This Machine Kills Accountability: The Ongoing Persecution Of Good Cops

from the reason-for-termination:-did-the-right-thing dept

There are several ways the many problems with American policing could be addressed, but maybe a good starting point would be the way good cops are treated. It takes a concerted effort to remove a bad officer from the force. And, far too often, an ousted officer simply finds a new agency to work for.

Good cops are a relative rarity. There are several who go through their career with a minimal number of sustained complaints, but that alone isn’t enough to earn them the label of “good.” Far too many are unwilling to speak up when misconduct occurs. Of course, the entire system discourages officers from speaking up. Those that do are ostracized, at best. At worst, they’re pressured into giving up their law enforcement career.

There’s no better example of law enforcement’s skewed priorities than the follow cases. In the first, officers who leaked body cam footage to the press to expose an officer’s abusive behavior are facing more serious consequences than the cop they exposed. (via

The officers are accused of downloading and leaking body camera video and confidential records on Officer William Martin. The video shows Martin’s controversial arrest of Jacqueline Craig – the Fort Worth mother who called police to report an assault on her son, back in December.

Officer Martin received a suspension for his actions, but Pridgen and Keyes were demoted. As a result of that demotion the two are no longer a part of Chief Fitzgerald’s executive team and both have been busted down to the rank of police captain.

The video released went viral, and for good reason. It showed Officer Martin assaulting someone who had called the police to report a neighbor had choked her 7-year-old son for littering. If there’s anyone to blame for how an attempt to file a police report became a viral example of inappropriate use of force, it’s Officer Martin:

“My son is 7-years-old, [he] don’t have the right to grab him and choke him,” Craig tells Martin, referring to the neighbor.

“Why don’t you teach your son not to litter,” asks Martin in a mocking and accusatory tone.

“He can’t prove to me that my son did or didn’t, but it doesn’t matter,” Craig says. “That doesn’t give him the right to put his hands on him.”

“Why not,” Martin asks.

A bystander’s video, posted to Facebook, was damning. The officer’s own body camera footage was even worse. And yet, it’s the officers who leaked the footage losing their titles and pay, rather than the officer who deployed the excessive force.

At the press conference this morning Craig’s attorney, Lee Merritt, talked about the punishment for Officer Martin versus the punishment for the FWPD officers. “Martin amassed a series of felonies on that day from assault, to aggravated assault, to perjury, official corruption, false arrest [and] to each of these he received no criminal investigation, no criminal prosecution. He received a 10-day vacation and he was returned to the force with a scheduled promotion,” Merritt said.

What hurts more, a demotion from the chief’s executive force, or ten days off and the gentle reminder not to escalate routine policework into a viral media event?

The second incident is even worse, in terms of changing cop culture. An officer who didn’t kill someone is suing his former employer.

A West Virginia police officer who was fired after not shooting an emotionally disturbed man with an unloaded gun filed a civil rights lawsuit Wednesday against his former department.

Mader’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday on his behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia and the law office of Timothy O’Brien, claims he was wrongly terminated, and that the county, city and police department violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $75,000.

Rather than view a suicidal person as an unfinished story just waiting for cops to write the final chapter, the officer talked to the man and attempted to resolve the situation without violence. This plan was ruined by the next cop through the door, who immediately shot and killed the suicidal man. The gun the man was holding was unloaded. Sure, the next officer through the door didn’t know that, but it’s not as though the officer took any time to assess the situation — something that might have included speaking to the officer who was already present in the room with the “dangerous threat.”

Officer Mader was fired. The other cop was praised. According to the department, Mader “put two other officers in danger” by not immediately killing the suicidal man. In his notice of termination, Mader was let go for “failing to neutralize a threat.” Oddly, the only person who spent any time talking to the suicidal man didn’t see him as a threat. It was only the other officers — who had spent zero time interacting with the man — who felt “endangered” and “threatened.”

For this decision, Mader was not only fired, but dragged through the mud by his supervisors and fellow officers:

The department said Mader did not attempt to deescalate the situation, first yelling profanity at Williams and then freezing. City officials also said Mader was fired due to “multiple” prior incidents, including performing a search of a car without probable cause. Mader’s lawsuit says those statements are false. Officials also called him a “disgruntled employee” and “a bad cop.”

