There are two standards of law in El Paso. That is the unmistakable fact that the Whataburger Incident has proven. I have previously written about this, but until the release of the report about the encounter between El Paso Police officers and Claudia Ordaz and her fiancé, Vince Perez, I had been unable to prove it to you. The application of law must be equal to all. When a society allows two, or more sets of laws to be applied, then those subjected to the harshest standard begin feeling oppressed resulting in rebellion. It is called impunity. Mexico suffers from this and it is the single most important element in the chaos that has allowed the drug trade to dominate Mexico.
Impunity creates a society that is dangerous for both the police officers and the community at large. For the population, the notion that two sets of standards exists forces the population to question whether adhering to the law is fair, proper and something they should strive for. Society must have willing participation from the masses in order to keep order in place. Without willing compliance, anarchy begins to creep in.
Many of us have continually commented about the notion that there are two legal standards in El Paso, one for the masses and another for the people that are “connected” to the bureaucracy. Ann Morgan Lilly is often brought up as an example of the two standards. Ann Morgan Lilly was accused twice, not once, but twice of assault. The second time was publicly documented, yet the police investigation, the reasons why she was not charged and the complete set of investigative documentation have never been released to the public. At this point, we do not even know if a grand jury ever had the opportunity to weigh the evidence against her, much less a jury of her peers.
Now go back to the report about Claudia Ordaz and Vince Perez. Look at the very basic facts of what transpired that day. Two El Paso police officers interact with three civilians in a parking lot after midnight. The officers are at that location because they are needed as security to maintain order that late at night. Both officers are in uniform. Anyone that knows anything about police basics, knows that police officers are always on duty, whether they are on duty officially or working a security detail.
This is especially true when they are clearly in uniform.
Forget the rest of the report as it is subjective, depending on the point of view.
Knowing that two individuals were detained by police. Keep in mind that Vince Perez was quoted in the newspaper as stating that he and Ordaz had to give their identifications to the officers. That is the classic definition of being detained. The two police officers felt it necessary to call in a third officer to assist in the interaction. The third officer, the detective, creates a document, or information, about allegations of police misconduct and yet no one filed an official complaint.
Now put yourself in those exact same shoes and ask yourself, would you have been accorded the benefit of a third police officer to come to the scene, interview you and then give you the option to leave the location without filing a complaint or receiving a citation?
Keep in mind that for all intents and purposes, Claudia Ordaz and Vince Perez were in the custody of the two police officers. They were not free to leave until someone in authority told them they were free to leave. It appears from the report, that it was the detective that allowed them to leave.
The bottom line is that the incident escalated to the point that identifications had to be produced. Almost everyone facing that same set of circumstances would not have had the benefit of a third officer coming to the scene and intervening. That is a classic example of two sets of standards, one for the elected officials – Claudia Ordaz and Vince Perez, and another for the everyday resident of the city.
For the police, which are outnumbered by the population, two standards of law also create a dangerous situation for them as well. Not only would a non-compliant populace be dangerous to them, but the fact that they must tip toe around the community’s bureaucratic hierarchy means that the decisions made by street officers are made based on protecting themselves instead of serving the community they are supposed to serve.
Make no mistake about it, the two El Paso police officers were intimidated into calling in a supervisor to intervene. Intimidation was the only reason the detective was called in. That, again, is impunity.
The unending violence and the endemic economic strife of many of the people who live in Mexico is a prime example of impunity, where citizens are brought up to look for ways around the police and their civic responsibilities. In Mexico today, the general notion is that you’ll never succeed if you follow the laws because too many of the others are ignoring them. This is impunity.
Once impunity erodes citizenry trust, it takes generations to recover. This is exactly why the drug cartels became as dominant as they have in Mexico – because the citizenry doesn’t feel equal before the law. Look at the state of the legal system in Mexico today, the general notion that the citizenry holds for Mexican police forces and you can clearly see how impunity destroys a society.
Now you know why El Paso is synonymous with public corruption. Impunity has created the notion that public corruption is the norm and following the law is only for the people too stupid to know any better.