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  #1  
Old 12-18-2009, 09:50 PM
Leaper Leaper is offline
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At what point do "bad apples" irrepairably taint an entire group?

So I was reading this article on a libertarian blog on incompetence in the NY crime lab. Necessary background: this particular author is very concerned with (and points out a LOT of cases of) police misconduct, especially when said misconduct is punished with denials of wrongdoing by superiors, slaps on the wrist, and/or promotions.

Some quotes (all modded up) by commentators:

Quote:
Quote:
It take a real special mentality to be a cop.
You have to be an evil, sick person.
Quote:
Hell yeah! What BamBam said. A special mentality alright, that being one in the same as a sociopath.
These are not isolated examples. Commenters to this blog do NOT like the police as a rule. As far as they're concerned, since the bad cops are never punished (and are even defended from wrongdoing by their superiors and peers), with a steady drumbeat of horror stories, each more outrageous and horrible than the last, the entire profession is tainted in their eyes. It reminded me how this can happen to groups in general, like Christians, to the atheists on this very board, people of an opposing political viewpoint, and so on.

Which brings the question: at one point do all members of a group become suspect based on the actions of a subset? When does the reputation become "deserved"? Is it "right" that it happens at all?
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  #2  
Old 12-18-2009, 10:07 PM
Xema Xema is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leaper View Post
... when said misconduct is punished with denials of wrongdoing by superiors, slaps on the wrist, and/or promotions.
I think this supplies one answer to the title question. It's inevitable that any sizable group will include bad apples. When these become evident and little to nothing is done about it, the group becomes complicit.
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  #3  
Old 12-18-2009, 10:10 PM
Leaper Leaper is offline
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Even those who had absolutely nothing (as far as we know) to do with any of it? Like assuming the four cops shot in Seattle probably did something wrong to deserve it at some point?

That's what I mean about the group becoming tainted. When does it become not about NYC cops or Louisiana cops, but all cops all across the country?

Last edited by Leaper; 12-18-2009 at 10:11 PM..
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  #4  
Old 12-18-2009, 10:48 PM
Blake Blake is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leaper View Post
Even those who had absolutely nothing (as far as we know) to do with any of it? Like assuming the four cops shot in Seattle probably did something wrong to deserve it at some point?

That's what I mean about the group becoming tainted. When does it become not about NYC cops or Louisiana cops, but all cops all across the country?
It comes down to an understanding of human nature. With so many corrupt police forces, we are left with only two plausible explanations of how they manage to prosper when any halfway moral recruit would report the shit that's happening and then take a job in another, cleaner force.

One is that people who join the police force really are all mentally impaired in some way. Whether that mental impairment is due to only psychopaths joining up or due to the training process making a person psychopath is is irrelevant. So when a new person joins a force and sees what is happening, he stays quiet because he either enjoys it or sees nothing wrong with it.

The other explanation is that all police know that there is no cleaner workplace. If you report the crimes you see cops committing you will never be able to work as a cop ever again.

The problem with both of those explanations is that they really are a condemnation of all police everywhere. Either they are all trained to be psychopaths, or they are all part of a system that promotes corruption and criminal activity.

If these were isolated incidents being reported and prosecuted there could be no suggestion that all cops are tainted. But they aren't. They are widespread, the punishment is usually lacking and all too often there is evidence of systemic cover ups that demonstrates that the problem is worse than what is known, but how much worse we can never know. This isn't indicative of a few bad apples, or a few bad barrels. It's as close as we can ever get to evidence that the whole storehouse is filled with rot.

Let me reverse the question for you. If all US police forces really were corrupt and populated by large numbers of psychopaths, what evidence would you expect to see that we are not seeing already?

Because I can tell you what I would expect to see if that weren't the case: I would expect to see large number so novices collecting evidence of these crimes and then transferring to the non-corrupt forces. I would expect all the bad apples to congregate together, because that is the only way they could act as they do. I would expect that 99% of corruption cases would dealt with swiftly, by the workmates of the officers involved, not by special, semi-clandestine internal affairs departments.

