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TeAnd today the Blue Wall of Silence endures in towns and cities across America. Whistleblowers in police departments — or as I like to call them, “lamp lighters,” after Paul Revere — are still turned into permanent pariahs. The complaint I continue to hear is that when they try to bring injustice to light they are told by government officials: “We can’t afford a scandal; it would undermine public confidence in our police.” That confidence, I dare say, is already seriously undermined. Read more: www.politico.com...
The sum total of all that experience can be encapsulated in a few simple rules for the future: 1. Strengthen the selection process and psychological screening process for police recruits. Police departments are simply a microcosm of the greater society. If your screening standards encourage corrupt and forceful tendencies, you will end up with a larger concentration of these types of individuals; 2. Provide ongoing, examples-based training and simulations. Not only telling but showing police officers how they are expected to behave and react is critical; 3. Require community involvement from police officers so they know the districts and the individuals they are policing. This will encourage empathy and understanding; 4. Enforce the laws against everyone, including police officers. When police officers do wrong, use those individuals as examples of what not to do – so that others know that this behavior will not be tolerated. And tell the police unions and detective endowment associations they need to keep their noses out of the justice system; 5. Support the good guys. Honest cops who tell the truth and behave in exemplary fashion should be honored, promoted and held up as strong positive examples of what it means to be a cop; 6. Last but not least, police cannot police themselves. Develop permanent, independent boards to review incidents of police corruption and brutality—and then fund them well and support them publicly. Only this can change a culture that has existed since the beginnings of the modern police department. New York City Police Academy cadets salute during their graduation ceremony in 2013. | Getty Images There are glimmers of hope that some of this is starting to happen, even in New York under its new mayor, Bill DeBlasio. Earlier this month DeBlasio’s commissioner, Bill Bratton—who’d previously served a term as commissioner in New York as well as police chief in Los Angeles—made a crowd of police brass squirm in discomfort when he showed a hideous video montage of police officers mistreating members of the public and said he would “aggressively seek to get those out of the department who should not be here — the brutal, the corrupt, the racist, the incompetent.” I found that very impressive. Let’s see if he follows through. And legislators are starting to act—and perhaps to free themselves of the political power of police. In Wisconsin, after being contacted by Mike Bell — a retired Air Force officer who flew in three wars and whose son was shot to death by police after being pulled over for a DUI – I’d like to believe I helped in a successful campaign to push through the nation’s first law setting up outside review panels in cases of deaths in police custody. A New Jersey legislator has now expressed interest in pushing through a similar law. Like the Knapp Commission in its time, they are just a start. But they are something. Read more: www.politico.com...
Serpico was shot during a drug arrest attempt on February 3, 1971, at 778 Driggs Avenue, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Four officers from Brooklyn North received a tip that a drug deal was about to take place. Two policemen, Gary Roteman and Arthur Cesare, stayed outside, while the third, Paul Halley, stood in front of the apartment building. Serpico climbed up the fire escape, entered by the fire escape door, went downstairs, listened for the password, then followed two suspects outside. The police arrested the young suspects, and found one had two bags of heroin. Halley stayed with the suspects, and Roteman told Serpico (who spoke Spanish), to make a fake purchase attempt to get the drug dealers to open the door. The police went to the third-floor landing. Serpico knocked on the door, keeping his hand on his revolver. The door opened a few inches, just far enough to wedge his body in. Serpico called for help, but his fellow officers ignored him. Serpico was then shot in the face with a .22 LR pistol. The bullet struck just below the eye and lodged at the top of his jaw. He fired back, fell to the floor, and began to bleed profusely. His police colleagues refused to make a "10-13", a dispatch to police headquarters indicating that an officer had been shot. An elderly man who lived in the next apartment called the emergency services and reported that a man had been shot. The stranger stayed with Serpico. A police car arrived. Unaware that Serpico was one of them, the officers took him to Greenpoint Hospital. The bullet had severed an auditory nerve, leaving him deaf in one ear, and he has suffered chronic pain from bullet fragments lodged in his brain. He was visited the day after the shooting by Mayor John V. Lindsay and Police Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy, and the police department harassed him with hourly bed checks. He survived and testified before the Knapp Commission.
Serpico, who was armed during the drug raid, had been shot only after briefly turning away from the suspect when he realized that the two officers who had accompanied him to the scene were not following him into the apartment, raising the question whether Serpico had actually been brought to the apartment by his colleagues to be murdered. There was no formal investigation.[8
Through my appearance here today... I hope that police officers in the future will not experience... the same frustration and anxiety that I was subjected to... for the past five years at the hands of my superiors... because of my attempt to report corruption. I was made to feel that I had burdened them with an unwanted task. The problem is that the atmosphere does not yet exist... in which an honest police officer can act... without fear of ridicule or reprisal from fellow officers. Police corruption cannot exist unless it is at least tolerated...at higher levels in the department. Therefore, the most important result that can come from these hearings... is a conviction by police officers that the department will change. In order to ensure this... an independent, permanent investigative body... dealing with police corruption, like this commission, is essential..