Blue Wall of Silence

Frank Serpico testifying in 1971.

A 2019 article published in The Conversation explains “Why the US Military Usually Punishes Misconduct but Police Often Close Ranks”.

“When police are revealed to have killed an unarmed suspect or used excessive force during arrest, police generally defend those actions. Cops who report wrongdoing are routinely ostracized as “rats” and denied promotions, according to a 1998 Human Rights Watch study. Researchers identify this so-called “blue wall of silence” – the refusal to “snitch” on other officers – as a defining feature of U.S. cop culture today.

I learned early on during my tenure as a Phoenix Police Communications Operator about the Blue Wall of Silence. One of the first things my training officer, Ofc. Harold Copeland, did was school me on the relationship between the police and the public: “It’s us against them,” he told me.

That was way back in 1979. Nothing has changed since then. For as long as organized police agencies have existed, the ‘us against them’ mentality has prevailed. The aforementioned article cites examples of cops who’ve tried to speak out, those who’ve had the moral conviction and courage to blow the whistle and who have, as a result, been punished, some to extreme lengths, for breaking the Blue Wall of Silence. Frank Serpico of the NYPD blew the whistle on police corruption back in the 1960s and was shot in the face by his fellow officers. Baltimore detective Joe Crystal spoke out against police brutality among the ranks in 2011 and was demoted, threatened, and harassed until he quit. More recently (2019), reported on yet another example:

The captain who pushed for an investigation, John Whitney, would soon be out of a job. A former SWAT team commander with two master’s degrees, Whitney says he was forced out of the department after raising concerns about the badge-bending tradition and other misconduct., July 28, 2020, “Vallejo police bend badges to mark fatal shootings”

The Blue Wall of Silence will continue for as long as the law enforcement status quo is allowed to exist, as will police corruption, brutality, and other forms of misconduct. In 2016, Frank Serpico said of police corruption, “It is here to stay.” This sad indictment against U.S. cop culture is due, in large, to the Blue Wall of Silence. Until major police reforms are enacted that will ensure the safety and job security of whistleblowers like Serpico, Crystal, and Whitney, police corruption, brutality, and misconduct is, indeed, here to stay.

Excerpt, Crazy 101, Book II: The Harem, Chapter 41:

Crazy 101, Book II: The Harem

“In conclusion, in resisting Officer Miller’s arrest, it was the suspect’s own actions that resulted in the fatal, accidental discharge of Officer Miller’s service weapon. Do you still swear by this statement, Officer Dawes?”

Cornel, seated in an uncomfortable wooden chair, looked up at his inquisitor, Sheriff’s Detective Ben Lloyd. “No, I do not.”

An audible gasp echoed off the walls of the interview room, filled to capacity with brass from all three agencies—the MCSO, the DPS, and Phoenix PD—including Cornel’s sergeant, Sgt. Easton; the DPS’s mouthpiece, Sgt. Smitty Allan; and Maricopa County Attorney, Reginald Roman.

Cornel was the only one in the room without rank…and the only black.

“Are you saying you lied when you signed this statement? asked Detective Lloyd.

“No, sir. I’m saying I was confused when I signed it. But now that I’ve had some time to think about it…”

“What part of the statement, exactly, do you not agree with?”

“I don’t recall the suspect resisting arrest.”

“So, when you saw Officer Miller approach the driver to take him down, to take him into custody, you saw no overt movement or any defensive-type movement or any aggressive-type movement from Stephen Brown towards Officer Miller? You’re saying there wasn’t any type of struggle?”

“Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”

“Stephen Brown didn’t offer any resistance?”

“Not from my perspective. Stephen Brown had his hands up in surrender. Officer Miller was on him, shot him, before Brown ever had a chance to resist.”

From a corner of the room, Sgt. Easton cleared his throat and called Detective Lloyd aside to confer with him in hushed tones. Lloyd’s eyebrows shot up as Easton talked. He returned to Cornel, smug as fuck:

“So your stress level at that point, Officer Dawes, right before Officer Miller’s gun went off—I’m sure your adrenaline was really flowing. Could it have been that due to your stress level at that point that suspect Brown might have resisted, might have put up a struggle, and you just were not aware of it, or perhaps you, uh, you just can’t remember?”

Cornel glanced over to Sgt. Easton who stood with his legs wide apart and arms crossed. One look in his sergeant’s eyes and Cornel could tell that Easton knew all about his psychotic break the night of the shooting…thanks to Brannon.

“Officer Dawes? Is that possible?”

Cornel felt like a cornered animal. All eyes in the room were on him, silently demanding his obedience to the order of the brotherhood. Any one of the men in that room had the authority alone to have him fired; as a group, they had the power and the wherewithal to destroy his life. His survival instinct told him to bow down to their white authority, to lie without conscience and maybe, just maybe, they’d let him keep his job and his life could go back to normal.

Cornel raised his chin and looked every last one of them in the eye a long hard moment before delivering his answer:

“No, it’s not possible. Steph Brown did not resist. There was no struggle. It was not an accident.”

Cops, Guns, & Suicide
Target Practice: Deer, Dogs...and Blacks
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