Today is Memorial Day, a day in which we pause to remember the fallen. Generally, we remember those who have fallen in the armed services while they were defending and protecting our country from outside threats.
I would like to take a moment to remember another category of protectors and defenders. These people, however, guard against inside threats. They are involved daily in more local battles that end up being resolved in the trenches of the courtroom. The dangers they face, however, are very real.
Joseph Galapo had been an undercover police officer with whom I worked during my days as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, New York. At the time, I was in the narcotics bureau, happily indicting names I had been informed were the enemy in the “War Against Drugs”. That’s all they were to me then…names. The police officers who were our witnesses, however, were human beings. We saw them on a regular basis. We got to know some of them beyond the badge and thin blue line. Joe was one such guy.
Shortly after the birth of his second child, he quit working undercover because of the obvious dangers. He began to work in a safer capacity…as a uniformed narcotics investigator.
Joe was thirty years old when he was shot and killed during what should have been a routine drug bust in a typical Brooklyn Street. In the chaos of an arrest, a partner’s gun was jolted and it discharged a bullet into Joe’s head.
Here in Massachusetts, police officers have lost their lives as well…often as a result of vehicular accidents and https://criminal.altmanllp.com/murder.html. In 2009, three such deaths occurred, including the death of Police Officer Michael Paul Davey. Officer Davey was an Iraq war veteran. After said service, he worked for the Weymouth Police Department for five years. He left behind his family, including three kids, when he was directing traffic and received fatal injuries as he was pinned between the vehicle and a utility truck.
He was 34 years of age when he died last August.
And yet, it is not only the police officers who place their lives in danger when fighting crime. Not so long ago, assistant attorney general Paul R. McLaughlin, a veteran prosecutor who had specialized in ridding Boston of gang violence joined this list. He was 42 years of age when he was shot executioner style in his car at a busy commuter rail parking lot in West Roxbury .
I had handled cases with Paul. The word that always came to mind when I thought of him was “gentleman”. He was a good lawyer, but, more importantly, seemed to care about what he was doing. He was a man upon whom you could count to keep his word.
Nobody expected a prosecutor to be murdered, which I have often thought defies logic. I remember back in Brooklyn when a fellow prosecutor and her husband were robbed and beaten when someone broke into their apartment and left at raping her in front of her husband.
And yet, the trenches do not simply take the lives of law enforcement personnel. Judges have been killed. Witnesses have been killed, regardless of promises made by authorities. Even defense attorneys, who deal with both the alleged and actual dangerous amongst us every day have been attacked by clients.
So, what is the point of this blog?
One will never eliminate violence from the war on crime. people will lose their lives and others will have their lives ruined by shoddy investigations. Just like people die in foreign battlegrounds and terrorists targets, people will suffer at the hands on all aisles of the criminal justice system.
It is worth pausing to pay respect to those lives lost in these more local battles. Perhaps in so respecting the lives involved in such wars, we can honor the fact that they are human beings and often heroes.
And, perhaps in so remembering, it will be easier to prevent other needless deaths and ruined lives by reminding the combatants (on both sides of the battles) that the perceived adversary is not always what he or she appears. Sometimes, alittle more thought should go into the labeling of the “perp”.
Just like we are correct to criticize our government when it attacks another country without a thorough plan, thus causing more casualties than necessary…it is a worthwhile consideration in doing so during criminal investigations. Officers should be protected. Witnesses should be protected. And the protectors should be thoughtful of their ongoing investigations, realizing that, while they do not always destroy lives with a gun…they can destroy lives nonetheless.
After all, we learned in World War II what blind and unquestioning loyalty can bring. Maybe we can learn that such loyalty to a hunch can be just as deadly.
G-d bless our troops, both abroad and here at home.