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Dead rats, death threats, destroyed careers. How PDs punish whistleblowers

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  • Dead rats, death threats, destroyed careers. How PDs punish whistleblowers

    Very interesting read. A common 'comeback' whenever one brings up bad cops is the old "oh it's just a few bad apples" (ignoring the actual meaning of that phrase in its full form - one bad apple can spoil the bunch). Often they point out that it is just some cops that are bad, corrupt, violent, etc., and that other cops are 'good cops' simply by merit of not doing it (or not being caught, at least). But in reality, doing the basic bare minimum of your job and not beating the crap out of someone, abusing power, etc., is an awfully low bar to call someone 'good'.

    The sad reality is, the actual good cops. The ones that whistleblow, report corruption and abuses. Those cops tend to be punished by the rest of the supposed 'good cops' (and their even worse colleagues) for rocking the boat. From death threats to abuses, to destruction of their careers by their fellow cops, sometimes even suspicious deaths or even 'backup' taking unusually long to show up after it is requested for a dangerous situation, the actual good cops don't tend to last long.

    My brother in law was a good cop. I say was, because when he rocked the boat at his small department down in Florida and started bringing some light to another officer's abusive behaviors on up the chain of command... he started to get threats. Threatening notes in his locker (typed, not handwritten). Suspicious cars outside his house. Phonecalls at home with fake voice device making threats, scaring his wife (often the calls would come while he was at work and she was home alone). His dog, dead after someone tossed poisoned food into the backyard. He dropped the complaints, and, not wanting to risk endangering his wife and kiddos further, in short order, resigned from the force, and hasn't worked for a police force since (even if he wanted to, I suspect that he'd get rejected if his former employer had anything to say about it - and they would).

    On to the article (yes, yes, Sparko, it's a long read - don't comment if you don't want to read it):

    WARNING: This investigation includes graphic images of police brutality and offensive language.

    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.

    The pattern of behavior is both destructive and widespread throughout policing, a USA TODAY investigation found. Departments across the country have adopted an unofficial system of retaliation that allows misconduct to persist and helps police leaders avoid accountability. And while communities of color and other marginalized groups bear the brunt of police brutality, the profession is blind to race, gender and seniority when it comes to punishing officers who try to expose these practices.

    USA TODAY set out to establish, for the first time, the extent of law enforcement’s blue wall of silence and its impact on the individual officers who have defied it. In building a catalogue of more than 300 examples from the past decade, reporters found there is no wrongdoing so egregious or clear cut that a whistleblower can feel safe in bringing it to light.

    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.

    “Whistleblowing is a life sentence,” said Shannon Spalding, a former undercover narcotics officer in Chicago who faced death threats and resigned after she exposed a corruption scheme that has led to dozens of overturned convictions. “I’m an officer without a department. I lost my house. I lost my marriage. It affects you in ways you would never imagine.”

    Meanwhile, USA TODAY found that many of the cops that whistleblowers accused of misconduct kept their jobs or faced only minor punishments. And officers who lied or stayed silent in support of an accused colleague later secured promotions, overtime and admiration from their peers.

    USA TODAY spent a year examining thousands of documents from police and sheriff’s departments, prosecutors, oversight groups and regulators around the country, including previously confidential federal labor records. In addition, reporters reviewed a decade of media reports and court cases. Then they traveled to Georgia, Illinois, Texas, Oregon, Louisiana, New York and Florida to interview officers and victims of police misconduct, among others.

    The result is the most comprehensive public accounting of police retaliation ever compiled, including dozens of examples never before reported.

    Among the findings:
    • Cases of retaliation appeared in every type of department: majority Black forces and majority white forces, union and at-will agencies, rural two-man outposts and massive urban police departments, and, perhaps most notably, places that have adopted strict accountability measures. Reforms like body cameras and civilian oversight boards prove virtually worthless when law enforcement leaders and other local officials silence whistleblowers.
    • Officers who report wrongdoing are often forced to navigate procedures that derail their efforts. Sometimes they must report up the chain of command to the very people they want investigated. Federal, state, and local agencies can take years to intervene or decline to investigate altogether. When agencies do take action, they often direct complaints back to the police department, compromising officers who expected anonymity.
    • Police leaders weaponize internal affairs, pursuing minor rule infractions such as breaking the chain of command, in order to discredit whistleblowers and get rid of them. In Amite, Louisiana, a detective who admitted to helping the FBI investigate fellow cops was fired for accidentally mislabeling two evidence bags, including one that simply had an extra zero. In Hillview, Kentucky, an officer who testified against his chief was targeted for firing after he tried to add $2.50 to the accounts of two jail inmates who cooperated in an unrelated investigation.   
    • Police unions play a critical role in enforcing the blue wall of silence. They often back cops accused of misconduct during court and disciplinary hearings but not those who turn them in. In East Haven, Connecticut, a sergeant who tried to intimidate a fellow officer by holding a gun to his chest was hired by the union to help officers involved in on-duty shootings. Unions have also lobbied for rules that make things harder for officers who want to come forward and easier for departments to hide misconduct, according to USA TODAY’s review of more than 80 union contracts.
    • Police chiefs and sheriffs who retaliate against whistleblowers rarely face serious consequences. Top law enforcement officials kept their jobs or were allowed to retire or resign in nearly all instances documented by USA TODAY. In a rare exception, the director of a training academy in Albuquerque was fired after she was caught on tape threatening to expel students who had complained about her to human resources.

