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Police Misconduct - Law Enforcement Corruption February 26, 2007 7:36 AM

Department of Justice SealU.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Special Litigation Section
Conduct of Law Enforcement Agencies
The Section's police misconduct authority is based on the police misconduct provision of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which authorizes the Attorney General to file lawsuits seeking court orders to reform police departments engaging in a pattern or practice of violating citizens' federal rights, as well as the anti-discrimination provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which together prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex or national origin by police departments receiving federal funds.

The Section has already obtained significant relief under its police misconduct authority.  For example, in 1997, the Section obtained two consent decrees to remedy systemic misconduct in municipal police departments in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Steubenville, Ohio. The decrees require the police departments to implement widespread reforms, including training, supervising, and disciplining officers and implementing systems to receive, investigate, and respond to civilian complaints of misconduct. The decrees have had a widespread impact and are being used as models by other police departments. The Section also has used its police misconduct authority to reform restraint practices in a Louisiana jail and to obtain systemic relief in juvenile correctional facilities. The Section is investigating other systemic problems in law enforcement agencies, including excessive force; false arrest; discriminatory harassment, stops, searches or arrests; and retaliation against persons alleging misconduct.

Section staff investigate police departments by interviewing police officials and witnesses of alleged wrongdoing, reviewing numerous records, and evaluating departmental practices. As with the Section's CRIPA work, staff work with nationally renowned experts who assist with evaluating investigative material and developing and monitoring remedies to address deficiencies.

The Special Litigation Section is an integral part of the Division's Police Misconduct Initiative, along with representatives from various sections in the Division, the Office of Justice Programs, and the FBI. This Initiative was created at the Attorney General's request to coordinate Department-wide enforcement efforts to combat police misconduct.  The Chief of the Special Litigation Section serves as the Co-Chair for Civil Enforcement of the Initiative.

For further information, follow the links below:

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 February 26, 2007 7:38 AM





The vast majority of the law enforcement officers in this country perform their very difficult jobs with respect for their communities and in compliance with the law. Even so, there are incidents in which this is not the case. This document outlines the laws enforced by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) that address police misconduct and explains how you can file a complaint with DOJ if you believe that your rights have been violated.

Federal laws that address police misconduct include both criminal and civil statutes. These laws cover the actions of State, county, and local officers, including those who work in prisons and jails. In addition, several laws also apply to Federal law enforcement officers. The laws protect all persons in the United States (citizens and non-citizens).

Each law DOJ enforces is briefly discussed below. In DOJ investigations, whether criminal or civil, the person whose rights have been reportedly violated is referred to as a victim and often is an important witness. DOJ generally will inform the victim of the results of the investigation, but we do not act as the victim's lawyer and cannot give legal advice as a private attorney could.

The various offices within DOJ that are responsible for enforcing the laws discussed in this document coordinate their investigation and enforcement efforts where appropriate. For example, a complaint received by one office may be referred to another if necessary to address the allegations. In addition, more than one office may investigate the same complaint if the allegations raise issues covered by more than one statute.

What is the difference between criminal and civil cases?

Criminal and civil laws are different. Criminal cases usually are investigated and handled separately from civil cases, even if they concern the same incident. In a criminal case, DOJ brings a case against the accused person; in a civil case, DOJ brings the case (either through litigation or an administrative investigation) against a governmental authority or law enforcement agency. In a criminal case, the evidence must establish proof "beyond a reasonable doubt," while in civil cases the proof need only satisfy the lower standard of a "preponderance of the evidence." Finally, in criminal cases, DOJ seeks to punish a wrongdoer for past misconduct through imprisonment or other sanction. In civil cases, DOJ seeks to correct a law enforcement agency's policies and practices that fostered the misconduct and, where appropriate, may require individual relief for the victim(s).


Federal Criminal Enforcement

It is a crime for one or more persons acting under color of law willfully to deprive or conspire to deprive another person of any right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. (18 U.S.C. §§ 241, 242). "Color of law" simply means that the person doing the act is using power given to him or her by a governmental agency (local, State, or Federal). A law enforcement officer acts "under color of law" even if he or she is exceeding his or her rightful power. The types of law enforcement misconduct covered by these laws include excessive force, sexual assault, intentional false arrests, or the intentional fabrication of evidence resulting in a loss of liberty to another. Enforcement of these provisions does not require that any racial, religious, or other discriminatory motive existed.

