If the police in your city were corrupt...

I watched a show today on the Discovery Channel about a murder/suicide a few years ago in Gig Harbor, Washington. The woman who was murdered had just filed for divorce against her very controlling murderer husband, and he…was the chief of police of Tacoma.

As the show went on, they explained how he had raped a fellow employee of the police force (not an officer) but had never been reprimanded for it despite investigation. That he had been hired despite recommendations by two psychologists that he not be. That his wife had called 911 on him more than once, that he had brought fellow officers with him to intimidate her on at least one instance…

Then one day he shot her in front of their two children. Then he shot himself. He died a few hours later; she died a couple of days later. The children are being raised by her parents.

Okay, there’s the story. Now, let’s say the woman or her family could do things over again. They can’t really call the police, because he’s the chief of police, and there’s the whole ‘blue wall’ thing. In fact, they might not feel safe calling any police, even in neighboring cities, due to ‘that’s not our jurisdiction’ or ‘blue wall’ concerns.

So who can they call? The governor? The FBI? Feds? Military? Who has authority to step in, make the necessary investigations happen, and mete out punishments if necessary without hitting the Blue Wall?

Police get arrested all the time for things and it doesn’t have to come from their own department. In most places in the country, you will have at least 3 separate police departments in a given area: the town or city police, the Sheriff’s department, and the state police. The FBI doesn’t really deal much with state crimes unless the cross state line (exceptions of course). The duties for each of those departments are usually worked out so that they don’t overlap all that much in a day-to-day fashion but the all have jurisdiction in a given area. The wife could call the state police at the very least and work something out. The police chief doesn’t control all of the police with jurisdiction in the area and that is one of the reasons why.

Internal Affairs.

. . . you’d live in Easton, PA.

In all seriousness, the cases of police corruption I’ve heard of in the past were usually uncovered by the local office of the state attorney general or the federal Justice Department. Usually it seemed to depend on the size of the force as to which entity got involved. When I was a resident/student in Columbus, OH in the late 1990s several videotapes of the police beating students after football games surfaced, and the Justice Department got involved in that.

What’s amusing to me is to see on cop shows on TV how much invective is aimed at the employees of Internal Affairs. Real professional cops wouldn’t consider themselves above the law, so portraying them this way means the scriptwriter must think it’s still the 1950s, when the police were largely a law unto themselves.