Police Sgt. Drew Peterson: Rule of Law or of Lawmen?

By now everyone knows that Drew Peterson (Bollingbrook, IL) was arrested yesterday. (For thorough coverage, see the Bollingbrook Sun.) Why did it take so long?

The sign of a civilized society is supposed to be “the rule of law, not of men,” but IMHO when it comes to government officials all “rules” are off: Peterson is (or was) a Police Sergeant with the Bollingbrook, IL, Police Department.

Read the Bollingbrook Sun’s history of the investigation of Kathleen Savio’s death (link above). Briefly:

  • Savio was divorcing Peterson.
  • Peterson meets a teenager named Stacy.
  • Peterson “discovers” Savio’s body (I know, he claims he was not literally the one to discover her).
  • The Will County Coroner recommends to the coroner’s jury that the death was accidental drowning in a dry bathtub.
  • A state police investigator testifies to the coroner’s jury that there was no sign of foul play, although she had head injuries.
  • The coroner’s jury brings in a verdict of “accidental death.”

The coroner appears either to have failed to properly autopsy the body and investigate the death or to have taken some other official’s word for the cause of death (Peterson, perhaps?). Coroners and police, after all, are on the same team.

The state police investigator appears to have failed in his investigations, too, or to have taken the word of his fellow police officers (Peterson, perhaps?).

Over a year ago I heard an interview with one of the coroner’s jurors. He said the jury followed the lead of a police officer among them as to the probable cause of death. That’s right: a police officer coincidentally was on the coroner’s jury.

I also heard an interview with a young woman who lived in Bollingbrook and who claimed Peterson was in the habit of stopping attractive women drivers on trumped up traffic violations so he could hit on them. No one did anything about it.

Then there are the allegations that Peterson habitually abused his four wives: it terrifies me to think what these women must have endured. Who in Bollingbrook could they call for help when their abuser was a sergeant in the police department?

If the Drew Peterson case isn’t an example of the rule of men, rather than law, I can’t imagine what is.

He will be arraigned this morning in Joliet’s Will County Circuit Court—home of the slammer where he’s likely to land in very short order now that national attention is turned on Will County.

It strikes me as ironic that a cop like Peterson can get away with murder (figuratively speaking, of course, since he’s innocent until proven guilty), while a cop like Trooper Higbee is apt to be called a murderer by his local prosecutor for doing his job.

Electing Your Law

The moral of this story? Citizens need to pay a good deal of attention to the election of county prosecutors, coroners, and even judges. I know it’s difficult in a large county to be fully informed about these offices and candidates who run for these offices, but they have a direct impact on your life. Before each election, check with the local bar association for recommendations—at a minimum.

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