Violations of these laws are punishable by fine and/or imprisonment. There is no private right of action under these statutes; in other words, these are not the legal provisions under which you would file a lawsuit on your own.

What remedies are available under these laws?

 Federal Civil Enforcement


Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
and the "OJP Program Statute"

Together, these laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion by State and local law enforcement agencies that receive financial assistance from the Department of Justice. (42 U.S.C. § 2000d, et seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 3789d(c)). Currently, most persons are served by a law enforcement agency that receives DOJ funds. These laws prohibit both individual instances and patterns or practices of discriminatory misconduct, i.e., treating a person differently because of race, color, national origin, sex, or religion. The misconduct covered by Title VI and the OJP (Office of Justice Programs) Program Statute includes, for example, harassment or use of racial slurs, unjustified arrests, discriminatory traffic stops, coercive sexual conduct, retaliation for filing a complaint with DOJ or participating in the investigation, use of excessive force, or refusal by the agency to respond to complaints alleging discriminatory treatment by its officers.

What remedies are available under these laws?

DOJ may seek changes in the policies and procedures of the agency to remedy violations of these laws and, if appropriate, also seek individual remedial relief for the victim(s). Individuals also have a private right of action under Title VI and under the OJP Program Statute; in other words, you may file a lawsuit yourself under these laws. However,  [ send green star]  [ accepted]

CONTINUED... February 26, 2007 7:48 AM

However, you must first exhaust your administrative remedies by filing a complaint with DOJ if you wish to file in Federal Court under the OJP Program Statute.

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability. (42 U.S.C. § 12131, et seq. and 29 U.S.C. § 794). These laws protect all people with disabilities in the United States. An individual is considered to have a "disability" if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.

The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all State and local government programs, services, and activities regardless of whether they receive DOJ financial assistance; it also protects people who are discriminated against because of their association with a person with a disability. Section 504 prohibits discrimination by State and local law enforcement agencies that receive financial assistance from DOJ. Section 504 also prohibits discrimination in programs and activities conducted by Federal agencies, including law enforcement agencies.

These laws prohibit discriminatory treatment, including misconduct, on the basis of disability in virtually all law enforcement services and activities. These activities include, among others, interrogating witnesses, providing emergency services, enforcing laws, addressing citizen complaints, and arresting, booking, and holding suspects. These laws also prohibit retaliation for filing a complaint with DOJ or participating in the investigation.

What remedies are available under these laws?

If appropriate, DOJ may seek individual relief for the victim(s), in addition to changes in the policies and procedures of the law enforcement agency. Individuals have a private right of action under both the ADA and Section 504; you may file a private lawsuit for violations of these statutes. There is no requirement that you exhaust your administrative remedies by filing a complaint with DOJ first.

Criminal Enforcement

If you would like to file a complaint alleging a violation of the criminal laws discussed above, you may contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is responsible for investigating allegations of criminal deprivations of civil rights. You may also contact the United States Attorney's Office (USAO) in your district. The FBI and USAOs have offices in most major cities and have publicly-listed phone numbers. In addition, you may send a written complaint to:

Criminal Section - PHB
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20530

Civil Enforcement

If you would like to file a complaint alleging violations of the Police Misconduct Statute, Title VI, or the OJP Program Statute, you may send a written complaint to:

Coordination and Review Section - NWB
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20530

You may also call the Coordination and Review Section's toll-free number for information and a complaint form, at (888) 848-5306 (voice and TDD).

If you would like to file a complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of disability, you may send a written complaint to:

Disability Rights Section - NYA
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20530

You may also call the Disability Rights Section's toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TDD).

