and random manner, since she didn't conduct a similar such check on all other visitors to the court and did so on the attorney with nothing approaching reasonable articulable suspicion or probable cause. Even if she had found drugs, such an event might not have resulted in a conviction, because numerous courts throughout the nation have overturned similar such contraband searches at courthouse metal detectors. As such, the officer was conducting a search outside of her authority.
Nothing came of this incident, except undue embarassment. And yet, I don't recall hearing anything about the officer being disciplined.
I am thinking of writing a formal letter of some kind, chronicling my interactions with them. Some courts have wonderfully professional officers. Others have notoriously unprofessional officers, some nothing more than bullies behind a bronze badge.
While the liasion officers one meets in a prosecutor's office are some of the most tactful, politically astute and personable officers one could ever hope to meet, the ones I have met in court itself have sometimes been polar opposites.
And if this sort of thing happens to civilians and even attorneys in a courthouse, imagine what these officers do outside, on the streets, when nobody is watching?
It makes me shudder just to think about it.