First Posted: 1/15/2009
It will be up to a judge to decide how high a price that Leon Oxendine, a 26-year veteran of the Lumberton Police Department, will pay for his crimes, but don't be surprised if it's steep.
The judicial system has little tolerance for those who are sworn to uphold the law, but are led - typically after becoming intoxicated by power and arrogance - to violate it. And that's as it should be.
It only follows that those whose duty is to protect the public be held to a higher standard. Lawmen are a fundamental building block of our judicial system, and when one becomes corrupted and isn't quickly removed, then the foundation crumbles.
Oxendine was convicted last week in a federal court of having an informant plant a computer disk in the home of a suspected drug dealer. The disk apparently could have been used to produce counterfeit $100 bills. It doesn't matter that Oxendine was apparently trying to set up a bad guy. That's just not how our judicial system works.
After he was found guilty, the Lumberton Police Department moved quickly to fire Oxendine, who had been on paid and then unpaid leave since he was indicted in April. Oxendine faces as many as 40 years in prison and $1.75 million in fines when he goes for sentencing on Jan. 18.
Don't be mistaken into believing that a good cop has been wrongly convicted. A key piece of evidence in the case against Oxendine were his own words, caught on audiotape by a fellow police officer, James Jordan, who was also implicated in the case. Jordan agreed to cooperate with investigators and, in exchange for lesser charges, wore a wire that caught Oxendine admitting to having the disk planted.
So what conclusions can we draw about the Lumberton Police Department from this case? Probably none.
We ask too much of lawmen and we pay them too little. The consequence is that the occasional bad cop slips through. They are, unfortunately, part of the fabric of our judicial system.
A small part, we are sure.