|Posted on October 17, 2013 at 6:00 PM|
By Gary Konecky
“Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may live and possess the land the Lord,
your God, is giving you.” - Deuteronomy 16:20
You shall set up judges and law enforcement officials for yourself in all your cities that the Lord, your God, is giving you, for your tribes, and they shall judge the people [with] righteous judgment. - Deuteronomy -16:18
“And you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger,
since you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” - Exodus 23:9
"Who watches the watchmen?" - Juvenal
The Bible is very clear on the matter of pursuing justice. The Bible also mandates police, courts and judges. All these people are charged with the mandate that “they shall judge the people [with] righteous judgment.” Additionally, the Bible is also clear on oppressing the stranger, or those different than we are. To this end, many states have enacted hate crime laws.
Hate crimes are often motivated by something that the victim cannot change (race and sexual orientation being just two examples). The perpetrators of hate crimes brutalize the victim with the intent to not just to hurt the victim, but often to send a message of intimidation to that victim's community and to all those who are like the victim. Therefore, while I am in favor of laws that increase the punishment for such crimes, I must also question their effectiveness.
My experiences in Fair Lawn (Bergen County, NJ) seem especially relevant to this last point. Shortly after Mathew Shepard's death from a savage hate crime, I came home from work to find the word “FAG” written in my parking space. It is important to note that a hate crime law was in effect when and where this incident occurred. Concerned for my personal safety, I called the Fair Lawn Police Department. The responding police officer said, and I quote this precisely: “No crime had been committed.” The Anti-Violence Project in New York City classified this as a hate crime, yet the responding police officer felt that this was perfectly acceptable behavior.
When I pursued the matter, and provided the Fair Lawn Police Department with photographs of the crime scene, then Chief Marshal observed that the only footprints in the photographs of the freshly fallen snow of the crime scene went from Stuart Pace's car to the crime scene and back to Stuart Pace's car.
It is important to note that Stuart Pace has excellent political connections in Fair Lawn. It is also important to note that Stuart Pace has repeatedly run for elected offices in Fair Lawn.
Having observed that the only suspect in this hate crime was Stuart Pace, then Fair Lawn Police Chief Marshal went on to say that there was insufficient evidence to investigate the matter further. And so I must ask, exactly what did the New Jersey hate crime law do in this case? Did it do even less than it did in the case of Tyler Clementi's tragic death, where the unrepentant Dharun Ravi was sentenced to a mere slap on the wrist? Then as if the slap on the wrist was not injustice enough, Ravi did not even have to complete his slap on the wrist sentence. Can we honestly say in either of these cases that righteous judgment was rendered? Can we say in these cases that no one oppressed the stranger?
Getting back to the Fair Lawn Police Department, it is important to note several things. The Fair Lawn Police Department has been the subject of numerous lawsuits including one for a police officer repeatedly smashing a boy's head against a concrete sidewalk, and another lawsuit for beating a suspect in police custody for no apparent reason. These police officers are backed by a very powerful union, the result of which is that police officers seem to be unaccountable for their actions and appear to have a license to do anything they want.
There is also the alleged anti-Jewish remark said to me by the late Joan Pace (mother of the aforementioned Stuart Pace) on Yom Kippur. When I complained about this incident, as well as about the Fair Lawn Police's inaction concerning alleged ongoing harassment by members of the Pace family, then Borough Manager Metzler and then Fair Lawn Police Chief Rose dismissed my concerns saying that Joan Pace's comments were concern for my “spiritual welfare.” Since when are anti-Jewish remarks said on one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar concern for any Jew's “spiritual welfare?” Years later, in an amazing coincidence, Borough Manager Metzler, Fair Lawn Police Chief Rose and Fair Lawn Police Captain Cook (who was accused of destroying evidence in a lawsuit) all resigned within days of each other.
I myself have been forced to sue Fair Lawn. I was forced to drop that lawsuit when Fair Lawn covered up not only their wrong doing, but the alleged criminal and civil acts committed by members of the Pace family. How is this the actions of “Justice, justice shall you pursue?” By the way, I am not the only one to accuse the Fair Lawn, NJ Police Department of destroying evidence and covering up their actions when sued. In another charge of Fair Lawn destroying evidence as part of a cover up of their wrong doing Fair Lawn, “investigated” themselves and determined that they did nothing wrong.
I now come four incidents of vandalism to my car in recent weeks. Owing to the actions of the Fair Lawn Police Department (including actions not mentioned here), I contacted an attorney who then contacted the Fair Lawn Police Department and requested that they contact the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office and request that the county prosecutor's office investigate the matter.
Acting Captain Patterson, the Fair Lawn Police Department Officer in charge of internal affairs responded to the request from my attorney. During a telephone conversation, he informed my attorney that his department will not take any action (neither investigation nor referral to the county prosecutor) concerning these incidents. Additionally, he went on to state: “The Fair Lawn Police have always treated Mr. Konecky in a courteous and professional manner.”
Let's think about this. We have the incidents cited above. We have me engaging the service of an attorney to report a crime, an act which shows a shocking level of distrust of this police department. Acting Capitan Patterson, the officer in charge of internal affairs (an officer with 18 years of serving with his friends in this police department), has publicly stated that his goal is: "I want to bring back pride to the police department," Please note that officer in charge of internal affairs is not concerned with the numerous lawsuits and scandals his department has been embroiled in, he is not concerned with unprofessional conduct, police brutality, and alleged illegal activity. His concern is the morale of the officers he serves with.
This is also obvious from a look at
the Fair Lawn Police Department
website, a website that has no mention of internal affairs or how
to report police misconduct. When I called the Bergen County
Prosecutors Office to ask who handles internal affairs in Fair Lawn,
they could not tell me as they were unaware that anyone handled
internal affairs in Fair Lawn. Does this in any way resemble: “You
set up judges and law enforcement officials for yourself in all your cities that the Lord, your God, is giving you, for your tribes, and they shall judge the people [with] righteous judgment?” Does this sound like a police department concerned with the conduct of its officers, or does this sound like a police department whose top brass is concerned with pleasing their police officers and the police officers' union, even if the public suffers?
Nor is the situation in Fair Lawn unique, as there have also been incidents of police misconduct in other police departments including three New York City Police Officers (including one from Internal Affairs) being involved in a recent rampage.
In one of the cases discussed here we have a hate crime law that the Fair Lawn Police Department and a judge converted from a law to protect us into a cruel joke and a mockery of justice. But perhaps the issue is not hate crime laws after all. Perhaps the issue is what seems to be a rampant police disregard for the rule of law. And so the issue may not just be the above quotes from the Bible about seeking justice, appointing law enforcement personnel and judges that judge with righteous judgment, as well as us not oppressing the stranger. Perhaps the issue may go all the way back to ancient times, when it was asked: “Who will watch the watchman?”