The Bad Apples Control The Bunch: USA Today Report Details Law Enforcements Punishment Of Good Cops

from the mediocre-cops-aren't-helping-out-either dept

Plenty of people try to minimize police misconduct by claiming what we witness day after day after day is just the work of a few “bad apples.” That’s only half of the adage, though. The rest of it notes that bad apples spoil the whole bunch. Keep bad apples around long enough and you’re going to have to throw out the bunch eventually.

Apply this phrase to cop shops and you’ll see why cop proponents only half-quote it. Apply this phrase to cop shops and you’ll see where it completely fails: not only do bad apples make the good apples worse, but the bad apples have the power to rid the bunch of as many good apples as possible.

An investigation by USA Today shows why it’s easy to keep good cops down and enable bad cops to do their worst. Law enforcement culture has dictated a thin blue line — one that shields bad cops from accountability and allows even the best of cops to assume the public’s unwillingness to turn a blind eye to misconduct makes them the enemy.

But the most dangerous enemies are those behind the blue line. And they must be removed by any means necessary. (Non-paywalled link here.)

To many in law enforcement, snitching against another cop is a betrayal that can’t go unpunished.

Those who enforce this code – the blue wall of silence – have stuffed dead rats and feces into fellow officers’ lockers. They’ve issued death threats, ignored requests for backup, threatened family members and planted drugs on the officers who reported wrong.

Department leaders often condone these reprisals or pile on by launching internal investigations to discredit those who expose misconduct. Whistleblowers have been fired, jailed and, in at least one case, forcibly admitted to a psychiatric ward.  

USA Today has receipts, thanks to public records requests and information given to it by law enforcement whistleblowers. There are good cops out there. But they’re up against a system that equates reporting of misconduct to be a form of treason. Bad cops and their employers/enablers ensure no good deed goes unpunished.

In South Carolina, an officer leaked the fact that fellow deputies beat a prisoner who later died in custody. In Florida, a detective who specialized in child sex crimes reported a captain who had impregnated a 16-year-old girl and then paid for her to have an abortion. In Oregon, a sergeant complained that a co-worker bragged about killing an unarmed teenager.  

After speaking out, all of them were forced out of their departments and branded traitors by fellow officers.

The same silencing of whistleblowers we’ve observed at the federal level also occurs in state and local law enforcement agencies. Retaliation abounds. The “official channels” for reporting wrongdoing often involve officials whose wrongdoing is being reported. And if none of that works, a perverse form of peer pressure is deployed — one that ensures whistleblowing cops will never have backup if they need it and will be frozen out of transfers and promotions.

No one is exempt, according to this USA Today investigation. Agencies large and small engage in these unofficial practices. Departments well-represented or run by minorities are no better than agencies with white leadership or whose workforce contains mostly white males. The presence of a police union may make things worse in terms of accountability, but even agencies without unions regularly punish whistleblowers. The only thing that ultimately matters is the profession: an equalization that serves the badge rather than the public.

This loyalty to each other, rather than their true employers (the general public), aligns law enforcement agencies with the criminal world, where snitching is an unforgivable sin that demands swift and brutal retribution. Officers who’ve abused their power are protected by a system that ends the careers of officers who want to see their agencies live up to the ideals they profess.

And, as if the point of this investigation needed to be driven home, a police union has stepped up to confirm the implications of the USA Today report. Not only is this officer no longer welcome in his own department, but his union has now basically stated it’s willing to throw its (paid for by union dues) legal weight behind cops accused of all sorts of malfeasance but will have nothing to do with a cop who has exposed wrongdoing.

An Illinois police union on Wednesday ousted from its membership an officer facing criminal charges for exposing a squad car video that showed his fellow officers slapping and cursing a man dying of a drug overdose.

The case of Sgt. Javier Esqueda, a 27-year veteran of the Joliet Police Department, was featured in September as the first installment of the USA TODAY series “Behind the Blue Wall,” an investigation involving more than 300 cases of police officers over the past decade who have spoken out against alleged misconduct in their departments.

And as for the constant insinuation that law enforcement agencies harbor millions of “good” cops, contrary to public opinion, it would be nice if bootlickers and police officials could explain anything reported above, much less this damning indictment of law enforcement’s unwillingness to police themselves.

Esqueda was one of 30 police officers who signed a letter to congress this summer urging lawmakers to pass protections for police whistleblowers.

Thirty. Out of nearly 700,000. Saying you’re for police accountability means nothing if you’re not willing to even sign your name to a letter asking federal legislators to stand by those who report wrongdoing. If you need a better argument for defunding police agencies, this is it. When a culture is so entrenched it can’t be rooted out with gradual reforms, perhaps the better solution is to burn it to the ground and rebuild with better policies and protections in place.

