Why don’t we have “good” cops? Ask the ones we do have…

I remember seeing an article going around, back in June, about the funeral of a police officer who’d been “accidentally killed during a training exercise”. I had other things on my mind at the time so I didn’t look into it much, but I remember assuming that he was deliberately killed by other officers for either investigating a crime one of them committed, or for reporting misconduct. I honestly didn’t expect to hear about it again any time soon, but just today I saw the same funeral picture, this time with a Jezebel headline supporting my initial suspicion:

LAPD Officer Killed in Training ‘Accident’ Was Investigating Gang Rape by 4 Other Officers

The lawyer of a Los Angeles police officer killed in what the LAPD called a training accident back in May said the officer, Houston Tipping, had been investigating an alleged gang rape perpetrated by four LAPD officers in 2021 when he was killed. Tipping’s lawyer, Bradley Gage, claimed on Monday that one of the four officers who allegedly participated in the gang rape was present when Tipping was killed.

There was a time in my life, long ago, when some of this would have surprised me. Hell, there was a time not too long ago that I still believed that some, or even most cops were “good”. I’ve learned a bit more since then – enough to realize that I had been taken by the propaganda that fills the culture of the United States like some kind of cursed fog. According to the cops, Tipping died when he was trying to demonstrate a grappling move by some sort of ledge, and both officers fell off. The attorney representing Tipping’s interests here has a different perspective:

At a July news conference, Gage showed reporters MRI scans revealing that Tipping had staples in his head due to the injuries he sustained leading up to his death. Gage also cited sworn declarations from a nurse and a paramedic and alleged that Tipping had suffered spinal cord injuries, a collapsed lung, broken ribs, and liver damage consistent with being fatally beaten. “When you look at all these horrific injuries, the truth is something went seriously wrong here,” Gage said. “I cannot fathom anything other than a severe beating.”

In June, Gage first filed a damages claim against the LAPD on behalf of Tipping’s mother, Shirley Huffman, alleging that he had been beaten to death as part of a training exercise to “simulate a mob.” According to the claim filed by Gage, Tipping died after being repeatedly hit in the head, causing bleeding and multiple fatal neck fractures.

At this point, it’s more reasonable to assume any police statement is more likely to be a lie than the truth. They lie far more often than they attack people, and they attack people all the time. I don’t know what sort of person Tipping was, but given that he was a cop, he probably wasn’t great. That said, it was good that he was investigating the crime committed by his colleagues. People with power over others have a tendency to use that power to get away with sexual harassment, assault, and rape. Few people have more unaccountable power in the United States than the police, so it should not surprise you that they commit sex crimes all the time.

And Tipping’s fate shows what can happen to anyone who tries to hold them accountable. As with all the other police atrocities we’ve been seeing, it’s worth remembering that this stuff is not new. Non-white communities in particular have been sounding the alarm on the horrors of policing for decades, and have been largely ignored. All that has changed is that now they’re being caught on camera more often, so now we can see them lying.

I don’t know what will come of this story. Ideally, the people responsible would be put on trial for murder or manslaughter, and would be blacklisted from police or guard work in the future. It may be that because they got caught killing a fellow cop – you know, an actual person – they’ll actually face prison time. It seems more likely to me that they’ll either get a slap on the wrist for getting caught, or maybe they’ll just be fired. As ever, I’d love to be proven wrong, but LA is notorious for the viciousness and corruption of its law enforcement:

The allegations against the LAPD suggesting officers may have killed Tipping because of his investigation come amid years of whistleblowing and reports about “shadow-gangs” within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. These gangs allegedly comprise a sort of shadow government within local law enforcement to cover up officers’ crimes. As of July, at roughly the same time Gage and the LAPD were disputing the circumstances that led to Tipping’s death, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s former chief of staff publicly admitted he’d once belonged to the alleged “Grim Reaper” deputy gang within the county sheriff’s department.
In August 2020, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors paid a $5.5 million settlement to a young woman who said a LA County Sheriff’s Department had raped her in 2017 when she was 15. The detective in question had faced two prior allegations of sexual misconduct that included committing a lewd act with a child and unlawful sexual intercourse. The Los Angeles Times recently reported on the LAPD’s history of systematically declining to discipline officers for sex crimes and then concealing these crimes from the public.

This is why I no longer believe reform can work. Better training is a waste of everyone’s time, because new cops are told to ignore that training the second they tart actually working, and because old cops will just ignore any training that doesn’t rank their ego above the life of every other human they interact with. Abolition isn’t something that will happen overnight, or in isolation from the rest of society, but until it does happen, this will continue. From what I can tell, we cannot expect other outcomes from creating a class of unaccountable people with power over life and death. Hell, even giving them far less power to kill doesn’t remove this dynamic, as the UK has shown. Replacing our current police with “better people” will not change the fundamental purpose served by the institution. We need first responders, but we do not need cops. Trying to reform them is useless, and continuing to have them destroys countless lives on an ongoing basis.

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  1. John Morales says

    I don’t know what sort of person Tipping was, but given that he was a cop, he probably wasn’t great.
    And Tipping’s fate shows what can happen to anyone who tries to hold them accountable.

    I think there’s tension between those two claims.

    Given he was a cop he probably knew what could happen, yet you believe he tried hold them accountable nonetheless.

  2. says

    It does seem that way, yes.

    That doesn’t mean that he didn’t carry out abuses of his own, just that that particular one went too far. “Good people” do bad things sometimes, and “bad people” do good things sometimes. Choosing to be a cop does not say good things about him.

  3. says

    I also read a story of a cop who was dealing with a man waving a gun and acting irrational. Instead of shooting the guy dead, the cop managed to talk him down until he surrendered. No shots fired, no one dead or injured. And the cop in question got reprimanded, in writing, for not shooting the guy immediately.

    That’s pretty much the definition of a corrupt system or organization: one that routinely rewards bad behavior and punishes good, so that the good people — even when they’re in the majority — are unable to make any positive changes from within.

  4. Jo Mama says

    Our society sacrifices true heroes to the fake ones, when we allow criminals to run the places we need heroes. Politics, Law, Medicine, Education, Justice…

    All the “real” good guys get gobbled up by swarms of bad guys.

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