If you believe that you are a victim of criminal misconduct by a Federal law enforcement officer (such as the Immigration and Naturalization Service; the FBI; the Customs Service; Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; or the Border Patrol), you should follow the procedures discussed above concerning how to file a complaint alleging violations of the criminal laws we enforce. If you believe that you have been subjected by a Federal law enforcement officer to the type of misconduct discussed above concerning "Federal Civil Enforcement," you may send a complaint to the Coordination and Review Section, at the address listed above. That office will forward your complaint to the appropriate agency and office.

Your complaint, whether alleging violations of criminal or civil laws listed in this document, should include the following information:

  • Your name, address, and telephone number(s).
  • The name(s) of the law enforcement agency (or agencies) involved.
  • A description of the conduct you believe violates one of the laws discussed above, with as many details as possible. You should include: the dates and times of incident(s); any injuries sustained; the name(s), or other identifying information, of the officer(s) involved (if possible); and any other examples of similar misconduct.
  • The names and telephone numbers of witnesses who can support your allegations.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
CONTINUED... February 26, 2007 7:49 AM

  • The names and telephone numbers of witnesses who can support your allegations.
  • If you believe that the misconduct is based on your race, color, national origin, sex, religion, or disability, please identify the basis and explain what led you to believe that you were treated in a discriminatory manner (i.e., differently from persons of another race, sex, etc.).

Reproduction of this document is encouraged

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 February 26, 2007 7:50 AM

When so many people believe anything they read, no matter how outlandish (witness all the urban myths and email hoaxes), how is it that they can't accept something that's completely true: that police misconduct is a pervasive and serious problem? Even many of those who acknowledge that police misconduct exists still discount its significance by claiming that "nobody's perfect" or "there may be a few bad apples."

Sadly, it is precisely that attitude that allows the police to get away with their crimes. If you were arrested and charged with some made-up crime simply because you annoyed a police officer somehow during a traffic stop, how would you feel if nobody believed you? And how could you win your case in court if nobody believed you. And, most importantly, how could we ever put pressure on police departments to keep their officers trustworthy and honest if nobody believed complaints of abuse against the police?

None of this is meant to disparage police officers in general. Few people believe that most police officers engage in misconduct. But unfortunately, honest officers do themselves no favors by decrying every single charge of misconduct against truly corrupt officers. Here in Austin police officers vigorously opposed the creation of a citizen's review board to investigate complaints of police abuse. This does not inspire confidence.

Skeptics should check out the Police Complaint Center site. They've gone to police stations while wearing hidden cameras, asked for complaint forms, and then were threatened or arrested by officers for doing so. You can see the actual video on PCC's site. Think the organization is just out to bash the police? Then consider that the project is run by a former cop.

Much of this is in the newspapers, if people care to look. For example, the New York Times Magazine had a lengthy article in its 10-1-00 issue explaining how the Los Angeles police department was so corrupt it had to be brought under federal review. And Los Angeles isn't unique -- misconduct is rampant in police departments across the country.

Police misconduct isn't just about the obvious -- police beating suspects because it's easy for them to get away with it. It's also about things like making up false charges to justify bad arrests, refusing to testify about other officers' crimes (code of silence), refusing to accept complaint reports from citizens, threatening suspects who would otherwise take their charges to court into pleading guilty, and coercing women into performing sexual acts. And when police do things such as beat their wives, they can count on the fact that few other police officers will arrest them for it, and that the District Attorney will be lenient in bringing charges -- if any are brought at all.

Nobody wants to believe this because it's unpleasant to admit that police misconduct is a serious community problem. But if you read through some of the reports databases from around the country, it's impossible to continue believing that the thousands of examples are just isolated incidents. Check out some of the sites listed at right and see for yourself.

Growing up in a small town and having no involvement with police, I was skeptical when I first started hearing about police misconduct. But then I started witnessing it and experiencing it for myself. An officer used excessive force and arrested me for running a red light on my bicycle. (Yes, I admit I ran the red light. But does that make it okay for the police to commit a further crime by abusing me?) The officer also threatened me against taking the ticket to court, and threatened to come to my home with another officer and break my door down if I didn't pay the fine. Note that these threats are not just wrong, they're illegal. And much more illegal (felonies) than running a red light on a bicycle. Another time, I was arrested for playing the piano in the food court at the mall. (By the way, I'm classically trained.) These incidents were minor, and nothing compared to what many citizens suffer at the hands of the police, but they were instrumental in opening my eyes to the fact that police officers are often willing -- very willing -- to take advantage of the citizenry.