The officer who shot Williams texted Mader after the press conference, according to the lawsuit, and called him a “coward” who “didn’t have the balls to save [his] own life.”

This is the thanks officers get for attempting to protect and serve their community. Far too many officers act as though the world’s out to get them — a mindset that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when they treat everyone else not dressed in blue as a threat.

Being a good cop gets you nowhere. Or, rather, it gets you demoted or fired. Until the internal attitude changes, the external behavior of law enforcement officers will only get worse.

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Comments on “This Machine Kills Accountability: The Ongoing Persecution Of Good Cops”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

"I don't get it, why don't the people we beat and shoot respect us?"

Officer Mader was fired. The other cop was praised. According to the department, Mader "put two other officers in danger" by not immediately killing the suicidal man.

Not immediately killing someone who might be a danger is ‘putting [people] in danger’. In pretty much any other profession that sort of mindset would get you arrested as a threat to those around you and subjected to extensive psychological counseling, yet for police it’s just another day on the job, a job that apparently is not intended to have any risk whatsoever if methods up to and including murdering someone is considered acceptable to eliminate the potential for risk.

The cherry on top of that disgusting cake of course is that the scum who shot the man called the one who was willing to risk being shot by talking to the man a ‘coward’ afterwards. Because apparently in his warped mind it takes courage to gun someone down and cowardice to not pull the trigger.

Stories like this make the ‘The bad cops are a minority’ narrative even more of a joke than it already was. Two entire departments were involved in these two cases, either directly or indirectly, with the only ones punished being the ones I would consider ‘good cops’.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

The image of the gang with badges trumps everything.
It used to be they could cover these things up, but now there are citizens coming forward with videos after the cops commit to the lie proving they lied.

We need to force them to take a good long look at themselves & demand change. When citizens shake with fear at the sight of flashing lights, perhaps we’ve let them go to far & believed to many lies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The institution of voting was usurped by that group writing standard police procedures long long ago.. even though they would attempt to make everyone believe the Russians fucked with the last election. Its just another smokescreen on an infinitely large list of smokescreens. One thing for certain there is no testing for humanity, level of compassion or IQ nor is it ever required to be a law enforcement officer.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Good cops are a relative rarity.”

Maybe in the US but not in the UK, which employs another type of cop which has no American counterpart, the Community Service Officer, who is unarmed and without power of arrest.

It’s a very peculiar American system that demands that all cops of every level and agency be armed to the teeth, even when off-duty.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: judges with guns

UK ‘Community Service Officers’ are less than 10% of the police force and have only been around since 2002.

Good idea to reduce police legal powers though.

All cops in UK/US used to be like these “Community Service Officers” but the 19th Century London government invented the current model of a highly organized, powerful, semi-independent para-military “police” force to control the serfs.
It’s been downhill ever since for citizens rights.

No policeman should have a general power of “arrest”, as they do now. The general power/authority of arrest is strictly a judicial power under traditional Anglo-American law. If a cop wants to arrest somebody — he should get an “Arrest Warrant” from a judge. In an emergency situation, cops can make a personal arrest just like any other citizen can legally do.

Cops are armed to the teeth and routinely threaten innocent people with guns pointed (an instant felony by anyone else).

The overall cop-problem can not be fixed … because it’s merely a more visible symptom of the larger corrupt government.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: judges with guns

“The overall cop-problem can not be fixed … because it’s merely a more visible symptom of the larger corrupt government.”

So, you are advocating what, exactly, Jihad? Overthrow of the government and in place of laws, lawmakers and elections listen to the Muslim clergy about what is legal and who should have authority?

What exactly are you advocating and promoting?

Cowardly Lion says:

Re: Re: Re: judges with guns

Personally I see no need for the poster above to advocate or promote anything. I formed the view that he/she was commenting on how difficult, embedded, and institutionalized the problem is.

I just want to add that your solution to US police brutality by conducting a holy war and installing a Muslim clergy is a stroke of genius. I do think you’ll struggle to sneak it past Trump though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 judges with guns

Yes, Wendy, you would probably see it as a “stroke of genius”. Normal healthy adults understand the very real threat from the mal-adapted and dangerous Jihadists in real society.