But that's not what we see. We see very few cases reported by novices. We see corruption and abuse reaching extremes before it is even investigated. We see evidence of prolonged, systemic cover ups in almost all cases, with widespread knowledge of what was happening. We see most cases only being investigated after the evidence can physically no longer be hidden form those outside the force, and even the only investigated by outsiders.

We obviously can;t get hard and fast data on this issue, The best we can do is apply the duck test. If what I see is consistent with corruption of the police system rather than individual forces, and totally inconsistent with "a few bad apples", then I draw the obvious conclusion.
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  #5  
Old 12-18-2009, 10:58 PM
Odesio Odesio is offline
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I don't even think it is fair to lump all officers together. There's a big difference between the New Orleans Police Department, the Little Rock Police Department, and the Plano Police Department. If a cop pulled me over in Plano, Texas I wouldn't be too worried. If a cop pulled me over in New Orleans I'd be a bit nervous because they have a bad reputation as being particularly corrupt (Pre-Katrina at least).
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  #6  
Old 12-19-2009, 04:09 AM
Snowboarder Bo Snowboarder Bo is offline
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I think Blake gave an excellent answer. In fact, it's exactly what I was going to say.

I think your question, and Blake's reasoning, can also be applied to the Catholic church. Why shouldn't we assume that every priest/bishop/etc. is a child molester?

We know that many are, and we know that many more covered it up for decades (if not centuries). In fact, it's pretty easy (and accurate) to substitute "church" for "police force" and "priest" for "officer" in this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake
Because I can tell you what I would expect to see if that weren't the case: I would expect to see large number so novices collecting evidence of these crimes and then transferring to the non-corrupt forces. I would expect all the bad apples to congregate together, because that is the only way they could act as they do. I would expect that 99% of corruption cases would dealt with swiftly, by the workmates of the officers involved, not by special, semi-clandestine internal affairs departments.

But that's not what we see. We see very few cases reported by novices. We see corruption and abuse reaching extremes before it is even investigated. We see evidence of prolonged, systemic cover ups in almost all cases, with widespread knowledge of what was happening. We see most cases only being investigated after the evidence can physically no longer be hidden form those outside the force, and even the only investigated by outsiders.

We obviously can;t get hard and fast data on this issue, The best we can do is apply the duck test. If what I see is consistent with corruption of the police system rather than individual forces, and totally inconsistent with "a few bad apples", then I draw the obvious conclusion.
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  #7  
Old 12-19-2009, 06:24 AM
Blake Blake is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Snowboarder Bo View Post

I think your question, and Blake's reasoning, can also be applied to the Catholic church. Why shouldn't we assume that every priest/bishop/etc. is a child molester?
To be fair, I'm not arguing that every cop is personally corrupt, or that very priest is personally sticking his dick in 6 year olds. I am saying that they are all well aware that it is happening and doing absolutely nothing about it. It may be that only 10% of cops and priests are criminals, but the other 90% are clearly providing at least tacit support for them.

The idea that the Sean Connery character in "Untouchables" wans;t as corupt as hell is bullshit. Those types of people know that the crimes are being committed and do nothing. They don't report it, they don't investigate, they don't even have the balls to resign. They just take their paychecks and keep their noses clean. At best such officers are as bad as the people they protect. In my view they are far worse.
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  #8  
Old 12-19-2009, 12:29 PM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is offline
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I'd guess it's when rookies, who naturally emulate more experienced cops as they learn the job, learn that corrupt behaviour is not only tolerated but necessary for acceptance. At that point, the 'barrel' is pretty much spoiled.


Libertarian nutbags who hate cops by default should go pound sand.
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  #9  
Old 12-19-2009, 12:32 PM
mswas mswas is offline
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The problem here is we are trying to find out how to judge the proportion of a logical fallacy.

IE, how many people does it take to get morons to judge the entire cohort based on their behavior?

