The Truth: Why Cops Don’t Always Police Themselves

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I want to present a scenario to anyone who is not in law enforcement:  Imagine that you are a police officer.  During your journey though my brief scenario that I am about to present, please carry with you all of your ideals and notions of what an officer should be.  Please keep your highest standards intact, but all I ask is that you be honest.  

You are a cop and you are riding with your partner on duty.  He’s a good friend of yours – not your best friend, but a good friend.  You guys get along and hang out a little after work, but not much.  Your supervisor puts you two together because you do good work and you guys make good arrests.  No, not drug arrests.  I’ve expressed my opinion on drug work before.  You guys have a knack for tracking down the robbery boys and the burglars. 

You have had a rash of burglaries in your beat.  Hard working citizens have been coming home to find their doors kicked in, property rummaged through, and items missing.  When you have shown up to take reports, you’ve seen the horrified look on the faces of the children whose imagination ran wild with images of what kind of monster invaded their safest place and destroyed their home.

For weeks, you’ve had little to go on and have only acquired a vague description that provided no real help, but today, you get a break!  You get a call from a woman who walked in on the burglar in her home, but before he flees, he throws her down and kicks her a few times in front of her daughter, telling her that she better not call the police. 

Thankfully, she doesn’t listen and calls 911, providing a detailed description and direction of travel of the suspect.  You and your partner happen to be nearby and spot the violent criminal run across a street.  He jumps into a van which happened to be reported stolen and takes off, and you give chase.  A brief, reckless pursuit takes place and he quickly crashes into a parked car around the corner, disabling his stolen van and totaling the parked car.  The suspect jumps out of the wreck and runs on foot through some back yards.

You and your partner chase him over a few fences and then finally catch up to him.  As you grab him, he spins around and grabs your face with his filthy hands and rips his fingers down your face.  You can feel the sting from his dirty fingernails across your cheek and the pain on your lips as you struggle to keep hold of his shirt. 

Your partner is able to tackle him to the ground and while both of you are attempting to get him into handcuffs, the burglar kicks you in your bad knee and then he spits on you. Eventually, you guys get him into handcuffs as he yells, “That’s why I raped your mother last night, pig.”  As you sit back in pain, and the struggle is over, you witness your partner punch the handcuffed suspect right in the face.

You just witnessed a fellow police officer assault a handcuffed prisoner.  What do you do?  A man who has terrified a neighborhood for weeks, stole property from hard-working citizens, assaulted a woman in front of her child who walked in on him, escaped in a car that he stole from someone else, crashed into and destroyed the property of another, then assaults you and insults your family. 

As a human being, what do you do?  Would you turn your partner in because of the injustice experienced by the burglar?  What imaginary sense of duty could ever force a human being to provide “justice” to a criminal that has gone out of his way to unjustly hurt so many people.  You calculated out your partner’s response and observed that he did not shoot the burglar or injure him substantially.  A man who had victimized so many in such a short time had a human knuckle come into contact with his jaw and you are aware that his bruise will heal and his swelling will recede.

Could any of you honestly state that you would turn your partner in?  What would compel you to do so?  Integrity?  Honor?  The Constitution?  Duty?  What do you see when you look up at the suspect?  With his spit running down your face, would you see a victim?  Would you truly see an injustice? 

Critics of the police demand that we hold each other accountable.  Would you be able to hold your partner accountable in this situation?  Accountable to what?  They state that we are held to a higher standard.  What standard is the burglar held to?  What is his accountability?  Why does the court of public opinion never hear my case against him?  Why is criminality discussed as some unfortunate social anomaly that we just need to deal with, but police misconduct is a crime against humanity?

Cops don’t chase bad guys on behalf of the State.  You have a valid argument that cops may ticket people on behalf of the State or enforce some drug laws on behalf of the State, but when they are chasing thieves and violent criminals, they are doing so on behalf of a moral code.  This moral code is what maintains the order of the communities that we all live in.  Failure to maintain that order will cause hardship for us all.

If you admit that you would not turn your partner in, then there you go: You are now a despised, jack booted thug and a government lap dog that hates the Constitution and eats freedom for breakfast every morning.   

Now remove yourself from the scenario and pretend that you have no information on what happened.  You are now browsing Facebook and a Cop Block status update comes up with the title, “Cop Thug Punches Unarmed Handcuffed Suspect.”  You see a video of the last few moments of my scenario play out because someone filmed the arrest.  Would you think that the officer was wrong for punching the suspect in the video?  Would his partner be complicit for not turning him in?

I just wanted to provide a different angle for people to consider and challenge the notion of “policing the police” in broad, general terms.  It’s unfair to apply standards to cops that most people will not live up to.  In my scenario, most people would not have punched the burglar and neither would most cops. But most people also would not have turned in their partner, and neither would most cops.  That’s because cops are like most people: human.  It’s just the truth.  Some critics of the police will claim that they would have turned their partner in so as to maintain their logical credibility, but are they are only fooling themselves to uphold the narrative that they unfairly cling to?

The thin blue line is more human than people want to believe.

