by Robin Spano
Question of the Week: If you had a chance to work in law enforcement, what part of the profession would you choose?
Answer: I would need a role that allowed me to bend the rules. I think it's no secret that the heroes of crime fiction novels tend to be alcoholic, womanizing, rule-breaking detectives precisely because that's the only kind of detective a writer could see themself being.
The problem with the justice system is that it tries to be objective, but really there's no such thing as objective moral ground.
So if I were a cop, I would need a role that allowed me to charge someone with a crime not based on laws and precedents, but based on my subjective perception of their moral culpability. Like Susan said yesterday, I'm too empathetic (as most writers are) to be able to coldly put someone in a hostile prison setting if I think there's any hope for redemption if he stays outside the system. So basically, the only role on the police force that I'd qualify for is fictional detective.
If I were a judge, I'd be bound by the laws of the land. The odd time, I'd be able to set a precedent, but mostly my obligation would be to uphold the laws of my jurisdiction.
A criminal psychologist would be a better option. To be able to talk to a criminal and assess their motives and mental stability would give me more of an opportunity to suggest the right solution.
But where I really think I'd shine is as a financially independent criminal lawyer. As long as I was able to refuse all cases except those where I wanted the defendant to win (meaning where I thought society would be better off if the defendant stayed out of jail), I would have no moral trouble arguing innocence where I believed guilt—as long as I didn't have a psychopath or a risk for reoffending on my hands.
Cases I'd take:
(a) battered spouses or children who committed murder or other violent acts out of fear for their family's lives—too many women's prison inmates fall into this category
(b) people who commit crimes to take a political stance, either here or in other countries, where the government is obtuse to what their electorate is asking them to do
(c) anyone who takes a stand against Monsanto or global warming, as long as the acts they commit don't put life or innocent people's property at risk
Wow, now I kind of wish I'd gone to law school.