    Experts said the patterns USA TODAY identified are critical to understanding many other issues plaguing law enforcement.

    “It goes to the core of what's wrong with American policing,” said Jeffrey Schwartz, a consultant who has studied hundreds of police departments and prisons and helped write numerous reforms, including federal consent decrees, during his 40-year career.

    Justin Hansford, a law professor at Howard University and executive director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, said coverups have historically been framed as part of “police culture,” instead of a phenomenon with actual mechanisms that can be addressed and changed.

    “Cultural norms can’t be litigated,” Hansford said, “but retaliatory policies can.” 
    Cultural norms can’t be litigated, but retaliatory policies can.

    Not every officer who comes forward is punished. Some of the cases identified by USA TODAY show departments rewarding whistleblowers and holding accountable those they accused. In Del City, Oklahoma, a detective who testified against a fellow officer for shooting an unarmed man rose up the ranks to major. In Perth Amboy, New Jersey, an officer who testified against the chief ended up replacing him. There are undoubtedly other departments with similar stories that did not make it into the public record. 

    But for every example of retaliation USA TODAY found, countless others likely remain concealed. That’s because the system works. Officers have seen or heard of other careers destroyed over speaking up.

    So when they witness misconduct or find out about a coverup, many officers keep their mouths shut.

    The world saw it happen in the spring of 2020, when three Minneapolis officers stood by as one of their own, Derek Chauvin, murdered George Floyd. The officers’ statements immediately afterward justified Chauvin’s actions. Video that contradicted their accounts sparked international outcry, mass protests and criminal charges against Chauvin and the other officers.

    Most cases don’t get so much attention. In Cook County, Illinois, four corrections officers lied on their incident reports after they saw a fifth beat a handcuffed man in 2012. The witnesses denied that their fellow officer used excessive force, but a security video showed them watching as he kneed the man in the face. After the video surfaced, the officer who assaulted the man was fired and the four witnesses were suspended for giving false statements.

    In a statement to USA TODAY, a Cook County Sheriff's spokesperson said the case demonstrates how video surveillance and improved training have helped the department expose coverups and hold officers accountable.

    USA TODAY sent more than 400 requests for records of misconduct and retaliation to federal, state and local agencies. Dozens fought or refused to release documents, video and other evidence, even in closed investigations. Some said they had no records related to specific incidents. Others charged thousands of dollars for the files.

    In addition, reporters contacted more than 20 police and sheriff’s departments for comment, including each one named in this article. Many did not respond or declined to answer questions.

    The others broadly acknowledged that there is a tendency in law enforcement for officers to remain loyal to one another, sometimes to a harmful extent. But they said it wasn’t a problem in their own departments and that an open-door policy welcomes anyone with a complaint.

    In interviews and court filings, police leaders denied retaliating against anyone. They said these officers were not whistleblowers but problematic employees who committed legitimate policy violations that warranted discipline.

    For those who choose to expose wrongdoing among their peers, the personal consequences can be devastating. 
    Lots more at the link, and for those with paywall issues, here you go:

    "When you're attacking FBI agents because you're under criminal investigation, you're losing"
    -Trump Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders

    "So when you actually get the virus, you're going to start producing antibodies against multiple pieces of the virus. So, your antibodies are probably better at that point than the vaccination."
    - Pfizer Scientist Chris Croce

  • #2

    Some more good reading on the subject:

    Isaac “Ike” Lambert was a decorated detective who had served more than 24 years in the Chicago Police Department. In 2017, an off-duty officer shot a teenager named Ricardo Hayes, who had autism and whose caregivers had reported him missing hours before. Some officers, according to Lambert, then tried to charge Hayes with assault on the basis of a distorted police report. Lambert noticed that his colleague’s official narrative of the encounter was sharply at odds with eyewitness accounts and other evidence (including video of the incident). Lambert declined to press charges against Hayes, then repeatedly refused to sign off on the officers’ fraudulent report—despite higher-ups insisting he help bury the incident. For this, Lambert asserted in a whistleblower lawsuit, he was promptly “dumped” to patrol duty.

