Tearing Down Perceived Blue Wall of Silence will Take Dedicated Resources
“I read your post on War on Guns, and I think this is a very good example of a BAD cop that we should post, and use it as a teaching moment on how we MUST call out the bad ones and when one is found out, we should be willing to say so, and support the department’s actions in getting rid of him.” Stewart Rhodes told me in an email. “Now if we can just get the ‘good’ cops to do that on their own, without a smoking gun in the hands of a mere plebe to force them to. I’ll bet this guy was already a known racist pig in his department. But they didn’t do jack till he was caught red-handed online being a dumb ass as well as a psycho.”
My post was in reference to a news story about a Kansas cop fired for sending a black woman a threatening Facebook message about her five-year-old daughter. And while shocking in its own right, it’s nothing compared to some of the stories about police corruption and brutality involving officers who have been on the force for years, many rising through the ranks to positions of power and influence.
Those in turn have elicited reader comments condemning officers who must have known but kept silent, as being, if nor equally guilty, at least accessories. In general, I agree with that.
The thing is, it’s easy for me to weigh in on this. I don’t have to live with the risks and consequences of actions I expect others to take. Those are many, and they come from several sources.
I saw that happening with ATF retaliation against Fast and Furious whistleblowers. The since-disgraced U.S. attorney for Phoenix tried to discredit agent John Dodson — and Congress actually had to issue warnings against retaliation (which were still tested). The ATF Chief Counsel and Acting Director were trying to identify the source who first revealed a “gunwalking” connection on the CleanUp ATF whistleblower website so they could invoke standards violation sanctions against him. Whistleblower Vince Cefalu, who insisted wiretap laws be followed, was first sidelined in a meaningless job and then illegally fired. And a federal judge accused ATF and DOJ attorneys of committing “fraud on the court” for threatening career retaliation against a witness in the Jay Dobyns case.
Squelching coming forward against corruption has once more captured headlines in the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton. Not only has a gag order been imposed, agents are subject to “lie detector” testing, which, if AG Lynch’s telling Congress to pound sand 74 times is any indication, is being directed, monitored and controlled from the very top.
Not all departments have Internal Affairs investigators, and of those that do, not all are truly free to act independently. Then there are police unions, which are advocates for officers accused of wrongdoing. And there are fellow officers who may have an interest in supporting the system just the way it is, and who may have a vested interest in making life hard on “snitches.”
Without even needing to get into Serpico situations, who wants to be out on the street without complete confidence partners and colleagues are watching their backs? And who has the resources to sustain being terminated, or for prolonged court actions?
So what is this, excuse-making for cops who see bad things going on and keep their mouths shut out of pure self-preservation and interest? Maybe, at least a bit. But that’s only in the absence of a reliable support network for peace officers who want to come forward, but who may naturally hesitate at the thought of being alone against the world. There need to be resources to help overcome balking at doing the right thing, and not just to protect the cop, but to expose injustices and bring wrong-doers to accountability.
A cursory search doesn’t reveal a lot in terms of resources – there are some articles, a link to a Facebook page, some links and resources, and even a National Whistleblower Center that looks more like a general fraud clearinghouse, but nothing really in the way of an organization dedicated exclusively to actually supporting police whistleblowers. If anyone knows of one, please educate us all in comments.
In the absence of that, this is the point where I get to toss the problem back to Stewart and to the membership: Noting this is essentially a volunteer organization with competing priorities for precious resources, what can and should Oath Keepers’ role in this be, and what specific measures could be taken now to encourage and protect those struggling with the decision to break through the so-called wall?
Stewart asked veteran police officers and tactical trainers Greg McWhirter (former Indianapolis cop and current Montana corrections) and John Karriman (Missouri Police Academy Defensive Tactics instructor) for their experience-based perspectives on this.
I have over 12 years of law enforcement experience in two states. I’ve worked in a jail, fugitive warrants, gangs, SWAT and now Probation and Parole. I was a union rep for my department in Indiana, and a FTO for 7 years.
I have seen some of those things mentioned in this article. Sadly, I have seen whistleblower cops shunned and harassed by their agency after blowing the whistle outside their chain of command. The idea of a blue wall of silence is myth. While there are agencies that promulgate the concept, the vast majority of officers don’t conduct themselves in that manner. Its much more complex than that, and I’ll explain.
