When Teresa Culpepper called Atlanta police to report that someone had stolen a truck from the street in front of her home, she had no idea she was about to be victimized again — by the police officers who are paid to protect her.
In a mixup that would make the Keystone Cops proud, police decided that Culpepper was another woman also named Teresa — and that other woman was wanted for aggravated assault. Culpepper’s attorney says there’s no reasonable explanation:
“Her birth date didn’t match. Her address didn’t match. Her description didn’t match. Other than the name, Teresa, nothing matched,” said Culpepper’s attorney, Ashleigh Merchant.
Culpepper was kept in jail for 53 days. She was freed only after her public defender was able to get the victim in the other case to come to court and tell a judge that the woman being held wasn’t the one who assaulted her.
It’s pretty clear that the system doesn’t have much regard for the truth or for the rights of individuals, but you’d think the Atlanta Police Department would be falling all over itself to apologize for the mistake. Instead, the department seems more concerned about just making sure that proper “procedures” were followed. After an Atlanta television station exposed the facts of the woman’s case, the police department said it was opening an investigation into whether any of its “policies or procedures” were violated.
In other words, its rules matter. Your rights don’t. You’re free to rot in jail as long as we follow our own procedures, the police seem to believe. The out-of-control police culture in this country is very confused about why we have law enforcement. It’s to protect our rights, our lives and our property. All the policies and procedures in the world are meaningless if they care so little for the people they’re paid to protect.