A professional police agency should never parade prisoners for the news media and public to gawk at
Protecting officers and prisoners is a basic duty of law enforcement
BY DAN KLEIN
Gary Plauche, Jeff Doucet and Jack Ruby. Who were they? Why should Albuquerque police care?
Plauche and Doucet lived in Baton Rouge, La., in 1984. Doucet was accused of kidnapping Plauche’s 11-year-old son and sexually molesting him. Doucet had the boy with him when he was arrested in California.
Baton Rouge police detectives flew Doucet from California back to Louisiana. Baton Rouge police made sure that the news media knew what time they would be landing at the airport. Like many police departments, Baton Rouge was congratulating itself on a job well done by planning to parade Doucet in front of reporters and photographers.
Plauche felt as if he had failed his son by not protecting him from a monster. In an interview with local media, Plauche said he felt helpless. That feeling would not last.
Local news media had been told by police that Doucet would be arriving at the airport at 9:30 p.m. An employee of one of the local stations passed this information on to Plauche, who hatched a plan.
You can watch the YouTube video of what happened: As the handcuffed Doucet was paraded through the airport, no one seemed to notice a man talking on a pay phone. The man pulled out a gun and shot Doucet in the head at point-blank range, killing him. That man was Gary Plauche.
Baton Rouge police failed to protect Doucet, who was in their custody. Police officers are duty bound to protect every person in their custody, no matter what type of monster that person may be. In an attempt to garner positive media attention, Baton Rouge police failed in their duty, and Doucet ended up dead.
Detectives should have taken Doucet from the plane, through a secured area, to police cars and then to jail. This is basic officer safety that was ignored in the pursuit of positive news coverage.
Another, more notorious example occurred in Dallas in 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald was paraded for the media and public in a nonsecure basement at Dallas police headquarters, after his arrest for killing President John F. Kennedy. Ruby stepped out of a throng of reporters, stuck a .38 into Oswald’s abdomen and shot him in front of the nation on live TV.
You might say, “Who cares? Doucet and Oswald got what they deserved.”
But you would be wrong. In America, we do not have vigilante justice. We are a society built upon constitutional guarantees, and one of those guarantees is to have a fair trial. That can happen only if law enforcement does its job and protects the defendant.
Which brings me to the Albuquerque police and the dangerous game they play by walking high-profile prisoners out of the main station, down the stairs and into a police car or crossing Roma Ave into the prisoner transport building. A professional police agency should never parade prisoners for the news media and public to gawk at.
This chaotic scene was on full display recently as two people accused of a high-profile murder were marched by APD officers in front of dozens of reporters in a case that has talk radio filled with calls for their execution or even torture.
There was no safety zone. Reporters ran right up to the defendants, sticking cameras and microphones in their faces and shouting questions. Someone with a more sinister motive could easily have walked up to either of these prisoners and shot them or the officers escorting them or the reporters mobbing them.
There has to be a safer, more professional, alternative.
APD can easily secure the ramp underneath the police building to keep the media and public a safe distance away. Detectives can walk out of the basement of the police station into a prisoner transport vehicle and drive directly to the Metropolitan Detention Center. This would provide safety to the defendant, police officers, the news media and the public. So why is APD still performing the “perp walk”?
Rather than pander to the news media, APD brass should put policies in place to show the department’s professionalism. Protecting officers and prisoners is a basic duty of any law enforcement agency. For every high-profile crime, there is a possible Gary Plauche and Jack Ruby lurking, waiting to take revenge. It’s a matter of when, not if, a defendant, police officer, member of the news media or spectator will be injured during one of these grotesque prisoner parades.
Dan Klein is a retired Albuquerque police sergeant. Reach him through Facebook.