A Jackson County Florida deputy was arrested and charged with over 50 different offenses, for planting drugs in people’s cars and arresting them. 26-year-old Zachary Wester had been with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office for only two years but in that time he managed to destroy the lives many people. 119 cases have been dropped so far. People have had their lives disrupted, lost jobs, relationships were broken, one man lost custody of his child. No one knows why Wester did what he did.
His main targets were poor white people who already had previous criminal histories. These people are already vulnerable. Nobody was willing to believe them when they denied the charges. Everyone assumed they had done it before so they must be guilty this time. That is not the way our system is supposed to work but we all know that is exactly how it does work.
As if this case wasn’t bad enough, Christina Pumphrey, the State Attorney who uncovered the problem, faced a lot of backlash when she was looking into it. She was yelled at, she was told, ‘we don’t talk to anybody, keep it in the office’, she was accused of messing up investigations. Pressure was exerted on her to keep her mouth shut so no one would find out that the checks and balances the public thinks are there were not, in fact, being used at all.
Ms. Pumphrey had to resign from her position and ended up having to file a whistleblower’s retaliation lawsuit against State Attorney Glenn Hess. This woman refused to compromise her principles. She refused to put people in jail when she suspected there was wrong-doing and possibly even criminal activity by the police officer. She didn’t stop investigating even after she had raised red-flags about his conduct. It was Christina Pumphrey who found the damning video that shows the drugs in Deputy Wester’s hand, drugs that all of a sudden disappear then re-appear in the detained person’s vehicle.
I don’t believe the whole system in Jackson County was corrupt. What they were was lazy. They weren’t doing their jobs correctly. The people were just numbers, a case file. They weren’t people with lives anymore. They didn’t matter. And when someone came along who did see them as people she rocked the boat. People could lose their jobs or at the very least have their reputations damaged. Rather than tighten up their processes and look to see what they had missed before they chose to attack the person doing the right thing in an attempt to keep their mistakes hidden, even at the cost of damaged lives.
Theses are the things that damage their credibility in the eyes of the general public.