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Comments on “The Bad Apples Control The Bunch: USA Today Report Details Law Enforcements Punishment Of Good Cops”

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31 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

The image matters more than anything else.

This is the entire problem.
Its not the cop who killed someone, its someone who besmirched the image of cops by exposing it.
Its not the cop who lied on the stand, its the DA who dared expose the illegal action.
Its not the SEAL who murdered innocent unarmed people, its those who made the SEALs look bad.
Its not the illegal program undermining our alleged rights, its those who exposed the illegal thing.
Its not those who held fire until people came to assist & then struck again, its those people who exposed that crime.
Its not the Captain who raped 20 soldiers, its that bitch who made a big deal of it.
Its not the base ignoring 20 missing soldiers, its because those people reported rape, drug use, being pimped out & must have run away.
Its not the Governor hiding deaths & passing laws to undercut efforts to stop the virus spreading, its that woman who DARED not lie to the media about the real death toll.
Its not the elected leaders who keep supporting & repeating lies that are killing people, its the media for daring to say the lies are lies.

They are supposed to uphold the ideals, but somehow its been perverted to say we must protect the image above all else.
They complain that people aren’t trusting or respecting them, but manage to overlook those in their ranks who have repeatedly abused the public trust & been given a pass.

Respect isn’t given just because of a uniform, respect is earned.
(I await those screaming I hate military people to distract from the point. I think those who choose to serve have made a respectable decision, but when I see one in uniform murdering an unarmed child in another country I have no respect for that person & the command who ignores what happened.)

Someone can be pulled over for going 5 MPH over the speed limit and end up dead… and the person who pulled the trigger rarely is found accountable. And we wonder why respect for things is in a free fall.

Anonymous Coward says:

30 out of 700,000, sounds about right. You won’t see cops marching to Washington DC demanding police accountability for sure. Good cops are more like unicorns IMHO. They are rotten, almost all of them..some less and some more, and if some are not rotten, they will get rotten after a few years on the job because shit and blood stains. No one is clean eventually. How can one stays clean in that kind of environment? Its just the way the system mal-socialize and uncivilize people like they do with people in prison.

Burn it down to the ground and rebuild yeah.. I’m up for that, but maybe just rebuild then burn can work?
You know, some cities won’t just shut down their police departments because crime. Seems we must have alternatives to the ‘security’ provided by the thugs in blue before we can rid ourselves of them.

Maybe It’s time for Americans to think out of box. Think us as the market for security and learn from other markets. Why should the traditional police department have the monopoly in crimefighting and security anyways? We know that monopolies in other markets generally are bad as it tend to lead to higher costs, inferior products, and bad services, and we see this in the police departments too. We know that healthy competition lead to better services. So we should get competition for the thugs in blue then maybe we can get rid of them for good.

If we can rebuild by establishing competing alternatives then we can burn down the thugs in blue because then we won’t be stuck with them. Maybe, the alternatives could be in combination of neighborhood watches, private security solutions from the free market, and non-profit security organizations? Do all the police need to be armed? There are unarmed police in some other countries and they manage somehow. Maybe specialize the police more, separate them, make some of them unarmed only. Maybe create haven for the better cops by establishing an alternative and separate competing police department based on Peelian principles where better cops can go to than be stuck in a toxic work environment? Let the two departments compete with each other for the lion share of the public funds for policing, eh? As like in Jesus’ Parable of Talents, reward the more faithful public servants and the hell with the rest.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Maybe It’s time for Americans to think out of box. Think us as the market for security and learn from other markets."

In many european countries policing requires hell of a lot more than a mere ten months of training and practice peelian principles of policing. Where I live if i see a cop i may be nervous he’s there because there’s a problem in my immediate area but I have never in my life actually had cause to fear that officer the same way I’d fear people in gang colors eyeing my smartphone.

I think the US fscks up in so many ways because as a culture magical thinking is encouraged. The one who wears the badge can do no wrong. The screaming crackpot peddling snake oil is to many just a prophet the "establishment" wants silenced. Legislation and policies are based on religious tenets rather than observable evidence. The "truths" about the earth being flat, alien visitors, the holocaust and the moon landings being faked, and liberal cannibal cults….are all suppressed by the mysterious lizard people running the illuminati – who apparently everyone but a small handful people is a member of.