Henry Calgues

Henry Calgues

Henry Calgues is the new pseudonym for "Anonymous Cop."
Henry Calgues

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29 thoughts on “The Truth: Why Cops Don’t Always Police Themselves”

  1. Absolutely excellent article. The argument that we chase most bad guys on behalf of a moral code rather than “for the state” is not one I have really heard articulated before; while my libertarian friends would disagree and still say we are just jack booted thugs of THE STATE, who cares? Can’t please them anyway. Te challenge is not losing your own moral compass. To not turn in your partner in this scenario is totally understandable and totally acceptable to me. The challenge is: when he or anyone else DOES cross the line, can you break that silence for the good of your own code and the community that you serve? And are you willing to take the heat from other cops and the public when you do break that silence? Or will you bow to the pressure of all the guys and gals who covered for your minor indiscretions during your career who now feel betrayed, even if they moved on from your scenario to, let’s say, getting a BJ in an alley on a traffic stop to cut some chick a warning, or planting evidence on dopers? To be clear I totally agree with what you right and it is well articulated. WE, as pro’s need to recognize the danger in that culture of silence, however.

  2. Aww being a cop is so hard. Cry me a river. I’m going to hazard to guess that most of the time abuse happens it’s because you’re a bunch of power-tripping bullies, not because some criminal said he raped your mother. Your job is to arrest criminals and punching someone who can’t defend themselves is a crime. Funny how that gets thrown out the window when it’s your partner.

    1. You say “you’re” like all police officers are the same. The men, women, white, black, Asian, Hispanic, gay, straight, etc., etc., all cops are the same.

      Paint with a wide brush much Michael? Hate much and let that hate dribble out in your snarky internet expert postings?

      Perhaps you can put in an app, get through an academy, and go out and show the world how it’s supposed to be done?

    2. Michael Bury, you’re a Jack ass. As well as a liar and a pretender. You don’t have a brain cell alive in your skull and your liberal ideas are Bullshit. So sayeth the wife, daughter and mother of 2 policemen.

    3. Michael my department will be taking applications in August. Since you have all the answers maybe you should apply. After all, its such an easy job. I have thirty years of scars to prove it.

  3. I am not in law enforcement but anybody that would turn in anybody for punching this guy is part of the problem that’s getting totally out of hand! I could not be Cop, no Human should ever halve to put up with that and cops are just you and me that chose to try to make this a decent world.

  4. This details a situation that can happen but I cannot determine if you are trying to justify the assault?

    “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.”

  5. How nice I work in corrections cameras and witnesses everywhere. Sorry sir but it is called professionalism which includes being able to control yourself and your emotions when the average person could not. There is no excuse for striking someone who is cuffed that is cowardass and you condoning such things is the real problem

  6. Paul, having known you for as long as I have the fact that you are even writing this article just reinforces the opinion I’ve held for many years: You are a COP I will happily go thru any door any time. The fact that you have thought about this Kobayashi Maru scenario enough to put it down on paper shows to those of us that will look with an open mind that you are NOT that jack booted thug. In a perfect world we would always do the proper thing in the proper manner and never in the heat of battle battle would we throw that last elbow or click the cuffs one notch tighter than they have to be to secure the miscreant that just tried to kill us because we were trying to arrest him from raping a three year old, or beating to death an 80 year old that didn’t willing give up their purse. But then again, in a perfect world there would not be violent thugs preying on the weak so this issue would never happen. One of the standard questions I heard during so many hiring boards was that the applicant wants to become a COP to help people; and that sounds corny but in most cases it is true. I always thought of COPS being like sheepdogs; there to protect the flock from the wolves. Not the Shepard who owns the flock but the one that protects them are tries to keep any strays from going too far and getting into danger. We are human and we do have human feelings and we make mistakes but jack booted thugs we are not.

  7. I think that it is unprofessional on a police officers part to resort to violence, especially on a handcuffed alleged suspect. If a suspect saying things about your momma gets to you and causes you to react..your in the wrong line of business. Also its not the job of the officer to be a judge. We dont not know if this person is mentally handicapped or on drugs, it is the job of the officer to do his intended job without letting prejudices get in the way. The officer that witneses his partner should do his partner a favor and explain why he must report this. He would be reprimanded and in the long run this helps him become a better officer. This article, sadly justifies violent and illegal and unconstitutional behavior. Shame on the author and any who subscribes to this as being in any way correct and law abiding manner of a law officer.

    1. You say that you don’t know if he’s on drugs etc.

      You also don’t know at this stage if he’s definitely involved in the other burglaries. On the facts provided it’s not even clear if this guy is the burgler who kicked the woman in front of the kids since it’s not clear that the officers actually see him running from the address – how could they given he’d kick the woman, leave and then the call to police would be made.

      So at the time the officer is punching this guy he has no idea whether he’s actually guilty of anything more than being an obnoxious prick.

  8. Would I turn him in? Probably not.

    Would I be wrong not to turn him in? Yes.

    Would I know that by not turning him in I run a risk of getting in trouble myself? Yes.

    Who is to blame if I get in trouble for not turning him in? Me.

