Cops Behaving Badly


My accountant says “there are only two kinds of people in hell: those who were caught in the act, and those who kept records.”

Of course, I don’t believe in hell. But sometimes I wish there was such a place, briefly, until I remind myself that deterrence does not appear to stop bad behavior. The threat of retaliation is meaningless and justice is impossible.

Buzzfeed reports that the NYPD has been keeping files on many of New York City’s finest and their various shenanigans. And how their jobs were protected afterward. [buzz]

Secret files obtained by BuzzFeed News reveal that from 2011 to 2015 at least 319 New York Police Department employees who committed offenses serious enough to merit firing were allowed to keep their jobs.

Many of the officers lied, cheated, stole, or assaulted New York City residents. At least fifty employees lied on official reports, under oath, or during an internal affairs investigation. Thirty-eight were found guilty by a police tribunal of excessive force, getting into a fight, or firing their gun unnecessarily. Fifty-seven were guilty of driving under the influence. Seventy-one were guilty of ticket-fixing. One officer, Jarrett Dill, threatened to kill someone. Another, Roberson Tunis, sexually harassed and inappropriately touched a fellow officer. Some were guilty of lesser offenses, like mouthing off to a supervisor.

At least two dozen of these employees worked in schools. Andrew Bailey was found guilty of touching a female student on the thigh and kissing her on the cheek while she was sitting in his car. In a school parking lot, while he was supposed to be on duty, Lester Robinson kissed a woman, removed his shirt, and began to remove his pants. And Juan Garcia, while off duty, illegally sold prescription medication to an undercover officer.

Of course. “If you’re not doing anything wrong, why would you want to keep it secret?” So, the police union negotiates with the department, and establishes special disciplinary procedures – in which what applies to the people does not apply to the police. Shocking. Shockingly stupid to keep records. Didn’t they learn anything from the Roman Catholic Church?

New York is one of only three states, along with Delaware and California, that has a law specifically shielding police misconduct records from the public, according to a study conducted by WNYC in 2015. In recent years, the NYPD has doubled down on its stringent legal interpretation of those laws, even as departments around the country face growing public pressure to be more transparent about police misconduct.

Meanwhile, there was an internet meme floating around, which appeared to show cop cars with their hoods up, so as to block dashboard cameras. Some police have vociferously denied that’s what’s going on: it’s because their cars get hot and mumble mumble something “we have discontinued the practice.” [jalopnik]

I rarely find myself in serious conversation with 2nd amendment purists, but when I do, I enjoy pointing out that they claim to want their guns because they may someday feel that they need to start shooting cops. If they think about it for a second, that is the only possible 2nd amendment-based theory for why they want their guns. Oddly, cops are often big 2nd amendment supporters; presumably because they don’t think it applies to them. Cops are pretty big on not thinking that laws apply to them, did you notice?

Someone recommended I read Don Wislow’s The Force [amzn] and I followed that up with Cartel [amzn]

They are both excellent, though as depressingly nihilistic and without hope as you’d expect, given the topic. The Force seems, at first, like a bit of over-the-top cop, like the character played by Gary Oldman in Leon The Professional. Until you read about the kind of shenanigans that NYPD secretly gets up to – then, it sounds more like a thinly-veiled documentary. If you want a book that you can walk away from thinking, “wow, that just made me a whole lot more cynical!” The Force is a good one for that. I heard an interview with Winslow and the interviewer’s reaction was to pretty consistently assume that Winslow was telling true stories, hiding them as fiction. I think the stories ring so true because US policing really is that corrupt. It’s probably worse.

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By the way, be careful with the line of argument that I offer above. It simply invites the authoritarians to come straight out and say that they support an armed aristocracy. Which is, really, what the slave-holding motherfuckers have wanted all along.

It would be ridiculously easy to do an entire series on “cops behaving badly” because – authoritarians are attracted to that sort of work specifically because they enjoy the opportunity to wield disproportionate power; it’s a system that’s tailor-made to attract the worst sort of people.

If you want a stream of “cops behaving badly” just read Radley Balko. [tw]

Comments

  1. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Oddly, cops are often big 2nd amendment supporters; presumably because they don’t think it applies to them.

    I have been led to believe that cop organizations are often in favor of additional gun control – specifically additional gun control for everyone but the cops.

    Cops are pretty big on not thinking that laws apply to them, did you notice?

    Yes

  2. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal@#1:
    I have been led to believe that cop organizations are often in favor of additional gun control – specifically additional gun control for everyone but the cops.

    Well, they periodically manufacture a controversy, like the non-existent “cop killer bullets” that they got all upset about (and which subsequently never appeared on the market because they didn’t exist)

  3. chigau (違う) says

    If one were to trip and accidentally spill 2 litres of cola or chili or both into the engine of a car, would it do any harm?
    Even if one scored a direct hit on the _______?
    (fill in the blank, I know absolutely nothing about car engines)

  4. says

    chigau@#3:
    If one were to trip and accidentally spill 2 litres of cola or chili or both into the engine of a car, would it do any harm?