My friends have also learned that police officers can get away with violating their rights, because the police don't have to answer to anybody and nobody believes the complaints against the officers. In 1994, I watched police arrest and physically abuse Shaun Stenshol, apparently for not pulling over on his bicycle as quickly as they wanted him to. After my friend Tommy Eden was nearly sideswiped by a police car while Tommy was riding his bicycle, Tommy caught up and asked for the officer's badge number. The officer ignored him, and after Tommy asked several more times, the officer got out of his car and arrested Tommy. Other friends of mine have been arrested for bicycling on the sidewalk, or for asking why somebody else was being arrested.

The physical abuse by the police in the above instances was relatively minor and did not cause permanent injuries, but they serve to prove that police do routinely abuse their power, and that it's easy for them to get away with it. At right and below are more stories and links with further, more serious examples.

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 February 26, 2007 7:52 AM

Police coerce confessions from innocent men

Police bullied false confessions from two men for a 1988 murder. They were sentenced to life in prison, and released 12 years later (in 2001), four years after the real murderer confessed. From the Statesman's 2-8-01 article on the case:

The Austin Police Department's own review of its handling of Nancy DePriest's 1988 slaying at a North Austin Pizza Hut paints a picture of an investigation that was flawed from the beginning and only got worse -- ending with the conviction of two innocent men.

One of the big issues here is all of these coercive, threatening interrogation sessions that "they never recorded," Dave Sheppard (one of the defendant's lawyers) said. "The only reason you wouldn't record that is because you're doing something you don't want people to know about."

Ochoa has said that all the pertinent details in the confession were fed to him by investigators, specifically Hector Polanco, who Ochoa said bullied and intimidated him.

During his 24 years as an officer, Polanco has been accused of coercing false confessions, investigated by a grand jury on perjury charges, videotaped beating a suspect, fired and rehired by the department. In each instance, Polanco's name was cleared: The suspect he clubbed with a baton was convicted of resisting arrest. The grand jury found no cause to indict him. And after he was fired, Polanco sued for racial discrimination, winning a $350,000 verdict against the city in 1993.

Shooting brings new focus on police reviewOfficer's suspension is waived; fairness of self-investigation is questioned

(excerpts from article)
by Laylan Copelin and Dave Harmon, American-Statesman Staff
June 15, 1998; p. A1

Officer Keith Sheffield, a six-year veteran, watched the back of the house [which they said they believed was the target of a robbery], from near a shed in a neighbor's yard, some 60 feet away. That's when Gregory Steen jumped out a back window, crashing to the ground.

As he rose, the officer fired twice, according to police. One bullet ripped into Steen's back. ... Although Sheffield has testified he thought Steen had a gun, none was ever found.

Eight months later, Steen remains in jail without bail, awaiting trial on robbery charges and probation violation. "There was no gun....There was no robbery," he said. "I was a visitor in the house, just like everybody else." Steen's lawyer, David Frank, said, "It really does sound to me like they made a really horrible judgment and then tried to clean it up by arresting (Steen) for a crime he had no connection to," Frank."

"I lost a kidney. Half of my bowels are gone," said Steen, lifting his jail-issue shirt to expose his wounds. Steen, an African-American, said he still wants to know why the white officer shot an unarmed man fleeing the house.

Police Chief Stan Knee disciplined Sheffield, suspending him for one day for violating a policy against firing a weapon at a fleeing person when the individual poses no threat of death or serious physical harm.

That's what the chief's memo shows, but Sheffield said the suspension was waived. "I didn't lose any time or money. I wasn't punished at all," he said. Instead, the officer took the training at the firing range on when and when not to shoot.

Steen and Sheffield now are the embodiment of a debate about whether the Police Department can investigate and discipline itself fairly.