Most cops are not dirty, most cops are not jerks, and there are indeed methods internally for taking down asshole cops. Talk to a cop about the force and they'll tell you about laziness and apathy causing their peers to keep their heads down. This is really where the 'police tyranny' comes from. Add that to the occasional police brutality and people will judge the mean by the outliers.
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  #10  
Old 12-19-2009, 02:00 PM
foolsguinea foolsguinea is offline
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In my experience with literal apples, there's not so much a single tipping point as a sort of apple-by-apple process.
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  #11  
Old 12-19-2009, 02:13 PM
Jackmannii Jackmannii is offline
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It's pretty much a given that in any discussion like this, comments like "Most ___ are good/honest/dedicated/law-abiding people, and it's unfair to them to criticize ___").

The first part is almost certainly true (excepting Ponzi schemers, child molesters, car salesmen, lawyers and the like ) What sets apart truly good and responsible groups is that they are candid and aggressive about disciplining and if necessary tossing out the bad apples (assuming members of said groups realistically can be expected to have such self-policing powers) and do not hide behind excuses, evasions and a "them vs. us" mentality.
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  #12  
Old 12-19-2009, 02:24 PM
mswas mswas is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by foolsguinea View Post
In my experience with literal apples, there's not so much a single tipping point as a sort of apple-by-apple process.
Well it's exponential. The first apple infects the adjacent apples, who in turn affect the adjacent apples.
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  #13  
Old 12-19-2009, 02:39 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Quote:
I'd like to see cites for why people believe in this, 'inaction'. Sure we have some evidence with Catholic Priests who merely get moved to positions where they are not dealing with young kids, but do we have evidence that this is actually rampant with cops? There are internal mechanisms to deal with these things. Sure, people look the other way when a cop turns on their lights to blow through a red light, but that doesn't mean a cop is gonna look the other way when a boy in blue murders someone.

The problem here is that we are accepting that the core assumptions are de facto 'true' when that's not so obvious.
Keep in mind we're talking about the Chicago Police Department in the 1930's. I can't cite specific statistics but I feel it's believable that there may have been a lot of corruption and no recognized process to address that corruption in that department. Things like Internal Affairs offices and whistleblower protection procedures came along decades later.
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  #14  
Old 12-19-2009, 02:50 PM
mswas mswas is offline
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Keep in mind we're talking about the Chicago Police Department in the 1930's. I can't cite specific statistics but I feel it's believable that there may have been a lot of corruption and no recognized process to address that corruption in that department. Things like Internal Affairs offices and whistleblower protection procedures came along decades later.
Sure but they exist now. Do you think that in the past when someone was a particularly bad seed they never got taken out behind the woodshed by their peers?
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  #15  
Old 12-19-2009, 04:59 PM
Jackmannii Jackmannii is offline
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Originally Posted by mswas View Post
Well it's exponential. The first apple infects the adjacent apples, who in turn affect the adjacent apples.
One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch, girl.
Oh, I don't care what they say,
I don't care what you heard.
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  #16  
Old 12-19-2009, 05:00 PM
mswas mswas is offline
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Originally Posted by Jackmannii View Post
One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch, girl.
Oh, I don't care what they say,
I don't care what you heard.
Whoever thought you of all people was an anti-vaxxer?
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  #17  
Old 12-19-2009, 06:19 PM
Jackmannii Jackmannii is offline
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Originally Posted by mswas View Post
Whoever thought you of all people was an anti-vaxxer?
No, those are eggs they raise them in.
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  #18  
Old 12-19-2009, 06:25 PM
Mr. Krebbs Mr. Krebbs is offline
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I think that people who accept training in manipulating and lying to other people (who may or may not be suspected of being criminals) are bad apples. So no, I don't think it unreasonable to treat each and every cop like a pig.
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  #19  
Old 12-20-2009, 08:18 AM
BigT BigT is online now
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I think that people who accept training in manipulating and lying to other people (who may or may not be suspected of being criminals) are bad apples. So no, I don't think it unreasonable to treat each and every cop like a pig.
And thus you give them a reason to treat you badly, too. Which then gives you more reason to treat them badly, and so on. It'd be a continuous cycle, but the cop has more power and is going to win.

