Briefly, About Good Cops And Bad Cops

Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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35 Responses

  1. Damon says:

    Some cops are assholes. Some will lie to get away with doing stuff. Some cops steal from drug dealers and take their drugs and money. Normal people lie. Black people, knowing that there are bad cops, lie about cops treating them badly when trying to get out of criminal charges.

    If this isn’t understood, you don’t have an open mind. The point to to minimize all of this. It’ll never truly end, but it can be minimized…..but not on the current path it won’t.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Damon says:

      As Sam gets at downthread, it’s about the institution backing the bad cop when they have to know s/he is bad.

      The Sheriff, at the very least, had access to the bodycam video. He had to know it contradicted Strickland’s version of events, yet he still backed his officer. This isn’t some ‘certain point of view’ kind of case.

      When the military has a bad apple, they don’t make public statements supporting the service member, and especially not when the facts are uncertain. And if the bad apple is truly bad, they get him/her out as fast as they can.

      PDs can never just A) shut the hell up, and b) because they can never admit that they have shite humans in the ranks who shouldn’t be, because that would require them to actually purge said shite humans from the ranks.

      Now, one could argue that doing so means exposing criminal prosecutions to judicial review. If Strickland, for example, had a habit of beating on folks and lying about it after the fact, then perhaps a number of convictions for resisting arrest or assault of an officer would get tossed.

      But is that really such a bad thing?Report

      • Damon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I totally agree. The police institution should be as follows: if you in the right, we’ll back you to the hilt. If you’re lying to cover up shitty behavior, we’re gonna expose you and crush you. If you made a mistaken, we’re going to work to fix the problem and help you not make that mistake again…..Report

  2. LTL FTC says:

    The “oh, you think it’s just some bad apples? Well here’s another bad apple! See? See? [smug, hands-on-hips conclusion]” style needs to die.Report

  3. Rufus F. says:

    The thing with bad apples is you have to remove them from the bushel immediately because they can change the ph balance on all of the other apples fairly quickly.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

      So the metaphor people misconstrue as “don’t worry, it’s just a few” is more like corruption infects everyone in the group if not rooted out.Report

    • JS in reply to Rufus F. says:

      Well, the full saying is a “A few bad apples quickly spoil the bunch”.

      Which makes it strange to hear defenses of cops as “It’s just a few bad apples”. So you’re agreeing that a few bad cops, unchecked, will soon corrupt the entire force?

      But then they conclude that no attempts be made to find and remove the bad apples.Report

  4. Sam Wilkinson says:

    Every cop that stands with a bad apple – either through action (as the sheriff in Alameda County did) or inaction (as all of his coworkers did) – are themselves bad apples worsening the problem. That’s the point.Report

  5. Jaybird says:

    More police cameras. More footage being released quickly.

    You want to argue that we can’t release the footage to the public for privacy concerns? Snort. Okay, fine. Let’s put together a civilian task force that receives special privacy training and put them in charge of watching the footage immediately. Hell, hire someone with digital experience and have them be in charge of putting a blur filter over every face in the footage that is not the Person of Interest and then release that footage to the public.

    Body Cameras did their job here. A bad apple was demonstrated to have been a bad apple by his body camera. The cop who was in charge of backing him up now gets to answer questions about why he did and whether he knew about the body camera footage. His answers to those questions can help us determine whether he is a bad apple too.

    And then, from there, sanction accordingly.

    Police Cameras did their job in this case and did them admirably.
    They appear to be a solution to the problem with cops like Alan Strickland.Report

    • Philip H in reply to Jaybird says:

      Except his boss is perfectly willing to lie for him so he doesn’t expose his department to all sorts of . . . something. That Sheriff has no intention of sanctioning his deputy, nor does he even acknowledge that his deputy might have done something wrong. SO there’s not yet a solution, and that tweet is probably a clear indication that unless the sheriff is removed from office somehow, he intends to continue backing his deputy.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Philip H says:

        Maybe there ain’t nothin’ that can be done about that.

        We will certainly find out in the coming months, won’t we?

        The tool that is good, though… the tool that works? It’s the body cam. It’s the making the footage public.

        We need more of that. Even if the Sheriff has no intention of sanctioning his deputy.Report

        • Slade the Leveller in reply to Jaybird says:

          Since the Floyd protests have begun Greg Doucette has a twitter thread with over 800 (last I looked) videos of police whacking on various people in the street. The police keep doing it, knowing there are dozens of cameras catching them in the act. Maybe cameras aren’t the panacea we thought they’d be.Report

          • I submit: If you’re hoping for a silver bullet that will bring us to a good system, I’m not sure I have one.

            Unfortunately, most of the stuff I have to suggest pretty much only works in synergy with other stuff. So, like, X is meh. X and Y are eh… X and Y and Z are okay, I guess. X and Y and Z and Aleph might get us to measurably better.

            But it’s like ending Prohibition. Did letting people drink beer again, legally, shoot a magic bullet into the werewolves plaguing society?