  9. I would NOT turn my partner in! Yes it would be wrong of me not to but my partner is there to watch my back and I him. If I turn on him who will watch mine? While punching a scumbag in cuffs in NOT the smartest thing to do it isn’t worth turning in your partner. Now if he was planting evidence or purposely shot an unnamed suspect THAT would be a different story!

  10. In reality, most accusations by the unwashed masses come from arrests or events the average officer knows nothing about. In the city of Houston with over 5000 officers, I might be slightly acquainted with a few hundred by sight or reputation. With 11 years on, I could know a mix of younger and older officers but mostly at my single station. If an officer from another station is accused of anything at all, the general public has this perception that every single officer on the force knew about it beforehand, knows all the dirt, and should have arrested the accused long ago.

    If I said the same thing to anyone else working in an organization with as many people, they’d think I was screwy. An accountant at a big local firm embezzles a couple million bucks in the cubicle next to them, they shrug their shoulders and say “Harvey was always such a nice guy, I’d never suspect anything like that.” As I bounce from call to call to call most of the shift, I’m really a bit too busy to know about some new hire punk in a uniform doing dirty deeds off duty given he lives in Sugarland and I’m closer to Humble but of course I should know about it ahead of time since all cops are clairvoyant, right? The adage they believe in relates to that thin blue line you mention, their knowledge of the universe of policing coming straight from a Hollywood writer’s imagination.

  11. Some of these post claiming all cops are bad and would know what to do in every call are from people that would not be able to even pass a psych.

  12. I had a discussion similar to this years ago. Someone I know had finally bought their dream car. Lots of money down and a legal commitment of a couple of years of big payments ahead, but he was happy to finally have a new car. Four days into owning it some piece of crap broke into it and tried to steal it. They couldn’t peel the column so they just stole all the stuff inside and destroyed the digital dashboard. Over $4000.00 damage and a car that cannot be driven home after a long day of work. Now my friend had previously believed that the cops should never get rough with people no matter what. After becoming a victim himself, I asked him, a black belt in martial arts, what he would have done to the thief, had he caught him red handed. Needless to say the thief would have had broken elbows and broken wrists at the very least, and most likely a disabling beating. Would the thief deserve the beating? All I know is that he wouldn’t be stealing during the time he heals. I then asked my friend that if the cops caught the thief, would he have been okay withe the cops roughing up THAT guy. Of course, when YOU are the victim, all the thoughts of leniency go out the window, which is precisely what his thoughts were.

    This guy was a victim of a property crime. How would he have felt if he or someone he loved had been hurt by some lowlife? What would the proper punishment be then?

    Something for all you cop haters out there to think about.

  13. The issue is not that your partner punches the guy the issue is how it is handled AFTER your partner punches the guy. If you jump in and get in a few licks yourself then you have a serious problem. If you intercede and stop your partner then you have done the right thing.

    The law, the courts and most people understand that when chasing a criminal who is known to be violent, as this guy was, emotions and adrenaline will be heightened and in a scuffle tensions will be high. But as Officers the higher standard comes after when you are able to control those emotions. There are always those times when some turd will get under your skin but its those times when self-control will be your biggest ally.

    If you stand back and cheer on your partner then you are watching a crime take place and when you turn your partner in make sure you turn yourself in as well. If you take the high road and stop your partner then you and he can go home with your heads high and know that you are truly the honorable men in blue.

  14. You see the problem with this is that there are way too many times that the guy getting punched isn’t a criminal at all, and if they are, they haven’t done half the crimes in this imaginary scenario. In real life the people getting punched are people who refused to bow down to someone with a badge when they had done wrong. Sometimes it’s people who have done nothing at all. If this scenario were the case, then no I probably wouldn’t turn my partner in. But in real life, officers aren’t turning their partners even when they are punching, harassing, lying, illegally detaining and arresting, etc innocent people just because “they are good friends”. Yeah sometimes pages like cop block aren’t showing the whole story, but the point is they are trying to get awareness up for situations that are just truly wrong. Yes there are good cops out there, I know plenty of them. But there are also tons of bad ones and we need to address the situation before it’s out of hand.

  15. Punching a violent idiot lawbreaker in the face isn’t crossing the line. Unloading several rounds into someone because they pissed you off or happened to be the wrong color/ sex/ religion would be crossing the line- but then again I don’t know any real officers that would do that. I only hear about those officers on the news…the very politically aligned and conveniently skewed news.

  16. And what if he didn’t scratch your face and all that other stuf and yet your buddy still hauls off and hits him in handcuffs…do you turn your “friend” in then? I believe I already know the answer.

  17. I think that it’s not only fair to demand high standards from cops but essential. There’s simply not enough of them to enforce law without a moral authority; but people always protect their buddies, it’s ridiculous to assume anyone would do otherwise (do you know ANYBODY who’s turned in their buddy for something they’ve done); which is why any authority needs to be accountable to another. I don’t think that there’s any group shown to be immune to this let alone a group who depend on each other and face the worst in society on a continual basis. But in a society based on equality; you commit a crime, you get caught, you pay for it, if you think it’s justified, you get to argue that!

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