Cops, Do Your Duty-Intervene

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

In Los Angeles, an LAPD officer makes like a young Mike Tyson and wails away on full video on a non-resisting, compliant homeless man. In Minneapolis, the world is shocked by the video of former Minneapolis copy Derek Chauvin choking the life out of a non-resistant, compliant George Floyd. In Buffalo, New York, an officer kicks and beats a non-resistant, compliant, suspect.

In each case, other officers on the scene either stood by and did nothing or, as in Minneapolis, piled on a near lifeless Floyd. in Buffalo, it got even worse. One officer repelled by the kicking and beating of the suspect intervened. She was then assaulted by the thug officer, terminated, and her pension contested by the department. These three recent horror stories sparked mass protests. But this stuff is so common and routine among cops that it’s canonized as the code of blue silence.

Now what if cops not only knew that they’d be prosecuted for wanton acts of violence against unarmed young Blacks and Hispanics, but they’d also be fingered for potential prosecution if they stood around and did nothing or worse joined in the abuse? This would be a major game changer in rooting out abusive cops. The problem is most big city police departments do not have any written, or enforced, policy requiring officers to intervene and report other officers who commit misconduct. That includes the LAPD.

How diligent the departments that do have a facsimile of such a policy enforce it is another matter. Legislators in Michigan now propose legislation that formally requires any officer who witnesses excessive force by another officer has a duty to intervene. Most police officials in the state predictably have been stone silent on the legislation. The LAPD should follow Michigan’s lead on this.

We hammer murderous cops who commit blatant abusive acts up to and including the slaying of unarmed citizens. But they couldn’t exist in any department without the wink and nod, blind eye, and look the other way of officers within these departments and more than a few administrators.

Chauvin is a near textbook example of this. He had a hideous record of assaults, dubious shootings, endangering car chases, and a stack of abuse complaints against him as well as department and county prosecutor investigations. It would stretch belief to think that other officers who worked with him didn’t know about his record and his dubious policing. Yet, not one stepped forward to blow the whistle on him. This is so routine that it would have been a shock if one officer had broken ranks and screamed foul.

Here’s how deep, prevalent, and terrifying the blue code of silence is in police culture. The National Institute of Ethics in a study commissioned by the International Association of Police Chiefs in 2016 surveyed hundreds of cops in 21 states. They found that nearly 80 percent of cops said that a code of silence exists, more than half said it didn’t bother them, almost half admitted that the code was strongest when excessive force was used, and half also admitted they had witnessed misconduct by another officer but kept their mouths shut about it.

Why? Because in many cases they were told to keep quiet by other officers and in even more cases by department higher-ups. And if they didn’t they were scared stiff that they would be ostracized; the officer who committed the misconduct would be disciplined or fired; or worse, they’d be fired, or at the very least would be “blackballed,” or that their bosses would simply blow their complaint off. A significant number of them said they wanted to speak out about the abusive acts of fellow officers but were pressured by “uninvolved officers” to keep quiet.

However, there’s not or never has been any need for them to quake at that prospect. Courts have sided with officers in the few times that they have broken ranks and called out other officers to higher-ups for misconduct from beatings to the shooting of suspects or civilians. In one case an appeals court in California went further and reminded police officers and officials in a ruling on the issue that it’s the legal and professional duty of an officer to report misconduct by another officer. It’s a protected constitutional right and that any form of retaliation against the officer for speaking out is illegal.

The problem is that few police departments pound this point home to rank and file officers or for that matter to their superiors. Put bluntly, telling them, and continuing to tell recruits at the academy, officers in orientation and training sessions, and in their performance evaluations that the department has zero tolerance toward police misconduct. That if an officer witnesses it, they are duty-bound to report it. If they don’t, they are just as guilty of law breaking as the cop that breaks the law. The blue code of silence makes it possible for bad cops and bad administrators to get away and keep getting away with abusive acts. When cops due their duty and intervene and administrators back them up this will be a giant step toward riding departments of the Chauvin’s.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Why Black Lives Do Matter (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.


1 thought on “Cops, Do Your Duty-Intervene”

  1. The court should put an injunction on allowing employees of the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles City Fire Department from participating in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan. Representatives from the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Fire Department misled voters into believing that there needed to be a financial incentive to retain police officers and fire fighters who were 50 years of age with at least 25 years of service. That was a fallacy in order to steal millions of dollars from the tax payers. The current police chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Michel Moore is a perfect example of how police officers and fire fighters are stealing millions of dollars from tax payers.

    The Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Fire Department unions convinced voters that in order to retain police officers and fire fighters who are 50 years of age and with 25 years of service, you had to give them a financial incentive. What they failed to inform voters is that a police officer or fire fighter who is 50 years of age with 25 years of service is ineligible to receive medical benefits if they were to retire prior to age 55. Since medical coverage is extremely costly, most police officers and fire fighters can’t afford to retire prior to age 55.

    So the scam works like this. Tell the voters that in order to in order to retain police officers and fire fighters who are age 50 with 25 years of service, there must be a financial incentive like the Deferred Retirement Option Plan. The Deferred Retirement Option Plan allows police officers and fire fighters who are 50 years of age with 25 years of service to retire from the police department or fire department. After a police officer or fire fighter who is at least 50 years of age and have at least 25 years of service retires, they are allowed to report back to work the very next day at their original salary and their retirement salary is then place in a special account where their retirement salary starts earning interest. After 5 years, once they reach age 55 year and is then eligible for full medical benefits, a police officer or fire fighter would retire fully from the police department or fire department with at $750,000 cash and their full retirement pension.

    As in the case of Chief Moore, he entered DROP and stayed in the program for 6 years collecting over 1.4 million dollars in cash. After leaving the LAPD for one month, Chief Moore was appointed as police chief of the LAPD with a yearly salary in excess of $300,000 a year and a retirement pension of over $260,000 a year. In total, Chief Moore receives $560,000 a year as an employee of the Los Angeles Police Department.


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