            No, it did not.

            (Though I’ve got to say, the last few years here have done a good job of getting me to not see “that’s not a silver bullet!” as a particularly strong criticism of any given policy to move things in the right direction.)Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

              “If you’re hoping for a silver bullet that will bring us to a good system, I’m not sure I have one.”

              I gotta say, though, one thing that for sure seems like an anti-silver bullet is telling people how situations like this don’t actually represent progress. “Oh, well, how was he even on the force“. “Oh, well, the department covered for him“. “Oh, well, they insisted on an investigation.” People are so addicted to the comforts of misery that they want to turn this into something negative, into a platform for pissing their cynical defeatism onto the rest of us. They don’t want this to be an example of what’s possible, they want this to be an example of how everything’s bad and always will be.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Yeah, it doesn’t *FIX* the problem. But it *ADDRESSES* it. It addresses it meaningfully.

                Are there additional things that need to be done?

                Of course.

                But in the list of 17 things that need to be done, this is one of them.Report

      • Dark Matter in reply to Philip H says:

        This feels a lot like the Church’s sex scandals. Or Michigan State’s.

        I think the same reasoning and the same solution applies.

        Your institution needs to be fined enough so that you see the benefit of doing the right thing. If people like you are still doing the wrong thing, then another zero needs to be added to the fine. After the fine gets large enough that you, personally, are viewed as a failed manager because of how you handled this then we’ll know the fine was large enough.

        If we want to be clever here we can say, a million dollars because of what the cop did but we’ll increase that by 50x because of his leaderships’ actions.

        And if that’s not enough then put a zero on it, and if that’s still not enough add another zero.

        These organizations are not changing because the ORGANIZATION is not in enough pain. Even getting rid of the Sheriff wouldn’t be enough because odds are very good he’ll be replaced by a clone.Report

        • George Turner in reply to Dark Matter says:

          That makes an even worse game, “Frame a cop for $50 million!”

          All that will produce is criminals who sue cities into bankruptcy and then steal everything else that isn’t nailed down.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Dark Matter says:

          The trick is getting the fines imposed.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter says:

          I’m not convinced that fines are even an incentive, since the taxpayers are the ones paying.

          Question for the people reading this;
          Which terrifies you more, losing a lot of money and your job, or going to jail?Report

          • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            since the taxpayers are the ones paying.

            The point is to push the pain of this onto their political masters.

            Mr. Mayor, do you want to do something about the police or do you want to pay another Billion dollars in fines?

            This is an organizational issue, so punish the organizations which have issues.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter says:

              The LAPD budget itself is over 1 Billion dollars just for this year alone. And they just finished paying out 300 Million, or nearly 1/3 of their budget in judgements.

              Yet…I had to look this up because it was not headline news, it wasn’t (until VERY recently) even an issue in local politics.

              It remains pretty rare to see any elected officials losing their jobs over this.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I don’t want elected officials to lose their jobs. I want them to have to choose between giving promotions to teachers (etc) and paying fines.

                When that happens it will be in their best interest to do something. LA’s total budget is 10B a year. Very clearly 3% in fines is simply not enough… and that assumes that 300 Million was in one year.

                For the Church it took judgements which were a LOT higher than 3%.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Dark Matter says:

                RE: promotions
                I meant “raises”.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Point of order – in most local jurisdictions the locals who control those budgets are two different sets of politicians. At the state level they are the same legislators, but at that level they are too far removed for this scheme to work.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Philip H says:

                in most local jurisdictions the locals who control those budgets are two different sets of politicians

                Are you claiming the local Mayor has no influence over the local police?

                And big picture if we’re going to think that this is a system thing, then this is an effort to punish the system.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Dark Matter says:

                I know of no mayor who has the legal authority to redirect police salaries to schools, thus making a choice between teacher raises and police fines. And not all mayors control the PD’s budgets – city councils may, but not all mayors.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Philip H says:

                This is missing the forest for the trees.

                Michigan State’s fiscal issues have made it change it’s act. The Church is seeing something similar (although I’ll wait a decade before deciding they’ve really changed).

                This is one of the few ways to put a lot of pressure on a large organization, and if the police don’t care then the city and it’s taxpayers will.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Hardly. Your example is flawed – local school budgets and local police budgets re not generally controlled by the same groups of politicians. A city may indeed suffer if its police are repeatedly and severely fined for their actions – but few cities, towns, or counties will off set that with school funds. There is no choice to be had between paying police fines and paying teachers.Report

  6. Michael Cain says:

    From the front page of the weekly paper in my population 120K suburb:

    Two More Clinicians to Join PD
    Total of four specialists on mental health team

    The department is hiring two new clinicians and purchasing two new vehicles for its co-responder program, which helps bring behavioral health professionals along to some calls alongside law enforcement…

    The program started in 2016. The department reports substantial increases in de-escalation and reductions in arrests. Internal surveys indicate ~90% of the officers really like the program because it makes their jobs simpler.Report