OPINION – When the shoe is on the other foot, it hurts. A lot.
Just ask former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff who is crying the blues these days because the cops raided his house and scared the heck out of his kids.
This is the same Mark Shurtleff who, through gritted teeth, espoused his “tough on crime” philosophy, showing no mercy, no compassion, no sense of a capacity for human frailty.
This is the same Mark Shurtleff who unleashed SWAT teams to bash down doors to the homes of undocumented residents who were suspected of the “violent” crimes of bootlegging CDs and DVDs, so much so that the Recording Industry Association of America presented him with a gold record award for his efforts as a warrior in the War on Music Piracy, which certainly requires SWAT teams to enforce. Those SWAT teams, however, were nowhere to be found whenever incidents of corruption and sexual or domestic abuse were alleged in the polygamous communities that dot the state. Instead, Shurtleff vowed publicly not to prosecute polygamy offenses despite laws that outlawed the practice.
This is the same Mark Shurteff who positioned himself as a warrior in the War on Drugs until he was diagnosed with cancer, underwent debilitating treatments and hinted that he was “tempted” to partake of marijuana for medicinal purposes to ease his suffering, despite the fact that he offered no compassion for others suffering a similar circumstance.
Where I come from, we call this hypocrisy.
However, when you are part of the powers that be here, you can pretty well do what you wish, as long as you hold the trump card of power, which Shurtleff clutched with a death grip for far too long.
But, his power has run out and he is now being investigated for allegations that he was not so forthright during his term as the state’s top cop. Going down in the same blaze of infamy is his successor John Swallow, who is also suffering the slings of alleged criminality that he so gladly imposed on others during his short term as Utah Attorney General.
I would like to express sorrow for these two guys, except that it would be hypocritical in my behalf. Instead, all I can say is “Welcome to the world, guys; a world you helped shape. How does it feel to be on the other side of a search warrant?”
Shurtleff was Utah Attorney General for a dozen years. Under his aegis, there were enough commando, door-busting raids on such “violent” criminals as purveyors of pirated CDs and DVDs and kids gathered on a private ranch for a rave concert that was manned by private security, EMTs, and the requisite of others needed to comply with state law.
He was a “law-and-order” type who saw nothing wrong with heavy-handed action against those suspected of breaking the law.
But, times have changed and the cops raided his house recently, looking for information regarding allegations that he and his successor Swallow, had broken campaign finance laws.
Now, instead of being good cops, the raiders were described by Shurtleff as using Dirty Harry tactics when they burst into his house, which was occupied by his son and daughter at the time.
“It was way overboard, a horrific abuse, an extremely improper abuse of force, given the nature of the alleged charge, the fact there were minors in the home — there was no reason for it,” Shurtleff later told The Salt Lake Tribune …
The former Attorney General said his teenage daughter, who was in the bathroom when officers in body armor pounded on the door and ordered her out, a laser sight pointed at her chest, was “traumatized” by the raid.
“To go in and point a gun at 5-foot-3, 117-pound minor who was coming out of the bathroom, for crying out loud, is absolutely wrong,” Shurtleff said. “How do you get that out of the mind of a 17-year-old who is innocent of everything? I don’t care what you think of me or what you’re looking at me about.”
Perhaps it was an excessive use of force, but not one that was unprecedented.
Perhaps it was Karma, turning around to bite the hand that fed it.
But, for Shurtleff to cry the blues after cops used tactics he endorsed, embraced, and empowered law enforcement to use is hypocritical.
Shurtleff and Swallow, to be sure, are not the only hypocrites to hold public position and, certainly, not the last.
But, it is pathetic to hear them squeal like caged pigs when they are snared in a trap of their own making, to cry foul when somebody does unto them what they have done unto others with total lack of compassion or humanity, and his statements since the raid have done nothing to support the notion that he was truly enlightened, only that he believed he, because of his station in life, was above such rough tactics.
Look, I can certainly understand the argument that will be put forward that law enforcement is entitled to participate in armed break-ins in certain circumstances. Was this one of those instances? I don’t know. I’m not sure what or who the cops expected to encounter on the other side of the door; how many weapons might have been in the house that could have possibly returned fire; what evidence may or may not have been destroyed had they knocked politely before executing the warrant.
I also can understand the argument that there are many instances when cops cross the line from enforcement within the dictates of law to brutality. I’ve seen enough criminal cases thrown out in Southern Utah because of this and other Fourth Amendment violations by over-eager cops. Was this one of those instances? I don’t know.
I do know, however, that there is some sort of justice at play when the tables turn and the man who set up such rigid, unforgiving procedures and tactics is suddenly on the other side of a search warrant.
Welcome to the real world, citizen Shurtleff.
And, by the way, what is it they say about paybacks?
No bad days!
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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