Ser Scot A Ellison

Reforming police, the Blue Wall of Silence

176 posts in this topic

There has been a lot of reporting regarding police brutality and improper use of force.  How can this change if officers within police departments refuse to report the actions of the bad actors among them.  How can this change when if an officer does step up and report they will be labeled a "rat" face harrassment and likely be drummed out of their chosen career?

What can be done about the "blue wall of silence".  The website I'm linking has a long list of retalitory actions by police against police who do report abuse or misconduct:

http://copsholdingcopsaccountable.com/retaliation/

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Scot, the wall exists in any profession.  Doctors don't like to speak up against other doctors, nurses are the same, teachers, skilled tradespeople...The list goes on.  This is a human failing in that we identify more strongly with subgroups of which we are members, than with people as a whole.  As to how to rectify this,  I  am still looking  for an answer myself.

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This issue goes beyond the failure of well, self-policing in the police force and fear/disinterest in speaking out. I have read several articles where military personnel are trained to exhaust all alternatives before turning to deadly force against hostiles. There needs to be wholesale change in philosophy, leadership, training and recruitment. And forces need to stop being the dumping grounds of old military equipment.

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52 minutes ago, kairparavel said:

This issue goes beyond the failure of well, self-policing in the police force and fear/disinterest in speaking out. I have read several articles where military personnel are trained to exhaust all alternatives before turning to deadly force against hostiles. There needs to be wholesale change in philosophy, leadership, training and recruitment. And forces need to stop being the dumping grounds of old military equipment.

I agree.  But I think part of that philosophy change needs to be zero tolerance of those among them who delight in the abuse of the power with which they are entrusted.  If the "blue wall of silence" remains in place then it doesn't matter how many changes happen.  Only the most open and obvious abuses will every be reported and dealt with.

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I can't solve the human nature problem of professionals closing ranks, which is extra sinister in an organization that has a legal monopoly on use of force.

But maybe we can stop putting cops in the shitty position of having to protect communities and also pillage these communities to fill their budgets. Stop making their budgets dependent on traffic tickets, which, coupled with racial bias and power imbalance, leads them to prey upon the poor and powerless to meet their funding quota. Maybe get cops out of the business altogether of writing tickets for chickenshit traffic issues. Maybe that would remove some of the adversarial tension between cops and the citizens they are supposed to serve and protect.

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8 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

I agree.  But I think part of that philosophy change needs to be zero tolerance of those among them who delight in the abuse of the power with which they are entrusted.  If the "blue wall of silence" remains in place then it doesn't matter how many changes happen.  Only the most open and obvious abuses will every be reported and dealt with.

The wall of silence is entrenched. It's part of the overarching philosophy and it goes top down, which is why the entire system needs an overhaul. Without it you provide no safe environment for peers to call out and report infractions. 

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6 minutes ago, DanteGabriel said:

I can't solve the human nature problem of professionals closing ranks, which is extra sinister in an organization that has a legal monopoly on use of force.

But maybe we can stop putting cops in the shitty position of having to protect communities and also pillage these communities to fill their budgets. Stop making their budgets dependent on traffic tickets, which, coupled with racial bias and power imbalance, leads them to prey upon the poor and powerless to meet their funding quota. Maybe get cops out of the business altogether of writing tickets for chickenshit traffic issues. Maybe that would remove some of the adversarial tension between cops and the citizens they are supposed to serve and protect.

I'd love to see civil forefiture law reformed.  Giving law inforcement incentives to engage in literal highway robbery is just crazy.

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4 minutes ago, kairparavel said:

The wall of silence is entrenched. It's part of the overarching philosophy and it goes top down, which is why the entire system needs an overhaul. Without it you provide no safe environment for peers to call out and report infractions. 

Pretty much what I was coming here to write. 

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I look at the recent Wells Fargo fiasco and I'm wondering if any community police departments who also have funding quotas dependent upon those out in the field see the similarities.  It's a bad system, a terrible system.  The wall of silence can be annoying, but it really isn't THE problem.  

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23 minutes ago, Dr. Pepper said:

I look at the recent Wells Fargo fiasco and I'm wondering if any community police departments who also have funding quotas dependent upon those out in the field see the similarities.  It's a bad system, a terrible system.  The wall of silence can be annoying, but it really isn't THE problem.  

They do feel like similar problems to me. Because of my past as a game designer, I can't help but think of things in terms of the incentives that influence people's behavior. In fact there are huge swaths of our society that have the wrong fucking incentive structure to encourage socially positive outcomes.

A cop has to issue garbage money-grubbing tickets to the citizens he or she is charged with protecting. Sales people at banks are incentivized to push unneeded products instead of helping their customers save and plan their life expenses. News organizations have to chase attention instead of honest reporting that will inform the populace. Executives prioritize short term monetary gains rather than the long term health of their companies and the welfare of their employees. The market has run amok.

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There's also the massive funding disparity between the DA's offices and public defender's offices.  

 

The close ties with the criminal justice system.

 

Need a few renegade DAs that don't mind prosecuting cops and some more Frank Serpicos in the mix.

 

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18 hours ago, maarsen said:

Scot, the wall exists in any profession.  Doctors don't like to speak up against other doctors, nurses are the same, teachers, skilled tradespeople...The list goes on. 


Yeah, but the difference is that when this happens in other professions, the police are part of the mechanism that is there to break it down and find the truth.


 

 

18 hours ago, kairparavel said:

This issue goes beyond the failure of well, self-policing in the police force and fear/disinterest in speaking out. I have read several articles where military personnel are trained to exhaust all alternatives before turning to deadly force against hostiles. There needs to be wholesale change in philosophy, leadership, training and recruitment. And forces need to stop being the dumping grounds of old military equipment.