There are two things that seemingly create this idea of the “blue wall of silence.” Firstly, there are agencies that have had a history of coming down on whistleblowers, intentionally and unintentionally. For example officer, Kyle Pirog, a 16-year veteran at the Bedminster Township Police Department. Pirog accused Officer John Dapkins of targeting minorities at traffic stops, accusations that were echoed by other officers, according to court documents. He also maintained that Dapkins had committed perjury to obtain a search warrant from a judge, in addition to lying in a police report. After he brought his concerns to the attention of superiors and they were not addressed, the suit says that Pirog took his concerns to the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office. Upon hearing this, Pirog’s superiors suspended him for three months without pay, demoted him and threatened him with termination. The suit is still pending.
The second issue, and the one I think is most damaging, is the extent agencies will go to rehabilitate, retrain, and retain bad cops. Frequently you will find that agencies will transfer or retrain officers after they have committed small violations. This is frequently done in an effort to retain an officer who just needs retraining , or to keep an officer for some other less-noble reason. I have personally seen officers who have been retained or even promoted after numerous complaints from fellow officers for political reasons, because that officer or his family is politically connected. In the first instance you will see agencies reprimand an officer, send him to remedial training and try to find some way to retain that officer. In the second instance you will find these officers will act recklessly, and illegally because they feel untouchable, because they are politically connected. They will commit some kind of policy violation and then, due to political connections, the will not be disciplined or fired, but will be transferred. The reason the agencies brass even knows about that problem officer is because his co-workers have complained or because issues are discovered during an FTO period.
As an FTO you have a responsibility to further the training of your trainee, identify areas of strength and weakness, and most importantly to figure out if a trainee is cut out for the job. I have attended instructor symposiums that are filled with horror stories of new officers who are retained even after their FTO/Instructor, has filed a recommendation that the new officer be let go because he is not meeting the standards. This is an effort by those agencies to maintain manpower and not waste the tens of thousands of dollars spent on training and equipping that new officer. Sometimes, it’s also out of fear of being sued by that officer for wrongful termination.
None of these reasons are good reasons to keep bad cops. However its part of the truth that we face, undermanned and overwhelmed agencies doing what they feel is right to keep manpower up. In some states being fired from an agency is almost the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge. Other states a bad officer may maintain his police certification and will quietly move to another department. Hopefully in the future we will see some changes in the situations I have discussed. We are seeing more and more localities passing ethics rules that prevent the political retention.
Most importantly is we LEO’s as a community must support our whistleblower cops. The only way we can come closer to our communities, rebuild our lost trust, and show the public that we don’t condone bad cops, is to get out in force and show support for our whistleblower officers. As said in the Declaration of Independence “we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” We must show support for our officers, who in good faith blow the whistle on those who would dishonor our profession.
I would like to say the majority of LE out there do a great job, but it just aint so. I’ve only been around it for forty years, so I might be full of shit. I started studying the criminal justice system back in ’76. My age put me between wars (following a rather unpopular one) so instead of the military, I went into LE, hitting the street when I was 21. Because of my martial arts background; I got tabbed to teach at the regional academy after my rookie season. I assisted two of my mentors (both Marines) until taking over the program 25 years ago. Those contacts opened doors for some interesting travel and training, since one of them retired as a Master Sergeant in CI (tale end of WWII through Vietnam). I found that being part of the Intel community was like being in the mob- you never really get out.
Having been a training officer and DTI since ’81 has been an eye opener. The job attracts bullies, cowards, sloths and dullards at an alarming rate. The vast majority lack the interpersonal skills and servant’s heart the job requires to do right. Forget about athleticism or the bringing of any useful skills to the table. It’s too often a bad fit. When I tell them they are basically paid athletes and modern day knights; you can see the fatties glaze over. I have used one of MS Gordon’s statements- “Son, you must be lost, cuz this aint no pie eating contest.”
The job requires the ability to wear many hats. Most aren’t up to the task. Bad actors surround themselves with more of the same and it’s the good officer that gets run off or quits in disgust. My motto of- Treat ’em like family until you can’t, falls on deaf ears for many of them. Most seem to relish preying on those that are just attempting to get by while they avoid dealing with the real hard-asses. Despite my warnings about falling into the Us vs Them trap; they almost seem to take a perverse pleasure in costing their fellow travelers time or money. As far as targeting minorities, Cracker please. They avoid having to deal with minorities like the plague because of fears of non-compliance or their special…afrocentricities (yeah, I made it up). They are code named- Democrats (when we’re using codes) Of course, then there’s language barriers and the lack of ID with our undocumented “visitors” or preDemocrats (preedeez) as some of them are known.
