Saturday, April 17, 2021

The "Blue Wall" Protects Bad Cops - Good Cops Don't Need It

After working in various aspects of law enforcement for nearly 30 years, I have to admit that I never understood the "blue wall" -- the belief that all police must protect and stand behind other police who break the rules. This wall of blue only protects the bad cops. It actually hurts the good cops, because it lumps them in with the rotten apples in the eyes of the public, and heaps scorn on them that they don't deserve. The blue wall must be demolished -- for the protection of both the good police and the public they protect.

The following is part of an op-ed by Timothy Egan in The New York Times:

Cops protect the state. They also are the state. We revere them for the first part. We fear them for the second. But even as we condemn another round of horrific and excessive state violence directed at Black Americans, there’s actually a ray of hope on the police reform blotter.

The blue wall may be starting to crack. It was broken in the Derek Chauvin trial.

It’s no small thing that several Minneapolis police officers, including Chief Medaria Arradondo, took the stand against Mr. Chauvin in his trial over the death of George Floyd. Fourteen officers in the same department signed an open letter last year saying Mr. Chauvin “failed as a human and stripped George Floyd of his dignity and life.”

Maybe these acts of courage are isolated — mere dents in a wall that is institutional and pervasive. It will take far more than a few cops in a nation-shattering case of racist murder-by-authority to do structural damage to that edifice.

Cops protecting bad cops is ingrained in the system. Many officers feel that only a brother or sister in blue knows the peril they face — and has their backs. That’s true to an extent. But people in far more dangerous lines of work certainly don’t share this attitude. Too many police officers act as if being the face of the law makes them above the law. . . .

Smashing the blue wall is one thing that has to happen to fix the lethal flaws in modern law enforcement. Another will be just as hard, if not more so: acknowledging that racism, like the code of silence, runs deep in police ranks.

Defunding the police is not the answer. It’s an absurd idea. A wave of violence and chaos quickly overwhelmed an area declared police-free in Seattle, where I live, last summer. Among the victims were several people of color. “Two African-American men are dead,” said the city’s police chief, Carmen Best, at the time, “at a place where they claim to be working for Black Lives Matter.”

“Defund the police” is even worse as a political slogan; the idea is supported by only 18 percent of Americans, according to one pollfrom last month. Politically, all the slogan will do is hurt the cause of reform, as it appeared to drag down Democrats in last year’s congressional elections.

Reinventing the police, a far better idea, got a start in New Orleans in 2016, with a program that teaches officers to intervene when they see fellow officers doing something bad. It’s about to get another go in Maryland, now that lawmakers just overrode a veto and passed sweeping police reform legislation.

We need every cop to wear a body camera. We need to curb the power of police unions, the biggest protectors of the blue wall. And we need officers of all stripes to back the words of those 14 in Minneapolis. They said, “This is not who we are.” Now prove it.

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