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Monday, April 6, 2009

Who Do You Call On A Cop?

Police culture's "Blue Wall of Silence" -The most effective no-snitching campaign in history.

One question that I've asked myself over and over again ever since I became a victim of police misconduct is what will I do when it happens again?

More specifically, would I do anything differently while it was happening to me again... and, perhaps more importantly, what would I do when I saw it happening to someone else?

I'm not alone in this, as a reader's recent letter illustrates:

"I have also been the victim of police excessive force and their arbitrary charging practices.

In my case, I was brutally grabbed by the windpipe by a police officer who outweighed me by at least 50 pounds. I was thrown face down onto the street, handcuffed, and kicked in the face and ribs while I was on the ground.

This all transpired after I had the audacity to yell out the word "Hey!" as exited from a restaurant where I encountered five police officers in the parking lot who were beating a teenage girl they had on the ground whom (I later learned) they were attempting to arrest for loitering.

Apparently, the cops took offense at my taking offense at the treatment that they were giving the young lady, all on the utterance of a single word of protest (and being in the wrong place at the wrong time with that opinion)."

I spent the night in jail on an "opposing a police officer" charge. To make matters worse, while I was locked up, different cops kept coming by and abused me verbally... in the hope that I would get angry enough to give them the excuse to take some other physical action against me.

The charges against him were dismissed, but that will never dismiss what it's done to him even though this happened many years ago.

"I've since witnessed numerous other incidences (of police misconduct) in other cities that I have lived in. But I now know enough to keep my mouth shut and to just stay out of it.

I admit that I feel pretty damned ashamed that the police – who are supposed to be the "good guys" – have intimidated me to the extent that I actually fear them enough to not want to speak out publicly against such abuse.

...when the cops are breaking the law, who do you call?"

While at first glance his response to being a victim of misconduct might seem detestable, but actually it's quite reasonable... there's no shame in it.

After all, ask yourself that same question, who would you trust to call on the police when the police act like criminals?

That's the question, isn't it? Who do you call when the police are brutally assaulting someone? Who do you cry out to for help while they are beating you? Sadly, the answer should be nobody.

See, you cannot intervene in an act of police misconduct without becoming another victim of it, and once you are arrested and beaten too your testimony would be discredited by police. Any hope the original victim had of the truth coming to light will have evaporated as soon as you stepped in to stop it. By intervening you do more harm than good... unless you're a cop... but cops hardly ever intervene except to help with the beating.

This is the sinister nature of police misconduct that I always seem to fail at explaining. It's the very heart of just how badly police misconduct shatters a victim's trust in our system of justice, in our society as a whole. This is at the heart of why it's so life-shattering... after a cop victimizes you, you'll never have anyone you can turn to for help again, nor anyone you would call to help someone else aside from yourself.

It's also hard to explain to others how it would be difficult for most victims of police abuse to call the police if we witnessed a crime or even if we were the victims of crime... after all, how will you know if a good cop will come to help or a bad one will come to victimize the victim, or you, even further?

Trust me, once you learn and understand what sadism some officers are capable of, you would balk at taking that risk again too. I know I don't want to go through being beaten up, arrested on a false charge, and then abused in jail without any access to medical care again... would you?

But the damage done by police misconduct goes even beyond that... think of all of the friends of victims who also have doubts about calling the police after they see how their friends were mistreated by police officers... and wonder at how that number of people grows exponentially as more and more victims are created each day by the police.

Police officials and politicians often bemoan the "culture of no snitching" which is prevalent in our cities these days, wondering at what causes it... not being able to understand why their citizens don't want to talk to their police officers.

Perhaps, for the answer to that question, they have no further to look than their own police departments.

Maybe the very first question that they should ask is... who would they trust to call on their police when their police act just like the criminals they are supposed to arrest?


Five Before Midnight said...

Before police officers chastise people for not wanting to "snitch" in reporting crimes, they need to stop sending the message that "snitching" on other officers inside the agency is an unacceptable practice and what would help is to stop sending I.A. people to punish any whistle blowers. The culture has to change though. After passing hats amongst ourselves so that whistle blowing officers on unpaid leave (while those they accuse still get paid whether on leave or not) can keep their homes(because they obtained mortgages through police-specific housing incentive programs, there has to be more that can be done but internally, they're not allowed to tattle as it's called.

