Addressing Police Misconduct
George Curry writes about a panel he moderated in Texas on the topic of police misconduct. One of the panelists, Travis County Sheriff Gregory Hamilton, observed that firing abusive officers is “the only way to get rid of the problem.” Another panelist, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, acknowledged the obvious roadblock to that solution:
But that is made difficult, Valdez said, because cops subscribe to a code of silence. "Cops don't rat on other cops," she explained.
Without a video of abusive conduct (like the New Orleans incident discussed here), whether misconduct occurred often comes down to a citizen’s word against an officer’s -- or several officers, if they all stick together. Curry suggests, however, that the “problem is even deeper.”
In 1992, Gannett News Service examined 100 civil lawsuits that had been filed against police officers in 22 states. In each instance, awards of $100,000 or more were made to victims between 1986 and 1991; the total was nearly $92 million. Of the 185 officers involved in the cases, no disciplinary action was taken against 160, eight were disciplined and 17 were promoted. In other words, a cop accused of police brutality was two times more likely to get promoted than disciplined.
A code of silence is bad enough; an institutional refusal to acknowledge or respond to misconduct, even after a city pays a substantial sum to settle a misconduct claim, is willfully negligent.
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