    In a case like this, an understandable inclination would be to focus on the victim, an unarmed autistic kid who had committed no crime, or on punishing the police officer who assaulted him. (Officer Khalil Muhammad received a mere six-month suspension for shooting Hayes.) Lost in the discussion are principled officers like Lambert, who resisted attempted malfeasance by his colleagues and paid a price for it.

    He is far from alone. Police officers in the United States engage in all manner of bad behavior, such as excessive force, sexual misconduct, financial impropriety, and the manipulation of evidence. Holding them to account criminally, civilly, or professionally is extremely difficult, even in cases involving blatant malpractice and misconduct. Yet, even as bad cops evade punishment for wrongdoing, those who stand up to corruption, report negligence or abuse, or decline to comply with bad orders are frequently marginalized, demoted, or outright fired.

    In May 2016, Stephen Mader, a police officer in Weirton, West Virginia, responded to a call by a distraught woman who said that her boyfriend, R. J. Williams, was threatening to harm himself with a knife. According to subsequent reporting on the case by ProPublica, she mentioned that Williams had a gun, but that it was unloaded, and she urged the police to intervene to save his life.

    When he arrived at the scene, Mader, a former marine, quickly surmised that Williams was not a threat and was trying to commit “suicide by cop.” He tried to talk Williams down, and was making progress—that is, until two other officers arrived on the scene and quickly shot Williams in the head. When officers inspected Williams’s gun, they found it was unloaded, as was indicated in the call to dispatch. Rather than sanctioning the other officers for using unnecessary force against someone with a weapon that they had been told was unloaded—for killing the very person they had been called upon to help—Weirton police fired Mader for exercising restraint.

    By failing to immediately shoot Williams, his superiors argued, he’d jeopardized his own life as well as the lives of his peers and any civilian bystanders. Mader sued for wrongful termination and ultimately settled for $175,000. However, he was not able to get his job back. He worked for a while as a truck driver before joining the National Guard, where he is now a military police officer.

    In 2013, police officers in Auburn, Alabama, were assigned by their supervisor to a monthly quota of 100 “contacts”—that is, arrests, traffic tickets, warnings, and so on. Officer Justin Hanners spoke out against the policy, arguing that cops should interfere with people’s daily lives as little as possible, and only when they were needed. He insisted that the role of police should be to serve and protect, not to shake down civilians for money.

    According to the libertarian magazine Reason, Hanners was fired for expressing his opposition to quotas and refusing to comply with them. (Auburn police officials insisted they had imposed no quota, but Hanners produced recordings that appeared to back up his contentions.) Hanners filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the city of Auburn; it was dismissed partly on the grounds that, as a municipal employee, his whistleblowing actions were not covered by Alabama’s State Employee Protection Act. In the aftermath, unable to pay the bills, Hanners was forced to spend most of his retirement savings on keeping his family afloat. They ultimately lost their home to foreclosure and had to move in with relatives.

    By 2006, Officer Cariol Horne had put in 19 years for the Buffalo Police Department. Shortly before her scheduled retirement, she arrived at a crime scene to find a fellow officer choking a handcuffed Black man while her fellow cops stood idly by. By her account, she urged the offending officer, Gregory Kwiatkowski, to stand down, because the situation was under control and the suspect was not a threat.

    Her pleas were ignored. Worried that Kwiatkowski, who is white, was about to kill the man, she pulled her colleague’s arm from around the suspect’s neck. In a rage, Kwiatkowski punched Horne in the face, damaging her teeth, she contended. The suspect was taken into custody.

    Afterward, rather than punishing Kwiatkowski for choking a handcuffed man and then assaulting another officer, Buffalo police fired Horne for obstructing justice, media reports indicate. (No other officer backed up her account, and Kwiatkowski successfully sued her for defamation.) She was denied her pension, and has been unable to retire. Instead, to pay the bills for herself and her three sons, she has been working as a driver—of semis, school buses, rideshares. She has often struggled to pay rent, and even had to live in a shelter for a while.

