The Blue Wall of Silence

The blue wall of silence is a real phenomenon in the law enforcement community. Law enforcement officers are indoctrinated from the start of their police academy training to turn a blind eye to injustices done to residents and also injustices done to fellow officers, particularly females and officers of color.

The written rules that are officially taught to officers require us to immediately report misconduct by a fellow officer. Officers are even required to intervene if they witness any mistreatment of residents. However, -officially reporting misconduct or mistreatment often results in retaliation which can range from to not having back up/assistance on a call for service up to termination. Many examples around the country prove this is not an isolated practice.

The case of Cariol Horne, a Buffalo, New York, officer is particularly troubling. Horne was fired in 2008, stemming from a 2006 incident where she intervened to stop a fellow officer’s chokehold on a suspect. She not only lost her job but also lost her pension.

It took many years of struggling for Retired Officer Horne, but she continued to defend herself. Thirteen years later a court ruled in her favor and granted her pension. As the bible states, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9.

Another example is Lorenzo Davis, a former officer with the Chicago Police Department. Former Officer Davis was a supervisor with Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority (now the Civilian Office of Police Accountability). The Chief Administrator of IPRA ordered Davis to change his findings of unjustified use of excessive force by officers. When Davis refused, he was fired. Three years later, Davis won a $2.8 million judgment in Federal Court.

When good officers attempt to expose the cover up culture, they often find themselves labeled as the bad apples, when in reality they are the ones standing up to the corruption. What the public can do to help create a safe environment for the good officers is to support them when they do come forward. They need an avenue to report misconduct and corruption. They also need assurances that authorities will condemn any retaliation they experience. It is important that when it does occur the good officers are protected by immediate action.

There have been cries to get rid of the “bad apple” cops but what is more important is to protect the “good apple” cops. Without them, it will be difficult to identify and remove the bad apples.

Since officers are dressed the same and have the same training. One might ask how do you distinguish the good apples from the bad apples? It really comes down to one simple thing: Their choices reveal who they are.

Melissa McFadden

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