I can relate to anyone never wanting to call the police again after seeing and experiencing abuse and misconduct firsthand. And if you have too many calls coming from your home, you get red flagged as a "trouble house" and this can include if you're calling the police for assistance. Then there's the relationship between HUD or Section eight housing and the local police in many cities.

For me, the police made it easy telling me not to call them b/c they won't show up so the decision was taken out of my hands so to speak. That's not all officers necessarily but these guys work in my precinct.

But then I had law enforcement officers from other agencies give me their cell phones to call if I really need help. Because they don't like what's going on in the city's agency (and often it's easier to criticize a LE agency that's not your own).

Packratt said...

I agree, but, I also see that there is little incentive for police departments to encourage whistle blowing, which is why the practice of firing cops who report abuse and defending cops who do the abusing is still so damn prevalent today.

If that's going to change, the change has to come from someplace higher in the chain than local government or the departmental level. Otherwise it's only temporary or just window-dressing.

Thanks for the comment!

Anonymous said...

"Who do you call when the police are brutally assaulting someone? Sadly, the answer should be nobody" "By intervening you do more harm than good."

While I certainly see your point and understand the reasoning behind it I'm not sure if it's good to encourage people to do nothing. This lets cops get away with murder, literally and figuratively. If possible enlisting other witnesses is a good idea as there is strength in numbers. The cops will have a harder time either abusing or discrediting a group. If they are too afraid being a silent witness is better then nothing. One could later try to contact the victim or their attorney. Cell phone cameras can also be put to good use and given to the local news.

These vengeful sadistic animals are only going to get worse and worse when they have no consequences and no fear of exposure.

Packratt said...

Anon, I want to agree, I really do. After all, I'm the sort of 'boy scout' personality that always rushes in to help people I see in distress, even to my own detriment at times...

But, the fact of the matter is that intervening in an act of police misconduct just isn't the best course of action. The problem lies in the fact that the officers in question are already breaking the law and are prepared to lie about it, so what is one more lie? what's a couple more people to beat or shoot?

I'd say this is a hypothetical, but it's been borne out before... even when confronted with a group of witnesses who physically intervene to stop an act of police abuse, all of the witnesses and intervening individuals will find that their testimony is rendered useless as soon as they are charged with a crime like obstruction or assaulting an officer.

It's happened even in Seattle where people who stepped in to stop an off-duty officer from beating a woman he hit with his motorcycle turned the tables and accused them of beating him for no reason and is now suing all of them with a lawyer paid for by the city itself. He even shot an unarmed lawyer in the process and is suing him too... and he never got disciplined for it.

The sad fact of the matter is that there is nobody you can call, there is nothing you can do to stop the cops once they let lose. The best thing you can do is record whatever you can in any way that you can and get any other witness information BEFORE the cops start applying pressure to silence everyone.

I wish I could recommend otherwise, but sadly, the advice I give is based on real world incidents... and I'm truly sorry to have to give it.

Thank you for the comment, I do appreciate it!

Anonymous said...

Call Seattle Police Captain Neil Low... he hates the rank and file and will lie his ass off in his investigation summaries... oh wait, that was when he was the Seattle OPA Captian.... But Kerlifries ousted him it seems due to his embelishment habit.... Then he tried to peddle his new book for profit by using his city e-mail address... but nobody cares cuz he has "bars"

Sir... do you know how much corruption is within the power structure of SPD... but the only ones tagged are those who work the streets.... Politics and Greed run police departments... that is where the corruption is.... yes... sometimes the rank and file screw up.....and should be disciplined.... but the ones who get a absolute pass are what is called the BRASS....... SPD has a new acting Chief that got many passes... That is why you can't find any record..... And those who know won't speak.... Think they were paid off?????

Sorry you suffered from abuse... I would hope, if you had a case you would sue......

Packratt said...


That's a good question:

"do you know how much corruption is within the power structure of SPD?"

No, I don't... it's not that I doubt that there is a strong possibility that this is the case.

But the reason why proves my point, don't you think?

We don't know how corrupt it is because the department is so secretive about it's disciplinary records. Keeping those records secret and encouraging a "No Snitching" culture within the department has turned into a double-edged sword, don't you think?

Thanks for the comment.

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