Police coverups undermine public confidence in law enforcement
The violation of Jerry Williamson's constitutional rights at the July 4th, 1991, Freedom Festival in Tallahassee is just a very small part of the big picture. The big picture is that these things happen to Americans every day all over the country and are routinely covered up by a bureaucracy of officials. These include other law enforcement officers on the scene, their supervisors, investigators, internal security, prosecutors, and judges who view their job not as protecting the public but protecting their associates, for the purpose of making the public believe that law enforcement officials are all honest, can be trusted, and that their authority and use of force is legitimate.
The big problem with this is that it falsely assumes that the public as a whole is ignorant of the reality they face on the streets daily. We need only to look at the Rodney King case, the O.J. Simpson case, Ruby Ridge, MOVE, and Waco to see that law enforcement uses excessive force, plants evidence, commits perjury, murders citizens, and then lies to cover up its actions. Just because officialdom wears blinders when judging their own does not mean that the public wears blinders. The other point missed is that this activity hurts the credibility of the majority of law enforcement who do not abuse their authority, the citizens, or the public trust. One must ask:
The answer to all these questions is that they think of themselves as "the thin blue line" against the people. Law enforcement continues to become much more paramilitary and sees all citizens as potential enemies and threats. This attitude has eroded its moral and ethical integrity and undermined its legitimate authority.
The problem of police corruption is so bad that on Nov. 1, 1995, ABC Nightly News dedicated a third of its coverage to this epidemic. In a report on stories from all across the nation, excerpts from the descriptions of this problem included:
Among those interviewed were law enforcement officials now in prison who spoke of these acts as being part of the training that they received from senior officers and of their inability to get their superiors to do anything about this even when they were told. Worst of all, they spoke of some of these things being done with the knowledge of prosecutors and judges. At the top of the story, it was revealed that no national statistics are even kept on police corruption.
In order to alleviate this problem, not only should rogue law enforcement officials be imprisoned, but those officials who look the other way, lie to protect their friends, and cover up these misdeeds should also be imprisoned for obstruction of justice. This activity is so detrimental to our society that it calls for an all-out war which should include the toughest minimum mandatory sentencing possible. This would go a long way toward restoring the public trust. Law enforcement officials take an oath to defend the constitution and uphold the laws and there should be a policy of absolute zero tolerance for those who violate the public trust. Secondly, citizens review boards should be created to watch over and to investigate complaints of law enforcement abuses. Just as the authorities can view the records of citizens, citizens should have the right to view the records and complaints made against the authorities. Citizens who are arrested and cleared of the charges still have arrest records that cast a shadow on their reputations and follow them forever. For law enforcement to claim that complaints against them, whether substantiated or not, hurt them and therefore should be secret creates a double standard that puts them above the citizens for whom they work and allows them to simply relocate to a faraway community where the public is unaware of their reputation. Protecting the public should have precedence over protecting their jobs. They are our employees. We, the people, are in charge. Thirdly, all assets and money confiscated by law enforcement and the courts should go directly to public education. This would remove the incentive for law enforcement to cheat in order to enhance their budgets. Finally, national statistics should be kept so that we can measure whether or not we are making any progress.
If this corrective action is not taken, and law enforcement continues to view all citizens as potential threats and itself as invincible and above the law, the only possible result will be the continuing breakdown of our society, chaos and violence. Without Justice, there can be no Peace.
You don't have to go very far to find problems with the way that the law is administered. Right here in our own area we have a perfect example of how broken the system really is. On Nov. 3, U.S. District Judge Maurice Paul sentenced Frank Palazzi to 15 years and 8 months in federal prison for committing the same offense that Nate Caldwell, director of the Alachua County Jail, just recently committed. Both men were convicted felons and both men were found to be in possession of two firearms, but Nate Caldwell received two years probation (which is what Palazzi should have received). The huge disparity in the sentences of these men show how broken the system really is and how devious law enforcement officials manipulate the system for their own grotesque ends.
Why the huge disparity in the way the cases were handled? Mr. Caldwell, as jail director, was well known in the law enforcement community. The State Attorney's Office made the decision that justice would be best served by a sentence of two years' probation. On the other hand, Mr. Palazzi, who has been a model citizen for the last 23 years, stirred the ire of ex-FBI agent Alan Weikel, now the number two man at the Alachua County Sheriff's Department. So Weikel contacted his buddies at the federal prosecutors office and asked them to intervene in the case and take it over because he wanted to burn Mr. Palazzi, knowing that under federal law, he could really put it to him. Enter Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Sanford, who not only prosecuted Mr. Palazzi, but chose to use federal career criminal laws knowing that Mr. Palazzi, a local businessman, is not a career criminal by any stretch of the imagination. But then truth and justice does not count for much when you wield the power and you are the law.
As for Mr. Weikel, former FBI agent, whose mentality is one of the end justifying the means, he is an old hand at abusing the law and employing dirty tricks. In the 1970's as the special agent in charge of Division K, the secret black bag and dirty tricks division of the FBI, he directed illegal activities against Vietnam Veterans Against the War and against myself as a defendant in the Gainesville 8 case. I have even been told by someone who worked for Weikel at the time and testified against me that Weikel told him that I was going to have to be killed and that he should handle the operation. This same person told me and others that later on Weikel rescinded that assignment and said that it had been given to someone else. Some time after this, I was shot in the back by federal agents in an assassination attempt on my life. After surviving the attack, which occurred here in Gainesville, I was charged with violations of federal drug laws and assaulting federal agents, in an attempt to justify the unsuccessful attempt on my life. A local jury not only found me not guilty, they also recommended that the agents be indicted for attempted murder. Reuben Askew, who was governor of Florida at the time, assigned a special prosecutor named Ed Austin of Jacksonville to investigate. Ed Austin, who had been on the receiving end of stolen property that had first been requested by and stolen for Al Weikel in a break in of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War office, and later delivered to Austin's office, cleared the agents who shot me. During this time, the senior Drug Enforcement Administration agent in charge of the Gainesville area knew that something fishy was going on, and because his honesty and integrity would not allow him to cooperate or remain silent, he resigned. He later became a lawyer and his name is Lloyd Vipperman, the attorney for Frank Palazzi.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, I requested and received my files which showed that J. Edgar Hoover had directed that I be neutralized at the earliest possible time and authorized the use of "pretext operations" and "counter-intelligence techniques" in the carrying out of that neutralization.
Since that time, Ed Austin has become the mayor of Jacksonville, and Al Weikel was brought in to assist Steve Oelrich in his campaign for Alachua County Sheriff. In that capacity, Alan Weikel was involved in the character assassination of Gainesville Police Chief Wayland Clifton. The success of those activities caused Chief Clifton to pull out of the race for Sheriff. This allowed Steve Oelrich to run against a weaker candidate and he was elected Sheriff. Al Weikel's reward: he was hired to become the number two man in law enforcement in Alachua County by Sheriff Oelrich and now we find, in the Frank Palazzi case, that the abuse of power continues. It undermines respect for the law and the legal system. It is obvious the system is broken and we are sending the wrong people to prison. Don't tell us "it's the law". We demand justice!
For more information on Scott Camil and the Gainesville Eight Case, consult the book It Did Happen Here at the Civic Media Center, 1021 W. University Ave., on the political repression shelf.