No matter how many fake names you hide behind, your voice is obvious, Wendy Cockcroft. Go ahead, deny it’s you, but consider your opponents, which now include both the US and British intelligence agencies. You identify yourself as a closeted terrorists, you don’t think people are watching? Ever consider who actually provides those low cost VPN services?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 judges with guns

It really was not intended to be anything against anyone other than the poster, I was just asking them. When I hear justification like “because it’s merely a more visible symptom of the larger corrupt government” it rings my alarm bells about Muslim Jihadists, because that is exactly their messaging. I am only asking, I am not accusing. We should all ask when we hear such diatribe against the UK, the US, or the genera Western philosophy of government. I am asking, not accusing, because it sounds SO SIMILAR to Jihadist messaging and propaganda. Just watch “The Jihadist Next Door”, and you will see exactly what I mean. Everyone should watch it, IMHO.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: judges with guns

Yes, the current ‘police state’ mentality is directly a proponent of power elite dark state government authorized totalitarianism. Its nascent roots took their parasitic hold in the rich land of Free enterprise, grew in stealth and secrecy and then cast their liberty murdering seeds to the winds after two world wars which enriched their unquestioned, unaccountable power base.

And now we eat their poisonous fruits.

Today, the police essentially get away with what we be called war crimes in actual warfare combat.

And the corrupted crony judicial system supports this with laws like asset forfeiture and immunity from liability for crimes perpetrated against citizens while commited ‘in the line of duty’.

Yes, it is a good idea to reduce ‘use of force, privacy invasions, and arbitrary all encompassing surveillance tactics in the specious rationale of public safety and crime prevention.

But it must come from the top down. Trump promised some of this reform. in the form of ensuring more protection for our 4th amendment and its primary protector, the 2nd Amendment.

But so far the Deep State power elite have kept him too busy just trying to survive the presidency.

We, the citizens. must start and push grassroots efforts to take back our legislative powers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s a very peculiar American system that demands that all cops of every level and agency be armed to the teeth, even when off-duty.

It’s because if LEOs don’t have weapons on ’em 24/7, there’s too much absenteeism. It’s hard to get unarmed cops to come out from under their beds and go to work.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Again with the toilet references. Tell the truth, you’re another Mean Girl, right? First comments about “shitting the bed” and then calling people you don’t agree with “shitheads” and now “they’re wetting themselves”.

No one is really interested in your toilet traumas, please don’t post about your obviously mal-adjusted childhood anymore.

I guess when you start your life unable to “fit in” to toilet behavior, it becomes impossible to “fit in” to adult discourse without referring to it.

Get over it.

Killercool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You know, I’m seeing a common element to all of these (slightly disturbing) conversations. There’s always a person who is unhealthily obsessed with the functioning of strangers’ genitals, calling into question their utility, and/or shaming people for the quality or type of genitals they possess.

That’s YOU. YOU are the common element.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Unless, obviously, your contribution to the public good is to confront the mentally and socially mal-adjusted, and point out their inappropriate behavior. Duh, right? Did you think about that? Are you going to defend the use of the term “wetting their pants” or “shitting the bed”, or are you the one offering such terms here under a different name.

No offense, just asking..

Have a nice day. 🙂

Killercool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Your Freudian obsession with other people’s bodily functions and genitalia, even when mentioned in passing, says much more about the state of YOUR mind and morals than anyone elses.

Please understand that your personal hang-ups are YOUR problem, and are definitely not reflective of some greater issue with society. The fact that you take issue with idioms (i.e., "wetting their pants") is on YOU, not every other person who speaks English.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Well, sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. Much of this blog is focused on legal issues that have actual consequence, and I just don’t think it helpful to bring toilet items into the discussion. Very often, either Anonymous or named posters focus their critique on inappropriate items, IMHO, so I point them out.

Most lawyers, for example, don’t use such terms in front of a judge, a judge just wouldn’t stand for them. After a certain level of age and education, these terms are typically abandoned when referring to real-life scenarios, like legal cases. I think they are used as a tool on this forum to discourage open discussion, creating an atmosphere of filth and disgust that turns normal people away from an intellectual discussion. Sometimes I liken Techdirt to a latrine where the locals smear their own feces on the walls to protect their ill-informed opinions from rebuttal.

I have no problem with English, I just prefer to try to have my discussions in places not full of excrement and other mal-adjusted tools of the mental and socially crippled.