Yeah. There was that case recently (probably discussed on here somewhere, but I can't see it off-hand) of the ex-marine fired from his police job because he didn't immediately shoot a man who was threatening no-one but himself and turned out to be holding an unloaded gun. Because he could see (even not knowing the gun was empty) that there wasn't an immediate danger and wanted to try to de-escalate.

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15 hours ago, DanteGabriel said:

They do feel like similar problems to me. Because of my past as a game designer, I can't help but think of things in terms of the incentives that influence people's behavior. In fact there are huge swaths of our society that have the wrong fucking incentive structure to encourage socially positive outcomes.

A cop has to issue garbage money-grubbing tickets to the citizens he or she is charged with protecting. Sales people at banks are incentivized to push unneeded products instead of helping their customers save and plan their life expenses. News organizations have to chase attention instead of honest reporting that will inform the populace. Executives prioritize short term monetary gains rather than the long term health of their companies and the welfare of their employees. The market has run amok.

From what I understand, though, the blue wall is kind of a natural offshoot of the bigger issue, re: the police survival philosophy. There is an ingrained Us v. Them mentality, both overtly and covertly, that teaches them that their survival is first and foremost mutual, that they exist to varying degrees in a state of war, and that breaches in their mutuality literally threaten all of them.

The repercussions exacted on those who break ranks are more reinforcement than cause...there is a sincere belief that a united front is a necessary means of staying alive while doing their job. So in that respect the money/ticket incentive, while I'm sure corrosive to their relationship with their role as upholders of peace, isn't really partial to the 'code', excepting perhaps putting them in harm's way for lesser causes.

iow, they already don't identify with civilians...the tickets don't really raise the barriers, they are just a more petty aspect of a pre-existing breakdown in common welfare. This is IMO also why this version (and that of soldiers) is more extreme than that mentioned the in fields like medicine and teaching. All of them are in pursuit of cadre self-interest, but the stakes are higher for the blue wall, and they are very conscious of it. It's a literal Us v. Them, not metaphorical.

It plays out along ugly lines, too...racial being the most obvious. It's so endemic that I have personally met black coos who themselves held negative stereotypes about black people, and I've personally known guys who became cops and thereafter demonstrated previously non-existent or at least unspoken racial prejudices. 

I honestly don't know how to change it...it's roots go very deep. I think there are aspects (for example the prevalence of guns) that turn the temperature up on it, but this pattern so far as I can tell is common throughout police forces at least in western culture. It might be worse in the States...or due to gun violence/prison culture/racism it might just play itself out more often and at with heightened tension, but I think it's just a worse version of an almost universal problem when you designate humans to police other humans...the kinds of people that job appeals to, for instance. And the workplace risks/adversaries they face.

 

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James Arryn,

Yup, we give power over life and death to people who delight in possessing that power not for any higher purpose but because having it makes them feel powerful. 

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56 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

James Arryn,

Yup, we give power over life and death to people who delight in possessing that power not for any higher purpose but because having it makes them feel powerful. 

A lot of them, certainly.

I think many get in because they want to effect positive change, others because it pays ok right out of high school (but levels quickly, leading to discontent), others because it's in the family, others because of tv shows, others because of a combination of all/some of these...but there are enough of the first to poison enough of the barrell, especially given the U vs. T thing.

I really don't have real solutions to offer. I think you're asking an important question the right way, I just don't know what to do...ideally cops should be paid more but require higher qualifications, but society isn't built to accommodate that. IMO teachers should be paid more too, but like cops they perform crucial but not profit-building jobs, so that's not happening. If you come up with any solutions, count me on board. 

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The best reform would be very large reduction in forces. There are way too many Police officers. Start chopping personale in 10% increments till the crooks are weeded out and the public is left with only competant, motivated, officers with integrity. A 40% reduction in forces would do wonders with that labor force and get the uniformed crooks off the streets.

This is common in the private sector in many industries. I see no reason why the thugs in blue should be immune to the practice.

At this point the sheer volume of officers is more of a menace to society than a force to serve and protect. Theyve become a force that harrasses and endangers the innocent in some cases.

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assuming the time/energy reservoir of outrage/activism is limited, law enforcement abuse gets disproportionate attention compared to far bigger problems

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How about increasing the ratio of locally sourced police officers serving in a particular neighbourhood's police force?

If Billy from neighbourhood X is assigned to patrol that same neighbourhood, it is more likely that he will identify and have empathy with the folks in that neighbourhood compared to Johnny from neighbourhood Y being sent there.

Not going to solve the problem overnight, but surely it will help, and every bit of improvement is surely a positive thing in the current situation.

 

Edited by Free Northman Reborn

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9 minutes ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

How about increasing the ratio of locally sourced police officers serving in a particular neighbourhood's police force?

If Billy from neighbourhood X is assigned to patrol that same neighbourhood, it is more likely that he will identify and have empathy with the folks in that neighbourhood compared to Johnny from neighbourhood Y being sent there.

Not going to solve the problem overnight, but surely it will help, and every bit of improvement is surely a positive thing in the current situation.

 

I agree very much.  Would definitely reduce the 'us vs them' mentality.

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5 hours ago, Commodore said:

assuming the time/energy reservoir of outrage/activism is limited, law enforcement abuse gets disproportionate attention compared to far bigger problems

Commodore,

Are you saying that police officers who abuse their power and severely injure or kill people who are doing nothing to threaten the person of the officer (or officers) involved or anyone else is a small problem?

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