Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It Has To Start At The Top

If you haven’t read it yet, I have posted a link to Michael Friedman’s commentary in the Star Tribune on how to reform the Minneapolis Police Department. This is by far the most realistic analysis I have read yet on on dealing the police misconduct on the MPD. You can find it at http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/218437051.html

In this same edition Chief Harteau is quoted as saying she wants officers to “say something” if they see another officer involved in misconduct. Say something? To Whom? The officer? Their supervisor? Internal Affairs? I can tell you exactly how that works; it doesn’t. Unless saying something means saying it to the cops involved in the misconduct and the words are: “Not Here, Not Now, Not in Front of Me, That's Not Going to Happen.”

There are consequences for cops who report other cops so they seldom report the misconduct even though the Minneapolis Police Department manual is pretty clear.



6. Employees shall immediately report any violation of rules, regulations, or laws that come to their attention to the Internal Affairs Unit, regardless of the violator's assignment or rank within the Department.[i]

 Every police department in the country has a similar policy. I have talked to cops across Canada and the United States and every cop knows this policy is there but they all admit it is the most commonly violated policy in the whole manual. It is seen by most as a “gotcha” policy to be used to discipline an officer when a department can’t justify anything else.
Let me give you a Reader’s Digest version of my history of reporting misconduct with the MPD. Late 1970’s I tell the Deputy Chief Brucianni about two vice cops beating up a prostitute. Two days later one of the cops grabs me and threatens to “kill me” if I ever snitch him off again. He meant it.

There are several incidents over my 23 year career but skip ahead to the 1990’s. A rookie police officer in the academy relates an event to the entire rookie class about how on her ride along the two cops kicked in a door without a warrant and then admitted to her that they use Creative Report writing and lie about their justification. They tell her “That’s how it’s done in the 3rd precinct.” I take it to my Lieutenant. The two cops are separated and sent to new precincts. No discipline. The department allows the prosecution to proceed against the man arrested because drugs and guns were seized. The cop who told the entire rookie class this story? No longer a cop. 

That is typical of what happens when cops report the misconduct of other cops. They get put under so much pressure they resign.  I like the idea of some sort of protection for whistle blowers but written orders or even laws alone will have as much power as the code of conduct rule I  listed above. In other words, none.  We don’t need whistle blowers. We need cops brave enough to stand up to the cops who are making them look bad.  We need cops who are willing to intervene in the misconduct of other cops. Cops don’t need to say something. They need to DO something. Cops need to know that their behavior will not be tolerated by the other cops. The idea that we can make a difference by offering more training on cultural diversity and racism is a smoke shield.
Most cops, as Chief Harteau points out, are good cops. We need them to step up and hold the other cops accountable, but it has to start at the top. As long as you have cops like Lucas Peterson that can get away with excessive force, charging people with crimes they never committed, and lying in their reports, working the street you will never get the good cops to come forward.

Chief Harteau, you want to change the culture of the MPD? Then hold cops like Peterson, Thole, and Powell accountable.  Make the rest of us, and your cops, believe that you mean what you say.

Mike Quinn

[i]Downloaded on August 6, 2013 from http://www.minneapolismn.gov/police/policy/mpdpolicy_5-100_5-100

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