Anonymous Coward says:

More anonymization tools, more whistle blower protections, a whistle blower culture, more encryption, more secure channels, more decentralized communications, more news sites willing to uncover these stories, that is what we need, more people coming forward with hard evidence in an anonymous and secure way if they want, also protections (lots more) to those uncovered. No espionage bs.

My_Name_Here says:

If you can’t follow the chain of command to report wrongdoing you deserve to be harshly punished no matter what. Part of the reason for this wanton lack of respect for authority is due to a few fringe idealists who think it is acceptable to go behind their superiors’ backs just to appeal to public criminal elements.

If cops cannot be respected they will have to enforce it out of you. The rest of us law-abiding citizens are fine. You should really only worry if you have something to hide.

Cowardly Lion says:

Re: Re:

"You should really only worry if you have something to hide."

Bullshit. How many lolcats I send my nearest and dearest is nobody’s business but mine.

"If cops cannot be respected they will have to enforce it out of you."

Fuck you. Cops need to earn trust and respect, like everyone else.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Ah, this explains you, Tim.

Interesting tact, Ninja. I see you have been the first poster on most Techdirt posts for many years, so I assume you are special at Techdirt. At the moment, your tact is to try to shame someone because of their feelings, which you want to characterize as a “little baby” “kindergarten-level” “hurt”.

Well, even though you may have a special rank at Techdirt, you don’t have much ability when it comes to having a conversation. You must be post-teen years, you’ve been posting so long, so I’m not sure what makes you consider these as useful or legitimate arguments.

Why don’t you just say “shame! shame! shame! SO THERE.” Maybe you could abbreviate it so we can all understand you more clearly. How about 4ST. That would be good, 4 s’s and a T, understand? 4ST. That’s about the depth of your argument. 3 characters are more than enough to understand it. Which is to say, it means nothing at all.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: "Good gang members are a relative rarity."

The fact that the majority or at least a significant percentage of the time the police come up it’s for something bad does not reflect negatively on him, that’s all on the police.

If someone covered gang activity and tended to have a poor view of them, saying that ‘good’ gang members were rare because more often than not gang members acted ‘poorly’ would you likewise say that they were unfit to talk about the subject?

Ninja (profile) says:

I’ve had the chance to talk to some awesome cops and it’s the same everywhere. You have to thread a fine line between being good and closing your eyes to some stuff to remain in the force. One cop I knew worked for the federal police (I’d guess the FBI in the US?) in São Paulo and she warned her superiors that some cops were corrupt and were receiving bribes to overlook some stuff. She was ignored and then vindictively transferred from state to state till she gave up (they can’t be fired without very grave complaints here) because it was taking a toll on her kids.

The good part is that there is an ongoing effort to change this. The sad part is that it’s a very slow process and this is still not the exception.

Annonymouse (profile) says:

Good cops?

I have known at least half a dozen good cops in my lifetime.
Two were, now retired, small town USA cops.
Unfortunately nearly everyone else that I have interacted with stateside has been at best questionably terse and that has degenerated to belligerence over the intervening the years.

Worse yet is that I see that cancer spreading outside the US borders and spreading north.

Anonymous Coward says:

In 2015, there were 15,696 homicides in the US. 52% of the time, those murdered were black. 52%. Over 90% of the time, those murdered victims were murdered by another black.

In 2015 the police killed 986 people. 495 of them were white, 258 of them were black and 172 of them were Hispanic.

Are cops perfect? No. Are there bad cops? Of course. Should they be punished (arrested, fired)? Yes.

But Tim, your fucking priorities are fucked. I know, you are a writer and writing stories like this gets views, but you are writing about the wrong problem and actually making America worse, not better. You are part of the problem, not the solution.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: From the top down then

1) Irrelevant.

2) Mostly irrelevant. The race of those killed matters only to the extent of ‘How does that match the severity of the crime(if any), and does it indicate that one race gets better or worse treatment than another?’.

A better consideration would be ‘How many of those killings(regardless of race) were found to be justified by someone other than the police?’

3) Deepity.

4) Pointing out that the system protects it’s own, placing higher importance on that than protecting the public is not ‘making america worse’. The first step in solving a problem is admitting it exists, making people aware that there is a problem. The only people that benefit from hiding how corrupt something is are those that are part of the corruption.

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