Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What we wish every cop could be?

When I was writing my book, Walking With the Devil: The Police Code of Silence, I thought I was writing a book about police training. Turns out, with a little introspection, that I didn’t want to write a book about training I wanted to write a book about how to be a good cop. After 23+ years with the Minneapolis PD, 18 months with The Police Corps Program, 17 years of SWAT, 8 years with FBI SWAT and 4 years as supervisor of Minneapolis Police Academy I was an instructor in almost every skill set necessary to be a cop with good technical skills. But good technical skills are only part of the job. Over the years I came to know some decorated officers that had great technical skills but were also racist, homophobic, and/or brutal. Many of them were powerful informal leaders that arrested a lot of bad guys. They demonstrated a gift for creative report writing and smooth talking. They were allowed to stay cops only because no one challenged them; not their co-workers, not their supervisors and not their departments. All of which brings me to Officer Lucas Peterson and the Minneapolis Police Department.   

Peterson has 13 excessive force complaints. He has cost the community $700,000.00 in law suit payments. In 2006 Peterson was caught lying in a police report where he charged a woman with a crime[i] she never committed. Chief Dolan did not hold him accountable. He sent him back to the street.
Now he shoots and kills a man, is given an outrageous amount of time to get his story straight, and the police federation calls him a hero. “He’s kind of, in my opinion, what we wish every cop could be,” said John Delmonico, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis.[ii]

The fact that Delmonico said that does not make it true. I know that most of the cops working the street in Minneapolis are good cops and they do not support lying or excessive force. So, does Delmonico think he is speaking for our federation representatives or the department as a whole? I can tell you this – John Delmonico does not speak for me as a retired cop or as a Minneapolis resident. He does not speak for my father Lt. William B. Quinn, MPD Retired/Deceased. He does not speak for my sister Special Agent Ann Quinn-Robinson, formerly a sergeant with the MPD. The fact that Lucas Peterson can do what some people call heroic does not excuse being brutal or being a liar.

The biggest downside to Peterson still working as a cop is this:
“Communities that allow their cops to ignore the rules and marginalize any part of the community are only trading one form of violence for another—and it is a bad trade. You cannot separate individual justice from community justice. It is a symbiotic relationship. Like an injury to the human body, an injury to the justice system at the personal level is an injury to the body of the community.

To “protect and serve,” that is our real mandate. If there is going to be pain and injury, it should be the result of our efforts to carry out that mandate, not the result of violating it. No matter how hard we try, innocents will suffer and evil will occasionally win. We cannot protect everyone, everywhere, and there will always be some pain in the community. The community understands that.

What they cannot understand, and should not tolerate, are protectors that are the cause of their pain.[iii]




[i] 2012 Minnesota Statutes: 609.2231 ASSAULT IN THE FOURTH DEGREE. Subdivision 1.Peace officers. 
Whoever physically assaults a peace officer licensed under section 626.845, subdivision 1, when that officer is effecting a lawful arrest or executing any other duty imposed by law is guilty of a gross misdemeanor and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year or to payment of a fine of not more than $3,000, or both
[ii] Downloaded on July 16, 2013 from http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/213718651.html
[iii] Quinn, Michael W. 2005. Walking With the Devil: The Police Code of Silence. Quinn and Associates, Minneapolis, MN.