Police Misconduct: A few bad apples, or an epidemic?

Well, we’ve got some numbers in. In Chicago:

and, as well:

So…assuming that the third of the misconduct lawsuits were ones in which actual misconduct occurred, and further assuming that at least some of the settlements officers were named in were not adjudicated against them although misconduct occurred…

Seems like there’s somewhere between 1% and 18% of our department’s officers who are engaging is misconduct, often repeatedly.

Is this “a few bad apples”? Or is this an epidemic within the force? What percent of a police force would you consider indicative of a systemic problem, rather than the problem of a few rogue individuals?

The “few bad apples” problem is when police mistreat someone. The “epidemic” problem is when police as a whole deny the issue exists and protect the bad ones.

Second sentence absolutely granted. But I’m sure there’s a number at which you’d see mistreatment as an epidemic as well. If 95% of the police force were engaging in misconduct, then no one could with a straight face call that a few bad apples. Likewise, if 1 person on a 12,000 person force were an asshat, we could easily accept that the problem is him, not them.

Where’s the line in people’s minds, is what I’m trying to figure out.

Epidemic or few bad apples, I think everyone will settle for a justice system that prosecutes wrong doing by officers. It’s the impunity they get from the judicial system that needs them that is the root cause of the level of police malfeasance that exists and the real injustice people feel. Police cameras help, shipping officer indictment hearings across state lines will really help.

Something in between: a badly-formed police “culture” that needs reform, something more widespread than just “a few bad apples,” but certainly not as pervasive as an “epidemic.”

We need a new Teddy Roosevelt as police commissioner. (Or Jim Gordon. Whichever.)

They’re defining ‘misconduct’ in a way that excludes most of the participants in the blue wall of silence. If you include looking the other way when fellow cops engage in misconduct, refusing to testify against them, refusing to talk to internal affairs, and engaging in protests when cops are prosecuted, there are a lot more cops involved in misconduct than the 1 to 18 percent. The problem is less with the small number who do really bad stuff, and more that the entire rest of the police force bands together in the name of ‘officer safety’ to protect whoever shot a black kid.

Turning their backs on Bill de Blasio was next level. God damn if that wasn’t the moment to call out badge entitlement and clean house.

“I was elected as your boss. Turn around now or you are all fired. I have the National Guard on speed dial ‘1’ and a Nationwide Police Recruitment firm on ‘2’.”

I’ll hazard a guess the levels of abuse are about the same as usual - the pervasiveness of cameras has just made it harder to ignore.

Are there any statistics on false complaints against the police? Police officers would seem to be obvious targets for such.

A longtime police officer friend of mine has told me that while there may be only a few bad apples doing seriously bad shit, the vast majority of officers openly look the other way when they witness them doing seriously bad shit.

My friend is struggling to hold out till retirement.

I’m stealing this whole analysis, which I’ve read and heard elsewhere, because I think it fits.

Someone once called the the Five Percent Rule. Let’s say that, on a large police force, five percent of the cops are wholly virtuous and would never take bribes or abuse their power. And let’s say five per cent are Vic Mackeys- violent and corrupt.

The BIG question is… which five percent sets the tone for the 90% in the middle?

Do they aspire to being virtuous as the good guys (even though they may fall short) and look down on the bad guys? Or do they regard the good guys as self-righteous assholes and identify with the bad guy t s (even though they’d never be THAT violent corrupt)?

If that were a big problem, you’d think that the police would be much more enthusiastic about body cameras than they are.

Retired-cop friend-of-a-friend: 60% of cops just want to do their jobs and go home safe. 20% want to be Supercop/superheroes and protect their community from evil. And 20% are bullies who get off on abusing people.

People have forgotten the original phrase which is that “a few bad apples spoil the bunch”. What that means is that if even there’s a single bad apple within a barrel, that single apple will rapidly spread rot and, pretty soon, the entire barrel will be rotten. Thus, you need to aggressively prune bad apples from the barrel, no matter how minor in number they initially appear to be.

And that’s exactly what’s happening with the nation’s police forces. It’s not the individual actors that’s the problem, it’s the blue wall of science and the institutional structures that allow rot to spread.

It’s ironic that the meaning of the phrase has morphed into almost entirely the opposite and is now used to justify the problem rather than warn against it.

That and them subsequently threatening Tarentino was beyond the pale.

I don’t think there are reliable numbers. Especially since there is little effort to get to the bottom of legitimate complaints, which means false complaints will not be exposed either.

I don’t buy this in the ‘troubled’ departments. If 60% really wanted to do their jobs, they would do their jobs and arrest the 20% who abuse their power. But instead they participate in the blue wall, which means they actually are not doing their jobs. They may just want to collect a paycheck and go home, but that doesn’t make them sound as fluffy and innocent.

I don’t consider them “fluffy and innocent” – by participating in the “blue wall”, they are often acting in a cowardly manner. There’s no excuse for this.

That being said, most people are probably cowards in this manner. It’s definitely the fault of individual cops who keep silent when they know things are wrong, but it’s also the fault of a system (and leadership) that doesn’t make it easy to buck the blue wall and codes of silence. Cops are humans, and like most humans they will generally take the easiest and least risky path – the system needs to be restructured so that the easiest and least risky path is to do the right thing. It’s not just individuals that are to blame – it’s the entire system, in my opinion.

I have a feeling that most cops see themselves as some sort of bulwark against lawlessness, chaos and disorder, and that even if there are 20% that are basically bullies and assholes, if they break the blue wall of silence, they’re admitting to being complicit, or at least associated with the very thing that they’re trying to fight.

Plus, in organizations where there’s a real element of danger and/or a collective spirit, there tends to be great value placed on loyalty and teamwork, and “ratting out” a fellow officer goes against that, no matter how reasonable it may seem from the outside. You see the same thing happen in other organizations that value loyalty- while it’s a good thing 90% of the time, in that other 10% of the time, it’s a negative force. Look at families and child molesters, or military and rapists/war criminals for prominent examples.

Between the two of these concepts, there’s a lot of pressure on cops to NOT turn in their colleagues; it makes them look bad (in their eyes), and it makes them look disloyal/not part of the team.

None of that makes it right, but it explains it.

I did read an interesting editorial recently that had an unusual take on the subject of police brutality, and why it seems to be a Northern thing.

I think it may actually be “both.” I think nationwide, a small minority of police officers are the ones causing the overwhelming majority of the problems. However, due to various structural problems like police unions making it very difficult to discipline police, and the “thin blue line” culture in which the good cops aren’t willing to testify against or speak out against the bad ones these small number of bad cops result in an epidemic rate of “problems” with police departments as a whole.

For those not aware, Vic Mackey was the main character in The Shield on Fox. The Shield was largely based on the Los Angeles Rampart Scandal in the 90s. The cops in the Rampart Scandal were actually worse than Mackey. They had become as bad or worse than the gangs the CRASH unit was created to fight.