Why should officers risk their lives?

Last week, Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Charlie Dent became another influential voice calling on President Bush to pardon two former border patrol agents convicted of shooting an unarmed drug smuggler who was trying to escape across the US-Mexico border. Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean are serving more than 10 years each for shooting Osvaldo Davila in the buttocks while he was fleeing from an abandoned van loaded with 750 pounds of marijuana.

The officers, pleading not guilty, argued that they thought Davila, a Mexican with a record of drug smuggling, was armed. Nevertheless, they were convicted two years ago in federal court in Texas of assault, civil rights violations and trying to cover up the shooting. In fact, the officers were unaware that the suspect was shot because he made good his escape across the border the night of the incident. Davila, given full immunity for his testimony, was the witness that convicted them.   It's bad enough to be convicted on the word of someone you know to be a drug smuggler, but it's even worse when you're sent to prison to do time with other drug smugglers, some of whom you put there yourself.

To add more outrage to this pitiful display of injustice, Davila later pleaded guilty to smuggling following another incident and also was sentenced to 10 years in prison. His incarceration is a lot cozier than that being experienced by the former border guards. When inmates found out who they are, they were severely beaten before being removed to a safer unit. This is one of those cases in which people of sound mind wonder what in the world is going on in this country.

How can you expect law enforcement officers to do their jobs if they risk prison time on the word of criminals they are paid to protect us from? Case in point: last month, just south of Tucson, Arizona, Mexican drug smugglers unloaded $1 million in drugs across the US border and fired automatic weapons at Border Patrol agents. The agents did not return fire because they fear losing their jobs or ending up behind bars like Ramos and Compean. Can you blame them?

During the trial, an Assistant US Attorney told the court that the agents had violated an unarmed man's (Davila's) civil rights. How they could prove he was unarmed is beyond imagination since he left the scene and wasn't heard from until he became a witness against the same men who have the duty to keep him from being where he was in the first place. Furthermore, agent Ramos testified that he heard shots and saw his partner, Compean, on the ground. Then he saw Davila turn toward him, pointing what appeared to be a gun. Ramos fired at Davila, but was unaware that the man was hit because he watched him continue running and jump into a waiting van and flee across the border.

Notwithstanding the ludicrous nature of having an illegal alien drug smuggler be responsible for putting 2 border patrol agents in prison, this case underscores the serious disconnect between those who face crime in the real world and those who read about it in the safety and security of a law library.

The imprisonment of these 2 men is more than a national disgrace; it's an example of a country that has lost its will to survive. When we put lawmen in prison based on the word of the lawless, how interested are the lawmen going to be in risking their lives for us?

In essence, these 2 agents are in prison because they didn't follow procedure. What people like the Asst. US Attorney will never understand is that it's a lot easier to follow procedure in the orderly, civilized and well lit atmosphere of a courtroom than it is during a violent struggle against desperate people in the dark of night. Others have been pardoned or had their sentences commuted and they were not acting in the public interest when their crimes were committed.

If Ramos and Compean are guilty of anything, it's breaking some procedural rules while performing a dangerous job during the heat of the chase. If there was ever a valid reason for a presidential pardon, this case screams in high pitched decibels for it, if only to prove that there is some sanity left in this rapidly declining culture.  Only the President has the power to correct this terribly cruel injustice. Let's pray he exercises that power before these men are murdered in their cells.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the executive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas.  Email Bob.
Last week, Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Charlie Dent became another influential voice calling on President Bush to pardon two former border patrol agents convicted of shooting an unarmed drug smuggler who was trying to escape across the US-Mexico border. Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean are serving more than 10 years each for shooting Osvaldo Davila in the buttocks while he was fleeing from an abandoned van loaded with 750 pounds of marijuana.

The officers, pleading not guilty, argued that they thought Davila, a Mexican with a record of drug smuggling, was armed. Nevertheless, they were convicted two years ago in federal court in Texas of assault, civil rights violations and trying to cover up the shooting. In fact, the officers were unaware that the suspect was shot because he made good his escape across the border the night of the incident. Davila, given full immunity for his testimony, was the witness that convicted them.   It's bad enough to be convicted on the word of someone you know to be a drug smuggler, but it's even worse when you're sent to prison to do time with other drug smugglers, some of whom you put there yourself.

To add more outrage to this pitiful display of injustice, Davila later pleaded guilty to smuggling following another incident and also was sentenced to 10 years in prison. His incarceration is a lot cozier than that being experienced by the former border guards. When inmates found out who they are, they were severely beaten before being removed to a safer unit. This is one of those cases in which people of sound mind wonder what in the world is going on in this country.

How can you expect law enforcement officers to do their jobs if they risk prison time on the word of criminals they are paid to protect us from? Case in point: last month, just south of Tucson, Arizona, Mexican drug smugglers unloaded $1 million in drugs across the US border and fired automatic weapons at Border Patrol agents. The agents did not return fire because they fear losing their jobs or ending up behind bars like Ramos and Compean. Can you blame them?

During the trial, an Assistant US Attorney told the court that the agents had violated an unarmed man's (Davila's) civil rights. How they could prove he was unarmed is beyond imagination since he left the scene and wasn't heard from until he became a witness against the same men who have the duty to keep him from being where he was in the first place. Furthermore, agent Ramos testified that he heard shots and saw his partner, Compean, on the ground. Then he saw Davila turn toward him, pointing what appeared to be a gun. Ramos fired at Davila, but was unaware that the man was hit because he watched him continue running and jump into a waiting van and flee across the border.

Notwithstanding the ludicrous nature of having an illegal alien drug smuggler be responsible for putting 2 border patrol agents in prison, this case underscores the serious disconnect between those who face crime in the real world and those who read about it in the safety and security of a law library.

The imprisonment of these 2 men is more than a national disgrace; it's an example of a country that has lost its will to survive. When we put lawmen in prison based on the word of the lawless, how interested are the lawmen going to be in risking their lives for us?

In essence, these 2 agents are in prison because they didn't follow procedure. What people like the Asst. US Attorney will never understand is that it's a lot easier to follow procedure in the orderly, civilized and well lit atmosphere of a courtroom than it is during a violent struggle against desperate people in the dark of night. Others have been pardoned or had their sentences commuted and they were not acting in the public interest when their crimes were committed.

If Ramos and Compean are guilty of anything, it's breaking some procedural rules while performing a dangerous job during the heat of the chase. If there was ever a valid reason for a presidential pardon, this case screams in high pitched decibels for it, if only to prove that there is some sanity left in this rapidly declining culture.  Only the President has the power to correct this terribly cruel injustice. Let's pray he exercises that power before these men are murdered in their cells.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the executive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas.  Email Bob.