"He should have been fired," Louie White, a retired Austin police captain, now co-chairman of the NAACP's Criminal Justice Committee, said of Sheffield.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union say it's time for Austin to create a citizens' board to review complaint against police.

Critics denounce the Police Department's self-investigations as inadequate. They say the investigations are too secretive and tell the public too little. They remain distrustful of reviews by grand juries, which meet in closed sessions, because typically the jurors rely on information provided by the police. Finally, grand juries only investigate major incidents and not the majority of complaints against the police.

 [ send green star]  [ accepted] Home > Police Life March 09, 2007 5:03 AM

The Cost of Breaking the Code of Silence

Why we don't tell recruits the truth

Posted: November 17th, 2006 11:56 AM EDT

Like most cops, I always found it insulting that our department thought they needed to hire an expert to tell me I needed to pay for my coffee. Don't get me wrong--cops should be taught the foundations of ethical decision making, but too many police ethics lectures try to create dilemmas out of conduct that has only one clear choice, and cops see right through that.

I think this sanitized version of police ethics training is popular because most departments are reluctant to tell their cops that doing the right thing can be disastrous for both the officer doing the telling and the accused. We know the truth, but we don't want to tell our cops that doing the right thing could mean losing the support of their peers, being labeled as a rat, or possibly even ending their career. We want happy endings. We want to support our cops, and we want to tell them how important it is to always be honest and forthright. We want them to believe that honesty is always the best policy, but in truth, it's not. For example, what do you do when a cop who's saved your life does something unethical or illegal right in front of you? Are you going to run to internal affairs or civilian review and report them? Probably not.

Two years ago, some off-duty Milwaukee cops beat and then arrested a man for theft. The arrested suspect had serious injuries. Two uniformed Milwaukee cops witnessed the acts of brutality as they arrived on the scene, and eventually they testified against three of the officers. The Milwaukee PD made life so miserable for one of the truthful officers that she eventually quit. So you had two honest cops, and everyone else stuck by the code of silence. In state court, the jury found the cops not guilty. Then the FBI got involved.

Now one cop has spilled his guts, three have pled guilty, and three more have been charged. It's a disaster for the cops being charged. It's a disaster for the truthful cops who testified against their brothers in blue. And I can only imagine how devastating it must be for the families of both.

My complaint about police ethics classes is that they do nothing to prepare cops to deal with a situation like that. Instead, we tell them, "Just say 'No.'" Or we write a Catch-22 policy that says, "You will immediately report all acts by fellow officers that constitute a violation of department policy." Like that will ever happen.

I have been involved in police training for a long time, and I understand that when we are trying to instill a positive value, we want to be able show the good it will do. We want to be able to show the new officer the positive outcomes if they make the right choice. But how do we do that with the Code of Silence, when telling the truth and lying can bring equally disastrous results?

I've been retired for seven years, but I still get ready to jump out and help when I drive by a cop on a traffic stop. When I see someone challenge a cop, I wait to see what is going to happen. I try to make eye contact with the challenger. I want him to know what the stakes are if he is going to play that game. And I still carry a gun.

I don't do these things for fun. I do it because I owe a life-debt. Over a 30 year career, many cops put their lives on the line for me. They didn't stop to ask if I was right or wrong. They just stepped in, and I wasn't always right. Like every cop, I made mistakes. Cops know that's part of the deal. Many of those willing life-savers didn't even know me. The mere fact that I carried a badge was enough for them, men and women willing to put their lives on the line for me just because I was a cop. What kind of loyalty does that buy? Simple--it buys unconditional loyalty. That's the kind of loyalty that gives meaning to the heroic acts cops do for the good of others; even when those acts come at a tremendous cost to the officer and his family. And it gives us a reason to be proud of the cops that have made the ultimate sacrifice.

On the other hand, Code of Silence loyalty is not something we should be proud of. Code of Silence loyalty, like we saw in Milwaukee, is about deception and lies, and there's nothing heroic or self-sacrificing about lying to cover for a criminal act. If you have a question about whether something you're about to do is right, take this simple test to determine if your loyalty is misplaced. If the event or act that you are being silent about was made public on your local news station, would you be calling your family to watch the news? Or would you be ashamed of the truth? We don't have to be ashamed of being loyal to other cops, but we should be able to brag about what we've done--not hide what we've done.