    I think dropping a limburger cheese on the radiator fan would probably be a more “unlikely accident”

    My favorite imagined action to take in the situation would be to take advantage of the open hood to clip a tracking device to the battery. So the cop wouldn’t get lost, ever. You know.

  5. chigau (違う) says

    Marcus #4
    TrackingDevices are dime-a-dozen. One could imagine clipping say two ovious ones and one not-so-obvious.

  6. kestrel says

    That is odd that they kept such good records of them breaking the law.

    I’m in a unique position in that I get to meet or know about a lot of these guys who become cops. (The Partner works with them through various jobs so we end up knowing them.) And yeah, I would describe a lot of them as “excitable”. (Or worse, “patch guys”. Patch guys are really scary.) I grant you, some of them mean well, but a lot of them don’t. Why is this never selected against? Excitable patch guys are pretty much useless in a real emergency; what they excel at is lording it over helpless and powerless people. In the meantime, actual emergencies keep happening, and they need to be dealt with by competent people.

    We need to have Standards.

  7. says

    By the way, be careful with the line of argument that I offer above. It simply invites the authoritarians to come straight out and say that they support an armed aristocracy.

    One can support an armed aristocracy only when they are absolutely convinced that they are going to be on top and with the guns. This is why, if somebody told me that they support an armed aristocracy, I would point out that there’s a probability for them to end up at the bottom part of the society, namely, be one of those who get oppressed. The moment you acknowledge the probability of ending up on the receiving end of the oppression, the whole idea of an authoritarian government stops being appealing.

  8. sonofrojblake says

    2nd amendment purists,[…] want their guns because they may someday feel that they need to start shooting cops. […] cops are often big 2nd amendment supporters

    Literally every single cop in the US knows at least one fellow officer they absolutely would shoot if they thought they could get away with it. I don’t think this is a contentious assertion.

  9. sonofrojblake says

    Re: “armed aristocracy” – this is, on its face, an excellent reason for being a gun owner. After all, as pointed out above, if you DON’T have guns, you’re little people. What the majority don’t seem to understand is when the balloon goes up, merely having guns won’t protect you – in fact, it’s much worse than that. When the balloon goes up, the armed aristocracies first priority will be to neutralise the blue-collar gun owners. Can’t have the peasants rising up, can we? That would never do. They won’t be oppressed, like the unarmed peasants. They’ll be dead.

  10. Dunc says

    The moment you acknowledge the probability of ending up on the receiving end of the oppression, the whole idea of an authoritarian government stops being appealing.

    You have to remember that a significant percentage of the US population thinks “winning the lottery” is a viable retirement plan. These are not people with a solid grasp of probability theory.

  11. komarov says

    Some thoughts occur:

    1) If they’re just sitting in their car with the hood up that is a massive blindspot and easy to exploit. It should almost be trivial to walk into it, stop to tie once laces and, by sheer coincidence, suddenly end up right in front of the car. In lieu of limburger or tracking devices I’m sure a knife applied to some wiring or tubing could easily neutralise this threat to public safety.

    2) If a cop pulls you over and pops their hood to block the view that might be taken as a cue to shoot first.* It’s akin to counting down loudly before ambushing an otherwise unaware enemy.

    3) If the cops stop behind you and do the hood thing that might also be an excellent opportunity to drive away. If you can turn a corner quickly enough they won’t see, plus they have to get out and close the hood before they can even think about chasing you.

    *Perhaps a rear-mounted flamethrower could torch their engine (for pacifists)

  12. EigenSprocketUK says

    Seems a bit of a stretch that cops would park up and lift the lid just in case they need to do something nefarious. There are other cameras around, including phones. But, having said that, a totally accidental spillage of greasy mayonnaise on any belts could create expensive havoc. But running from USA cops with guns and radios and colleagues is never a good idea if you value your life.

  13. says

    EigenSprocketUK@#14:
    Seems a bit of a stretch that cops would park up and lift the lid just in case they need to do something nefarious.

    Agreed. It seems stupid and obvious. But then cops have also been observed to manipulate their body-cams. Why not dash-cams too?

    What I think they are doing is sending a message, which is “I might shoot you and I might be able to get away with it.” That’s cop-speak.

  14. Crimson Clupeidae says

    If you want that series of cops behaving badly, talkrational.org has a sticky thread of police misconduct. It’s depressingly long. :(

  15. says

    Crimson Clupeidae@#16:
    It’s depressingly long.

    Yeah, the police aren’t doing a very good job of promoting all the times they successfully save old ladies’ cats from trees without shooting the old lady first.

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