P.T. Barnum couldn’t have made a living anywhere else. Only in the US does such a large herd of gormless fsckwits exist who will believe anything as long as it sounds good to them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Quite so, I agree. Magical thinking is the root problem of what’s fucking up America.( Besides greed ). There’s more profits in deceiving other people in politics and business so that is the norm and the American culture deems this an acceptable practice. The political and business elites love their public relations and marketing and whatnot. Of course the political and business elites encourage magical thinking and all other kind of thinking errors and lying because there is profit in that. After all, stupider and deceived (whether self-inflicted or not) people are easier to make money from or get votes from. Intellectual honesty gets in the way of profits so that’s not embraced. It’s all about the Almighty Dollar. That the true religion of America.

People nowadays are too greedy and too dishonest for their own good and they accept this in other people and they get stupid together and that’s sad.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Upstream (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It is an interesting idea, but we can’t even think about free market competition in policing until we have achieved actual free market competition in the government that underlies the law enforcement system. Some people stubbornly believe (or insist, whether they actually believe it or not) that we have free market competition in government, via voting, but they fail to acknowledge that the existing government has rigged the "market" and effectively eliminated competition, largely via onerous ballot access laws.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"It is an interesting idea, but we can’t even think about free market competition in policing until we have achieved actual free market competition in the government that underlies the law enforcement system. "

That right there. There’s a sort of libertarian religious belief in market forces which roots itself in the idea that participants will obey the rules.

Hence why you need a hybrid system where capitalism and socialism curb each other rather than one side dominating completely.

Upstream (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I am clearly in the libertarian camp, but my belief in market forces is nowhere near religious. I think a free market market system should be the default, that is, it should (almost) always be tried first.

If it works, which it often does, fine. If not, go to Plan B, which usually involves government intervention and control to some extent. It can be loose control on a macro scale (Plan B-1), or tight control on a micro scale (Plan B-2), or somewhere in between.

But, at least in the U.S. in recent history, it seems that most, but not all, market failures have their roots in government intervention. In these cases, additional government intervention never seems to solve the problem. Instead, it typically seems to exacerbate and further entrench the problem. "Rinse, repeat" almost never helps here. More of the same failed "solution" will yield more of the same failed result. These are the situations where "burn it down and start over" seems like a much more viable option. Whether this option is successful or not will have to be determined by actually pursuing the option. Half-measures don’t count.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

In my experience (for what that is worth) true believers do not acknowledge or understand that totally unconstrained markets often reach unfair or undesirable equilibria. On the flip side, true disbelievers do not seem to understand or acknowledge that markets always exist, no matter how hard one tries to suppress them. All that communism can achieve is a massively warped market system.

So, to me, it seems like the most realistic approach is to allow freeish markets with suitable, and realistically enforced *, constraints. The problem with this approach is that those applying the constraints (governments) are often corrupt, incompetent for the task and/or perversely incentivised. Especially where a supreme court has granted constitutional rights to organizations and equated money with speech.

This is an imperfect world and I am nowhere near wise enough to come up with a comprehensive solution to this problem.

  • A realistic enforcement of constraints is one that will actually change the behaviour of misbehaving entities. An example of failed enforcement is fines that businesses treat as a necessary cost of business without any change of behaviour.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"On the flip side, true disbelievers do not seem to understand or acknowledge that markets always exist, no matter how hard one tries to suppress them."

That’s a false equivalence. I truly disbelieve libertarianism precisely because it’s as reality-divorced a theory as flat earth cosmology or, yes, communism.

Communism and libertarianism both operate from flawed assumptions. Communism out of the premise that people are as perfect as the components of some digital device, giving and taking resources each according to their needs.
And Libertarianism out of the premise that giving all the power to the most greedy and ambitious won’t instantly result in monopolies doing their best to take away the citizen’s ability to choose or present better options.

The US libertarians are in my eyes as blinded as the old soviet communists.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"But, at least in the U.S. in recent history, it seems that most, but not all, market failures have their roots in government intervention."

…and not hard to see why. The US went with Reaganism in the 80’s as a result of which ten years later every government agency was utterly and inescapably beholden to the PAC funding their campaign.

"I think a free market market system should be the default, that is, it should (almost) always be tried first."

I would hold that this concept – leaving the barn door open and only closing it after the horses bolted – is what landed the US in the mess it’s currently in. The normal state of affairs now is that every US politician is bought and paid for. Hence it is no longer plausible to implement tighter controls without any such attempt becoming an anti-competitive tool for the biggest monopoly or a pork barrel which in practice tosses no end of taxpayer money at the biggest contributors.

Government exists to regulate and arbitrate to accommodate the need for a level playing field and rules protecting the citizenry. If you begin with taking that role away from them in that "looser" control paradigm…then you’ll never get to establish any such control because the mechanisms have been corrupted from the beginning.

