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.