CONTINUED... March 09, 2007 5:06 AM

Police Corps Academy and 18 months as a Court Security Officer at the Minneapolis Federal Courthouse. He is currently a part-time contract guard for the U.S. Marshals Service in Minneapolis. During his tenure with MPD, Mike worked in some of the toughest and highest-profile units, serving over 300 high- risk warrants without a critical incident.

Mike's success in law enforcement is reflected in the passion and commitment he brings to being an ethical cop. Mike's first book. Walking with the Devil: The Police Code of Silence is being used in several colleges nationwide and has received glowing reviews from police professionals across the nation. In a review published in the National Lawyers Guild, Minnesota Chapter, June 2005, Walking With the Devil was called "a "must read" for every ethical person involved with the legal system."

» More Stories From Police Life
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 March 09, 2007 5:10 AM


Code of silence must come to an end

By Joseph D. McNamara

Sunday Oakland Press - Pontiac, Michigan October 1, 1995

Citizens are having trouble distinguishing the good guys from the bad. Retired Los Angeles Police Department Detective Mark Fuhrman spouts venomous racism and brags to an aspiring screenwriter about torturing, beating, and framing suspects.

Cops across the country pull robberies while in uniform, sell dope, steal drug-buy money, shake down criminals, accept bribes and falsify evidence against criminal defendants. The standard defense coming from law enforcement is that only a relative handful of the 400,000 cops nationwide go bad. For several reasons, the public is not reassured.

First, the number of reported cases of bad cops is rising. Some Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriffs get caught robbing and extorting money from drug dealers.

In New Orleans, a uniformed cop is accused of murdering her partner and shop owners during a robbery committed while she was on patrol. In Washington, D.C, and in Atlanta, cops in drug stings are arrested for stealing and taking bribes. In Boston, two white cops frame a black man for murdering a white woman. In New York State troopers falsify evidence that sends people to prison. In San Francisco counterfeit evidence means hundreds of drug convictions are likely to be overturned. Similar evidence tampering forces the prosecution to reopen many cases in Philadelphia.

It's not just the rank and file, either. The former police chief of Detroit, William Hait, is in prison for stealing drug-buy money. In a small New England town, the chief steals drugs from the evidence locker for his own use. A number of southern sheriffs are convicted of being in league with drug smugglers.

Agencies thought to be untouchable are suddenly reaping as many bad headlines as the perennially troubled New York City Police Depaitment. The Drug Enforcement agent who arrested Panama's Gen. Manuel Noriega on drug-trafficking charges is in jail for stealing laundered drug money.

The FBI catches one of its agents taking drugs from the evidence stockpile and trying to market them to regional drug dealers. Of course, police corruption is not new. The heritage of cops in America includes corruption, racism and abuse for political purposes. The urban police forces started in the 1840s followed the orders of political machines like Tamany Hall.

Aficionados of Raymond Chandler's private eye, Philip Marlowe, will recall his good luck in encountering an occasional honest cop as he roamed Southern California in the 1930s. Ironically, it was the LAPD - whose recent problems have amplified police departments' sins nationwide - under the leadership of William F. Parker, that first gained its freedom from politics to become a professional force.

One of the fundamental problems of American policing is the conflict between law-enforcement duties and maintaining order in the streets. For example, the Los Angeles Police Department is probably the most arrest-happy department in the country. By contrast, cops in other cities send drunks home, overlook minor vio. lations and seek to keep the streets calm without resorting to arrest.

Also, the LAPD, as well, as other Police forces, maintain control by aggressively policing minority communities. Resisters are taught a lesson and, if necessary, punished physically, they show "contempt of cop". Politicians and officials whose careers depend on tough-on-crime rhetoric are reluctant to ask too many questions about what the cops are doing.

Indeed, public fear of crime has made it increasingly difficult for the relatively small number of police chiefs who really care to get civil-service commissions to uphold discipline in their ranks. And the few district attorneys willing to prosecute cops for unnecessary use of force find it difficult to get juries to convict officers. especially when the victim of a police hearing is a minority. After all in a "war", "You cannot tie your soldiers' hands when the 'enemy' is so dangerous."