    Suddenly, Buffalo police practices are under new scrutiny—after two officers were filmed pushing an elderly protester to the ground in June—and city lawmakers have requested another review of Horne’s case. Buffalo’s earlier decision to punish Horne, not Kwiatkowski, proved fateful. According to ABC7 Buffalo, he would go on choke another officer on the job, and in a separate incident, punch still another officer while off duty. Yet he remained on the force. In 2009, he was caught slamming four Black teenagers into the ground, then punching them and berating them as “savage dogs.” Once again, his victims were already handcuffed. Kwiatkowski eventually pleaded guilty to using excessive force in this incident. According to The Buffalo News, during his trial Kwiatkowski also admitted to having “lied several times in the past about using excessive force, including under oath in both a civil trial and an Internal Affairs investigation.” He was ultimately sentenced to a mere four months in jail for his crimes—roughly a decade after the 2009 incident. Unlike Cariol Horne, he was allowed to retire from the force and keep his pension.

    In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, many have demanded to know how the other Minneapolis officers captured on camera could have stood around with their hands in their pockets for eight minutes and 46 seconds, while Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on a man’s neck. Cariol Horne’s saga, and others like it, help explain why. The system protects cops like Chauvin, who had at least 17 previous misconduct complaints and had been involved in multiple incidents in which he or another officer used lethal force. However, cops who exercise restraint (in the case of Mader), stop others from engaging in brutality (like Horne), prevent officers from concealing wrongdoing (like Lambert), or blow the whistle on bad police practices (like Hanners)—they are often immediately and severely sanctioned or pushed out, both through formal and informal means. This is perhaps one of the most significant yet largely neglected problems with policing in America: Departments are making an example not of the so-called bad apples, but of the good ones.

    Yes, cities and towns need better ways to identify and purge bad cops and should restructure law enforcement to reduce violent encounters. But police departments also need better protections and incentives for those officers who prioritize their sworn duties above loyalty to their peers or their personal well-being. This is underdiscussed, but crucially important. If bad cops are spared any punishment while good cops lose their job, Americans should not be surprised when officers who know of wrongdoing by their colleagues stand aside and let it happen—allowing the bad cops to exert disproportionate influence over how the system functions.
    And a good 6 minute listen:
    "When you're attacking FBI agents because you're under criminal investigation, you're losing"
    -Trump Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders

    "So when you actually get the virus, you're going to start producing antibodies against multiple pieces of the virus. So, your antibodies are probably better at that point than the vaccination."
    - Pfizer Scientist Chris Croce


    • #3
      This hits pretty close to home for me...

      Maybe it's still in my thread on "Police Stories"...

      OK, so I typed it up real quick....
      The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
        This hits pretty close to home for me...

        Maybe it's still in my thread on "Police Stories"...

        OK, so I typed it up real quick....
        Thank you for sharing. I suspect there are a lot of such stories, especially with people using their position to cover up their dirty behavior, or even just screwups/bad calls, and even intimidate those who might otherwise speak out against them (in court or in an internal investigation, etc.). I suspect that peer pressure as well as use and abuse of power is even worse in departments that have the added apparatus of a union.
        "When you're attacking FBI agents because you're under criminal investigation, you're losing"
        -Trump Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders

        "So when you actually get the virus, you're going to start producing antibodies against multiple pieces of the virus. So, your antibodies are probably better at that point than the vaccination."
        - Pfizer Scientist Chris Croce


        • #5
          And some more:

          Boy those unions sure work quick to get rid of the good cops who blow the whistle.

          Ousted and now facing potentially 20 years in prison for leaking a video of other officers brutalizing a black man who was dying from a drug overdose (he did indeed end up dying). Yet the officers who he exposed got slaps on the wrist, and cleared of wrongdoing by the prosecutors.
          Whistleblower featured in USA TODAY 'Behind the Blue Wall' series ousted from police union

          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.

          A subsequent story published this week outlined patterns of retaliation against such officers in departments large and small across the country, highlighting how some within law enforcement use internal affairs investigations and other forms of retaliation and intimidation to punish those who break the code of silence.

          Esqueda told USA TODAY that he’s become a pariah among his coworkers since July 2020, when he shared with a television reporter footage from January of that year showing how officers treated a handcuffed Black man in medical distress. Officers slapped Eric Lurry, restricted his airway and shoved a baton in his mouth hours before his death. Esqueda faces up to 20 years in prison after department officials opened a criminal investigation into his actions and prosecutors charged him with four counts of official misconduct.

          Members of the Joliet Police Officer’s Association on Wednesday voted 35-1 to expel Esqueda, a move first reported by The Herald-Ledger newspaper in Joliet. In a letter informing him of the impending vote last month, union leaders described his conduct as “reprehensible.” The letter did not offer specifics on what actions from Esqueda prompted the vote.