"Let’s start by giving all the power to the greediest crooks around" just never ends well. And the failure to recognize this very basic fact is what makes libertarianism as dead to me as flat earth cosmology.

Leading us directly to the solution involving torches and pitchforks.

Your argument, although it sounds nice, has the practical ramifications of accepting a car with dysfunctional brakes and a gas pedal with "too fast" as that one setting. Once the issues logical to arise manifest the car is no longer in a state fit to fix. Or you, for that matter.

Meanwhile the car with overactive brakes and a reluctant gas pedal might not take you anywhere but you now have the leeway to adjust it because the first thing you noticed wasn’t the car careening off the road on the first or second sharp curve.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, the voting system needs to be reformed so people are not stuck choosing either "lesser evil" and ‘evil" AKA the Democrats and the Republicans, the red vs the blue. Thats the part of the problem for sure. If the two evil parties keep staying in power, alternating between the two, the evilness keeps get spreaded from the top down to the lowest levels, the cities and their police. In the free market we have many competing goods to choose from but in politics we are stuck with the blue and red which just is two sides of the coin and why? Because the voting system is rigged by the corporations and their government cronies to protect the status quo which benefit them greatly, and that why there are only two viable parties and they are corrupt as fuck and in pocket of the evil corporations. Why it seem to be about left vs right or blue vs red? People are not two dimensional in their political views so why can’t the voters have more diversity in political parties to represent their diversity in political views? Lets have more color to choose from the political market. Make smaller political parties more viable. This winner-win-all voting system AKA first past-the- post electoral system must go if voters are not to be stuck with choosing between two corrupt elite-controlled political parties.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: 'A few bad apples enrich the color and flavor of the rest'

Depends on who you ask, when it comes to police corruption apologists/unions(but I repeat myself) they’d clearly have you believe that not only are there no bad apples in the barrel but even if there were the barrel is better off with them there and it would be a horrible travesty to even think of removing them.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: No surprise

And consign the US to the cruel yoke of the Kenyan Muslim and Killary. Don’t forget the part where the Bad Black Man and That Woman Fleeing The Kitchen must be central to the plot.

It only makes for a good and easily sold narrative if every bigot finds something in it they really want to believe.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: No surprise

I am often shocked (well not really) by the mental gymnastics that on the 1 hand portray the "bad people" as masters of time & space able to do everything but at the same time claims they are bumbling idiots.

They secretly executed 100’s of people with dirt on the Clintons with accidents but couldn’t manage to rig an entire election?
And only a few saviors know the truth and keep telling us, yet Killary hasn’t managed to kill them off too?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No surprise

I am often shocked (well not really) by the mental gymnastics that on the 1 hand portray the "bad people" as masters of time & space able to do everything but at the same time claims they are bumbling idiots.

It’s a key component of fascist ideology that The Other is simultaneously incompetent and inferior, and incredibly dangerous.

BernardoVerda (profile) says:

those 30 officers who signed...

… let’s see where they are a couple of years from now.

I’m not going to get too angry or disappointed at the other "good apples" who didn’t sign — those who are, perhaps didn’t understand the implications of the report that they supposedly just read.

Signing that letter is rather like painting a target on one’s back — in full knowledge that many of one’s own "brother officers" "at your back" are going to open fire on it, and often from ambush.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: A good cop who covers for a bad cop is not a good cop

I can understand why more cops didn’t sign but at the same time those that didn’t are a big part of the problem. You don’t have to be actively engaging in misconduct and abuse to be a part of it, sitting back and staying silent provides support and cover for those that are actively abusing their power and position and allows the problem to exist and grow such that cops deciding that their job is more important than the public’s rights and even lives are a big factor in why things have gotten so bad.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: A good cop who covers for a bad cop is not a good cop

Indeed. Not every cop who stood and watched Derek Chauvin slowly choke the life out of George Floyd was a murderer, but they sure as hell were complicit when they decided to watch and not act. It’s the same thing with every other kind of activity – you don’t have to actively engage in corruption and abuse to be a bad cop.

You might not be the "bad apple", but if you’re happy to sit there and watch it spoil the entire barrel, the effect is the same as if you were. I can understand why people weren’t jumping up immediately to name themselves as targets from other cops in this report, but if they’re just sitting back and doing nothing otherwise then they’re still part of the problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

Reminds me of a story of a rookie cop fresh out of the military that ended up by himself facing someone pointing guns at each other. His military training kicked in, instead of his cop training. Instead of shooting, he looked at the gun pointed at him and realized it wasn’t loaded. So he holstered his weapon and tried to deescalate the situation. His backup arrived and immediately shot the guy. He was then fired for endangering his fellow officer.

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