American policing has greatly improved since the civil rights movement directed attention to police abuses. But the recent outbreak of bad-cop problems has cost police forces a lot of the credibility they had gained among minority groups with good policing. Still, there is one silver lining in the cloud of distrust craeted by the Fuhrman tapes and the plethora of police scandals: more self-scrutiny.

We should not, however, make the mistake of getting lost in debates about such reform mechanisms as dvilian-review boards, community policing and special prosecutors. Rather, the essential task is to create within police agencies an incentive to break the code of silence among the rank and file and encourage cops to police themselves.

A corrupt, racist or brutal cop will abstain from misconduct only whe  [ send green star]  [ accepted]

CONTINUED... March 09, 2007 5:24 AM

when he looks at the cop next to him and believes that the officer will blow the wrhistle if he hits the suspect. The police value system is what permits the kind of behavior that gets bad headlines. Real reform is possible only when that value system cops come to realize that must police themselves.

For mayors and chiefs, the first step is to stop telling cops they are engaged in war. Next, they and rank-and-file cops must also stop using the "few bad apples" defense to obscure the fact that the code of silence among honest cops is allowing crooked and racist cops to flourish. Finally, leaders should be honest and acknowledge that good cops are now punished, instead of rewarded, if they expose bad cops. Politicians and chiefs must recognize that it is not negative publicity to weed out misfit; it actually demonstrates to the public that it can trust the police to police themselves..

Only when the community can tell the g6od guys from the bad will we be able to get though on crime. Then, people will-report crime to the police, serve as witnesses and, when they sit an a jury, believe police testimony. Justice is not served when juries spend as much time judging the police as determining the guilt or innocence of the person on trial.


My point in this post is that how many years have we already and do we have to continue to fight the corruption and misconduct of law enforcement?  We've only gotten much worse of the past 12 years or so, the future isn't holding a lot of hope for a change either....  AWARENESS... we have to bring awareness to people so that they become just as outraged, concerned and demanding a change just like us!  We are not alone in this fight against our nations corrupt, they are terrorist all on their own, in our own country!!???

In my opinion, the corruption, misconduct and abuse of the law against it's own citizens is intimidation of the highest, and I'm here to say that the few "Bad Apples" that are inside the justice system from Law Enforcement all the way to the Supreme Court, need to be dealt with accordingly... for they are nothing less than terrorist themselves!  Instilling intimidation and fear into individuals for their own self gratification or glory...

Yes indeed, without a doubt we need Law Enforcement in our country, there is no question about that!  But what we absolutely do not need is elected officials hiring idiotic people who once they put on that badge think they are god and above the law... these are our nations worst terrrorist, way before 911.

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Code of Silence March 09, 2007 5:29 AM

The Christopher Commission, writing on the LAPD, found that "perhaps the greatest single barrier to the effective investigation and adjudication of complaintsis the officers' unwritten `code of silence'....[the principle that] an officer does not provide adverse information against a fellow officer."120 The commission concluded:

    [P]olice officers are given special powers, unique in our society, to use force, even deadly force, in the furtherance of their duties. Along with that power, however, must come the responsibility of loyalty first to the public the officers serve. That requires that the code of silence not be used as a shield to hide misconduct.121

In its first report, the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners' Office of the Inspector General (IG) found a decrease in the number of code-of-silence administrative actions - brought against officers who failed to provide information on alleged violations. These had dropped from fourteen in 1993, to twelve in 1994, ten in 1995, and none, at the time of the report, in 1996. Only four of the cases related to excessive force allegations. The IG was unable to ascertain whether the decrease related to a decline in the use of the informal code of silence to protect themselves or other officers, or lax enforcement of prohibitions on the code.122