When I see military men (and women) come through the academy after a tour or two under their belts; I usually move them into leadership positions. When the cadets have been allowed to pick their class leader; they invariably will pass over the quarter of the class with military experience. I correct that mistake, but it’s always the same; pass over the military people and then complain about them when they have to bring their problems to them first before it gets to me. Crybabies. They buck chain of command because they were told by momma how special they are.
The military folks have the mental and physical discipline the job deserves, but are invariably bad-mouthed by their soft counterparts (while still at the academy and later on the street). They have been exposed to a true command structure and are mission oriented, but instead of respect and a desire to learn from them; there is contempt and sometimes sabotage in the promotion game. It’s jealousy, purely and simply. Their soft counterparts know they couldn’t have made it in military life. It is one small sticking point with me, having taken the LE/Intel route and not having spent some time in the Suq. Oh, I’ve seen the elephant, but I feel like I missed out. Working around military and Intel personnel isn’t the same as having gotten to experience the ups and downs of military life.
Comment by Stewart Rhodes:
I thank all three gentlemen for their thoughts on this.
I agree with David that we need to do more to support the good cops who do call out the bad ones, and we will put some concrete effort into sorting out what that will look like (I will enlist our good cops, like Greg McWhirter and John Karriman in that effort). However, I am not willing to give any cop any kind of a pass or leeway in turning a blind eye to violations of peoples rights no matter what the consequences to his career. Cops need to man up and follow the lead of Frank Serpico and blow the whistle or step in and stop the abuse directly, even if it puts their career in danger (or, as in Serpico’s case, their lives). They have a duty to do so under their oath. And they cannot say “hey, when you guys can guarantee I will not lose my job, or can provide me some kind of financial backup, then I’ll be happy to blow the whistle, but until then, I’ll do what I have to do to keep my job.” Sorry, that just wasn’t their oath. It wasn’t “I swear to support and defend the Constitution … unless it may cost me my job! Then, no way!” Cops putting their job first, above their oath, and NOT stopping the bad cops from abusing people, is exactly why they are losing the good will of the American people, and an increasing number of Americans see them all as their enemy.
Police should do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, period. Certainly, we need to keep in mind the facts of human nature, but that only reinforces why the Founders distrusted standing armies – because a professional warrior or guardian class will see itself as separate from, and above the people, and it will be more likely to obey orders that violate the rights of the people because their paycheck depends on it. That applies to cops as much as to career soldiers. When a man becomes a cop, his whole identity, his status in the community, his paycheck, and his pension are now tied up with being a cop. He is now in the club, and you and I non-cops ain’t in it. That affects their behavior, no matter how good their initial intentions. So, yes, we can and should try to provide some support to the good ones to help to counter those human nature realities, but we also may just have to conclude that the Founders were right, and there is no such thing as a standing army (or standing police force) that can be trusted with the people’s rights, and they must instead be replaced by the militia, made up of we the people.
And I think what both Greg and John wrote lends weight to that. And especially John’s candid, no bull slap in the face of the police industry based on his personal observations over decades. I trust both men with my life, as men of honor and integrity, and I think the truth is in the middle somewhere, but I think it is also way over toward John’s side of the scale, with him saying, I would like to say the majority of LE out there do a great job, but it just aint so. …The job attracts bullies, cowards, sloths and dullards at an alarming rate.”
I think we need to be willing to face that harsh reality and then deal with it. We certainly cannot forsake them all, because we know many who are indeed warriors with a servant’s heart. I have been privileged and honored to know such men and women here in this org. But we also need to face up to the fact that the good ones are in the minority, and that is precisely why the bad ones have free reign.
But now, with a bloody war on cops raging in earnest, the equation is no longer just “will I lose my job or my pension” but also “will I lose my life.” We stand opposed to the cop killers, driven by Marxist ideology and racism, who are now on a killing spree, but we must also recognize that police are extremely vulnerable, and their only real security is to take a sincere stand for the Constitution, reign in the bad cops and reform themselves, and respect the rights of people at all times, and then join with us in defending our communities against the terrorists together. But without trying to take shortcuts when it comes to the Constitution in the name of officer safety. If they do right by their oath, we will back them up physically, and put ourselves in harms way to stand with them. But if they violate it, then they are on their own. They cannot expect us military veterans and patriotic cop veterans to assist the current serving cops in violating the Constitution. We cannot do that. So, let’s hope they realize just how late the hour is, and do the right thing before it is too late. – Stewart Rhodes