----

The idea that cops outing bad cops have no place to go is fallacious too. They could come to the hick towns around here, do a lot less work, and get payed a whole lot less. They also know that their superiors, being as amoral as they are, aren't above lying to make their miserable if they leave. Sure, they might be moving to a less corrupt place, but the corrupt cop is going to taint their record horribly.

So why don't they secretly try to prove their superiors are doing illegal things, so that they can't taint them? Perhaps because they know that they will be stopped before they get far enough to accomplish anything. And then they get tainted anyways.

I could get into priests, too, but suffice it to say that I know a lot of priests who would have turned in the pedophiles if they knew. On the other hand, I know they would really have preferred the Church itself dealt with it properly. They are more likely to believe that those who moved the bad priests around thought they were doing the right thing.

OP: The fallacy is somehow creating some system of cops thoughout the country, rather than realizing they are separate organizations. There organizations that are corrupt, and those that aren't. The bad apples analogy doesn't work if the apples are not in the same container.
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  #20  
Old 12-20-2009, 01:17 AM
Oakminster Oakminster is offline
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Strongly suspect I have more experience with police officers than most here. I've dealt with them as adversaries in criminal cases, and as allies in domestic cases. That experience leads me to believe that the vast majority of them are honest, hard working professionals doing dangerous and often thankless jobs. There are a few assholes, same as in any other group of people.
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  #21  
Old 12-21-2009, 09:53 AM
Eternal Eternal is offline
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If you want to toss out the whole bunch, you'll have to burn the orchard as well.

The honest-to-god pyschopaths generally do get kicked out eventually (albeit rarely charged) because they can't control themselves. But most cops are regular folk, spending their days sitting on their butts avoiding work, putting on a respectable appearance for any observors, bitching about customers (citizens) behind their back, grumbling about the cops who are trying to make them look bad by taking the work so seriously, perhaps pinching some money from a tip cup or stealing office supplies because they feel they deserve it somehow, etc. And also like almost everyone dealing with people in stressful situations they will occasionally flip out. The biggest difference here is that they have an arsenal of violent tricks they are free to employ.

People worry about accountability and oversight and true enough there is little but what is the alternative? Who can expect a comrade to snitch on a comrade, or a union to not put on a good show of sticking up for a member, or department to make itself look bad, or a government to want to put up with the hassle at all when the public that believes it shouldn't be accountable for its own safety can't accept the notion that the people it shirks that responsibility onto aren't interested?

Last edited by Eternal; 12-21-2009 at 09:55 AM..
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  #22  
Old 12-21-2009, 10:13 AM
Superfluous Parentheses Superfluous Parentheses is offline
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Originally Posted by Eternal View Post
People worry about accountability and oversight and true enough there is little but what is the alternative? Who can expect a comrade to snitch on a comrade, or a union to not put on a good show of sticking up for a member, or department to make itself look bad, or a government to want to put up with the hassle at all when the public that believes it shouldn't be accountable for its own safety can't accept the notion that the people it shirks that responsibility onto aren't interested?
All fine, but as you point out, the police are exceptional in that they have plenty of opportunity for making your life miserable even without resorting to violence. When the police gets out of hand the consequences can be far worse than when - for example - the postman doesn't like you.

As a side note, I'm always amazed that there seem to be so many average/law-abiding people in the US who not only do not trust the police but are actually scared to have any contact at all with them. I'm not sure that over here the police is less corrupt (we have a tendency to assume our civil servants are at most apathetic instead of actively malicious, which doesn't always turns out to be the case) but the police over here are generally complaining about a "lack of respect"; while in the US the people seem to be complaining that the police can and will do just about anything to anybody whose face they don't like.
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Old 12-21-2009, 10:47 AM
Eternal Eternal is offline
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I'm sure there are too many factors to hope to have a satisfying reason. When someone complains about respect I assume they're just a spoiled brat. God know there are plenty of those in the rest of the West though, so it might be uniquely American that the brat makes the leap to putting the offending punk in a chokehold.
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  #24  
Old 12-22-2009, 08:54 AM
What the .... ?!?! What the .... ?!?! is offline
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I think the answer is "immediately" since its human nature to prejudge a group of people based in the actions of a few.
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