The New York police force is also notorious for its officers' silence when misconduct occurs. As the Mollen Commission noted: "The pervasiveness of the code of silence is itself alarming."123 The commission found that the code of silence is strongest in the most crime-ridden and dangerous neighborhoods and is considered essential to prove loyalty to other officers in those areas of the city. One policeman who admits to corrupt and brutal practices, former NYPD officer Bernard Cawley, testified that he never feared another officer would turn him in because there was a "Blue Wall of Silence. Cops don't tell on cops....[I]f a cop decided to tell on me, his career's ruined....[H]e's going to be labeled as a rat."124 Other officers who testified concurred with Cawley, including one who kept his identity hidden during the Mollen Commission hearings precisely because of the code, and whostated that officers first learn of the code in the Police Academy, with instructors telling them never to be a "rat."125 He explained, "[S]ee, we're all blue...we have to protect each other no matter what."126

There is even a name for the way officers cover for each other and cover their own misconduct in court. It is called "testilying," offering false testimony in court. In justifying his inability to find NYPD Officer Francis X. Livoti guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for the "negligent homicide" of Anthony Baez, Acting New York Supreme Court Justice Gerald Sheindlin asserted that officers had committed perjury during the trial.127

Repercussions for breaking the code of silence include ostracism, threats, and the fear that officers will not "back up" or protect an officer who breaks the code.128 In Officer Livoti's trial, for example, one officer's account differed in important ways from those of fellow officers who supported Livoti's claim that Baez had resisted arrest.129 After her testimony at Livoti's trial, she asked for an administrative assignment because she reportedly feared she would not get back-up in dangerous situations from fellow officers.

In an unprecedented move in Philadelphia, eight officers were ordered suspended for ten days without pay in May 1996 for their silence in the citizen review board's hearings on a high-profile death in custody. Police Commissioner Richard Neal said that the suspensions were necessary because the officers had shown a "lack of candor."130 The officers' punishment was somewhat ironicbecause, during hearings on the case, Commissioner Neal did not require the officers to comply with the board's requests for information, and the department was known for its strong code of silence. Fraternal Order of Police lawyer Jeffrey Kolansky told a reporter that he rejected the notion that there is a code of silence, but then refused to answer a reporter's questions on the subject.131 To its credit, and in response to growing corruption and abuse scandals in the Philadelphia force, the black officers' Guardian Civic League called on fellow officers to tu  [ send green star]  [ accepted]

CONTINUED... March 09, 2007 5:30 AM

turn in corrupt colleagues and report misconduct.132

In a 1993 study of the New Orleans police force, the city's Advisory Committee on Human Relations found a relatively small percentage of bad officers. One of the report's authors stated: "[T]he police department itself helps to cover up such people through the code of silence, and anyone who rats on another guy will find himself never promoted. Those signals come from the top and work their way down."133

In Boston, the police force's claims of reform were brought into serious question after a black plainclothes officer, Michael Cox, was allegedly beaten severely by fellow officers, who apparently believed he was a suspect.134 Following the January 1995 incident, the officers accused of the beating gave wildly inconsistent accounts of it, initially contending that Cox was either not at the scene at all or that he was not hurt. The two dozen other officers present at the end of the chase denied seeing Cox at all, or claimed they were not near him at the time of the beating. Because of the code of silence, the officers identified by Cox as the assailants have not been disciplined by police officials or charged criminally more than three years after the incident. (Federal and local prosecutors intervened in 1997, and brought obstruction of justice and perjury charges against one of the officers present during the Cox beating who gave a particularly unbelievable account of the incident.)

In all the cities we examined, and particularly in those like Philadelphia or New Orleans where police abuse and corruption have been visibly rampant, the code of silence is not limited to the street officers who witness abuses and fail to report them, or who lie when asked about reported incidents. In these cases, responsibility for the "blue wall of silence" extends to supervisors and ultimately police commissioners and chiefs. Furthermore, local district attorneys, when they prosecute criminal suspects based on officers' patently fabricated justifications of searches or suspects' injuries, and who continue to cooperate with officers who commit human rights abuses rather than attempt to prosecute them on criminal charges, join in complicity.

In the end, the code of silence all but assures impunity for officers who commit human rights violations since, without information about brutal incidents from fellow officers, administrative and criminal penalties are much less likely. In such a climate, officers who commit abuses flourish.

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