In my post Why I don't buy the ticking bomb scenario , I spoke of how accepting torture in extraordinary circumstances becomes lesser abuses as standard operating procedure. Before I continue, watch this video . If that video doesn't play, try this , and search "Arizona pastor tazed, beaten" on Youtube.
It would be nice to think that this was a freak occurrence, but it's not- something of the kind happens on a near-daily basis somewhere in America. There are some police officers for whom "being a wiseass" is the ultimate crime, to be punished on the spot with a beating. Such abusive police officers are a big problem for police forces. Among some circles, they're called "dead men walking", because they know that sooner or later he's going to bully the wrong guy, and get 9mm justice- and nobody wants to be standing close to him when it happens. But weeding such characters out is never easy, not least because even the clean, decent cops (the large majority) understand the frustration that can cause it.
But the "never easy" becomes the "nearly impossible" if the social pressure is not there, and societies respond to leadership- the fish rots from the head. When Woodrow Wilson made speaking against WW I illegal, we had vigilante groups burning small newspapers who opposed it. In the 20's-50's, when the government was busy enforcing racial segregation, (another Wilson initiative), we had mass lynching. In the 60's and 70's when the most common three syllable word in politics was "lawnorder", beating up "filthy hippies" was a popular redneck pastime. And throughout all this, police behavior reflected social behavior as a whole; the best Chiefs of Police couldn't hold their men to a higher standard than the public demanded.
This is why it's so crucial for the Federal government, from the President on down, to be beyond reproach in such matters. People respond as quickly to good example as bad; nobody wants to feel like a monster- and close-knit societies like law enforcement feel peer pressure even stronger than most. To fall from grace hits those in uniform harder than a bullet- but only if there is grace to fall from. In a very, very real sense, to protect the inherent dignity of prisoners is to ensure your own- and vice-versa.