          But Esqueda on Thursday said he believes the move is yet another act of retaliation from Joliet's police leadership, who since the USA TODAY story have found themselves under an Illinois Attorney General’s office investigation and a department shakeup that led the city manager last month to fire Chief Dawn Malec.

          “They all wanted me charged, they all want me gone, and by doing this, it’s self-gratification for them,” Esqueda said of the union’s vote. “And after everything that’s happened, do I really want to be associated with them?”

          Justin Hansford, a law professor at Howard University and executive director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, told USA TODAY on Thursday that he isn't surprised Esqueda's peers moved to dismiss him from the union even against the backdrop of national news coverage and a state investigation.

          "In a lot of instances they know these actions are wrong, but they're also aware that once there's transparency in these cases there's a concern of how it'll look in the light of day," he said.

          Joliet Police Sgt. Patrick Cardwell, president of the supervisor’s union, declined to comment to USA TODAY on Thursday when reached by phone.

          Esqueda said it was Cardwell who hand-delivered him a letter informing him of the vote several weeks ago.

          “The Executive Board finds cause that you engaged in conduct that is detrimental to the orderly operation of the Association, and your conduct is deemed so reprehensible that removal from membership is appropriate,” Cardwell wrote in the letter, dated Oct. 19.

          The decision comes nearly two months into Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s investigation into Joliet’s Police Department to determine whether officers there have a pattern of committing civil rights violations.

          Raoul has said that his office could force Joliet's police department to make sweeping changes if systemic problems are found. But he made clear his office has no jurisdiction to take any specific actions regarding the death of Lurry, who a medical examiner ruled died of a drug overdose hours after his encounter with police.

          According to additional recordings Joliet police released after Esqueda leaked a portion of the squad car video, officers who arrested Lurry drove him back to the police station instead of to a hospital, even after they believed he swallowed drugs to prevent police from finding them.

          Prosecutors cleared the officers involved of any criminal wrongdoing after a multiagency police task force investigated Lurry's death. Lurry's widow, Nicole Lurry, has since filed a wrongful death suit against the city and the officers involved in the confrontation with her husband.

          One of the officers, a sergeant who is a member of the union that expelled Esqueda this week, told investigators that he thought Lurry was feigning sickness when he appeared to lose consciousness in the back of the squad car. Investigators allowed the sergeant to review the squad car footage before speaking with him.

          The officers involved all received minor punishments at the end of the department's internal investigation into the Lurry incident. The discipline included a six-day suspension of an officer who turned off the sound to the recording in the moments after the sergeant slapped Lurry, 37, and called him a "bitch."

          Malec scheduled discipline hearings for Esqueda at least twice in the early fall to announce what his punishment would be for leaking the video, which department leaders had already shown to a group of local pastors, Lurry's family and a few local reporters in the days before Esqueda stepped forward.

          Malec declined to comment to USA TODAY in September about any specific actions she planned to take against Esqueda, but Esqueda said he believed she was planning to fire him. Esqueda had been on administrative leave since before his October 2020 arrest but was recently assigned to a desk job at city hall.
          "When you're attacking FBI agents because you're under criminal investigation, you're losing"
          -Trump Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders

          "So when you actually get the virus, you're going to start producing antibodies against multiple pieces of the virus. So, your antibodies are probably better at that point than the vaccination."
          - Pfizer Scientist Chris Croce


          • #6


            "You should just assume going forward that if I am ever wrong it is a typo" - Backup
            Reality simply does not change based upon consensus or desire." - rogue


            • #7
              Very interesting read. Sadly it looks like not much has changed at all.
              "When you're attacking FBI agents because you're under criminal investigation, you're losing"
              -Trump Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders

              "So when you actually get the virus, you're going to start producing antibodies against multiple pieces of the virus. So, your antibodies are probably better at that point than the vaccination."
              - Pfizer Scientist Chris Croce


              • #8
                Originally posted by Gondwanaland View Post

                Very interesting read. Sadly it looks like not much has changed at all.
                That it is. I've never watched Serpico, but it's on my "to do" list now.

                Also found this in my rummaging. It seems that government and government departments lag way behind the general population in setting boundaries.
                1Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω
                Come to your senses as you ought and stop sinning; for I say to your shame, there are some who know not God.
                "when the church no longer teaches its people why they believe what they believe, the world will often step in and fill in the gaps." Ryan Danker

                "The synoptic gospels claim that Jesus was crucified on the 15th day of Nisan and buried on the 14th day of Nisan:" Majority Consensus


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