BOB INGERSOLL: THE LAW IS A ASS #342: BATMAN’S SEPARATION ANXIETY
Not for Gordon, because eight issues into this fifty-two issue maxi-series, he’s still sitting in Blackgate Penitentiary awaiting trial for 162 counts of manslaughter. Not for Batman, because his best friend and former police commissioner is in Blackgate leaving Batman with interim commissioner Jack Forbes. And not for us, because eight issues into the fifty-two issue maxi-series that is Batman Eternal, we’ve realized its glacial pacing shows no signs of melting even with global warming. Seriously, this story has more padding than bubble wrap.
So what is it this time that’s got my spleen venting like a Yellowstone geyser? It’s interim police commissioner Jack Forbes. When we first met Forbes, back in Batman: The Dark Knight # 1, he was a lieutenant in Internal Affairs and had a bug up his butt about costumed vigilantes. Seems he longed for the good old days when the police were treated like kings and got to gun down the people they didn’t like. Also he was a police officer in Gotham City who wasn’t named Gordon, Bullock, Sawyer, or Montoya and that means he was…
(Come on, Sing Along With Bob. Unlike with Mitch, you don’t need a bouncing ball. You know the words.)
… Completely corrupt. As in, Forbes is so is Carmine Falcone’s pocket, that Falcone doesn’t have room for lint. After former commissioner Jim Gordon was arrested, Falcone used his influence on Mayor Sebastian Hady – a corrupt politician who’s not just in Falcone’s pocket, he might as well be Falcone’s house key – to have Forbes installed as police commissioner.
Forbes’s first act as commissioner – literally, I think he did it even before breathing – was to declare war on Batman. And that brings us up to speed on Batman Eternal. (Which may be the only time that speed and Batman Eternal appear in the same sentence.)
Even after Forbes was appointed commissioner, Batman did what Batman does. He rounded up bad guys. Particularly bad guys in the employ of Falcone. Then Falcone pulled on Forbes’s leash and Forbes ordered the police to release all those criminals that Batman “practically gift-wrapped” because, “Commissioner Forbes doesn’t recognize Batman. Says the city prosecutor has no authority to prosecute anybody brought in by a vigilante.”
First, how do you not recognize Batman? He’s 6’ 2” rocks a gray armored unitard and sports a face mask with big pointy ears. How do you not know who he is when you see him? Second, Mr. Forbes, I know when Carmine Falcone says, “Jump!” you doesn’t bother asking, “How High?” you just hope matching LeBron James’s vertical leap is good enough, but when you do your master’s bidding don’t make it so damn obvious.
Forbes, if you want to say the city prosecutor can’t prosecute anybody brought in by Batman, because there weren’t any other witnesses to their criminal activities and Batman can’t testify, I could live with that, because that would be an accurate statement of the laws. But the city prosecutor has no authority to prosecute anyone brought in by a vigilante? Why don’t you just polish Falcone’s hip flask, while you’re making yourself at home?
Forbes’s attitude begs two questions. First, who is Commissioner Forbes to dictate the authority of the city prosecutor? The Police Department and the Law Department may both be part of the Executive Branch of Gotham City’s government, but they’re separate departments. The head of one such department doesn’t get to set the authority of what the head of another department can or cannot do. I’ll bet even the Mayor, the head of Gotham City’s Executive Department, can’t dictate who the city prosecutor gets to prosecute.
American governments operate under the principle of separation of powers and its attendant checks and balances. In most jurisdictions to maintain said checks and balances, the Executive Branch is charged with administering the law, but the Legislative Branch is charged with passing the laws. So it would be the Gotham’s City Council that would pass the laws establishing who the prosecutor may prosecute. That authority cannot come by fiat from the police commissioner.
The second question vis-a-vis prosecutors having no authority to prosecute criminals arrested by vigilantes: Didn’t you watch any Andy Griffith Show re-runs as a kid?
Someone “who is not a police officer.” That’s you or me. Or Batman. Who “tries to catch and punish criminals.” I admit that “punish” part is troubling. Sounds a bit like a lynch mob. But Batman doesn’t punish the criminals, he leaves them for the police and lets the justice system prosecute them and punish them. So, let’s leave the punish part out of it. Then what do we have? Someone who is not a police officer, i.e., a citizen, who tries to catch criminals. According to Forbes, the city prosecutor doesn’t have the authority to prosecute anyone arrested in that manner.
What would happen if you or I saw a crime being committed, apprehended the perpetrator, and brought him to the police? We’d be making a perfectly valid citizen’s arrest. And if that’s good enough for Gomer Pyle, why isn’t it good enough for Batman?
Seriously, the ability of a common citizen to make a citizen’s arrest dates back in the good old days of common law. It continues today. All states allow citizen’s arrests. Most states have codified Citizen’s arrest in their statutes. In New Jersey, it’s N.J.S.A. 2A: 169-3, “Whenever an offense is committed in his presence, any constable or police officer shall, and any other person may, apprehend without warrant and process any disorderly person and take him before any magistrate of the county where apprehended.” (Emphasis added.)
So New Jersey has a law that allows Batman to do what he’s doing. The same law, by extension, must grant the city prosecutor the authority to prosecute the people brought in by Batman or other citizen’s arrests, at least implicitly. After all, if the law didn’t authorize prosecution of citizen-arrested offenders, then why bother having a law allowing citizen’s arrests in the first place? So, Mr. Forbes, there’s a law that permits prosecution of those arrested by citizens and that pretty much trumps any edict issued by you.
Mr. Forbes, if you think your banning those criminals captured by Batman from being prosecuted will be a piece of cake, you’re wrong. Everyone knows, you can’t have your cake and edict, too.