Criminal Justice

What Does It Take for a Police Officer To Get Fired?

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Shoving a 71-year-old Walmart greeter to the ground and, when another customer came to assist, shoving that customer through a glass door?

Nope, even though that particular officer has had several complaints filed against him, and was involved in another altercation a year earlier.

How about three DWI incidents within a one-year span, including one in which the officer ran a roadblock, then had to be tasered, pepper-sprayed, and wrestled to the ground; another in which he hit another car, then left the scene of the accident; and another in which he fell asleep in his cruiser in front of a school, while in drive, with his foot resting on the brake?

Nope. It took a fourth DWI incident to finally get him suspended.

How about an officer with an otherwise stellar record, who has a reputation in the department for honesty, but who became an outspoken critic of the war on drugs, and on one occasion declined to arrest a man after finding a single marijuana plant growing outside the man's home?

Yep, that'll do it.

NEXT: Lawyers Who Can Say No

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  1. Once again, Balko, you have forced me to exercise tremendous will to think well of the few good people I know who also, unfortunately, happen to LEOs.

    I have had very bad personal experiences with cops and find it hard to think well of LEOs in general. Then you come along with stories like this one and any rosy glow of human compassion I have for otherwise good people who happen to be cops goes in the shitter.

    Good morning everyone!

  2. Let he among you who has not wanted to shove a Wal-Mart greeter to the ground cast the first stone.

  3. Well, at least they have their priorities straight.

  4. January 14, 2009, 8:14am, : Radley Balko ruins another fine morning. Is this a record for speed?

  5. *throws stone at Abdul*

    I can honestly say, I’ve never even considered shoving a walmart greeter. At their age, that’s practically murder.

    Oh, and yeah LMNOP, my morning sucks now. Thanks Balko!!

  6. Maybe we should bring back the ancient Athenian tradition of Ostracism. Every year, you take every cop with a complaint on their jacket, and the community gets to vote. The one with the most votes is beaten about the heels with bamboo sticks as they exit the town, never to return.

  7. I’ve always wanted to be above the law. I should have been a cop.

  8. C’mon, it’s PG County, otherwise known as Peter Principle County. Give it time, this guy will be the chief soon enough.

  9. Is anybody here surprised by this?

    I know by now I’m not – just very sad at our societies tendency to grant significant power to those who would tell you in advance they’ll abuse it.

  10. They should make a Google Earth layer from all these incidents.

  11. The Good News: they finally arrested Ex-Officer Johannes Mehserle last nite.

  12. Texas high school athlete steroid testing has been found to be a waste of money; my suggestion to test every clown with a badge and gun will likely not get far. But rest easy, the WalMart 71 yr old greeter probably had to pass a piss test to get that fine position.

  13. Mehserle had been moving from place to place in recent days as he faced numerous death threats.

    I definitely expected this reaction, and while I do not condone death threats, I am happy to see that people aren’t letting this go.

  14. Just you wait, Balko! Someday your car will get jacked or your house will get burglarized. Good luck getting one of us to come write the report. Then you’ll be sorry!

  15. But rest easy, the WalMart 71 yr old greeter probably had to pass a piss test to get that fine position.

    I worked for Wal-mart for a very (very very) brief time and yes, they do drug test.

  16. The worst part of this post is not what cops don’t get fired for (that’s well known and documented), it’s what the last cop DID get fired for.

  17. I thought the Wal-Mart story turned out to be a bit less than originally thought.

    The others still suck, of course.

  18. A Mountlake Terrace police sergeant who was fired in part for alleged dishonesty has gotten his job back and an $812,500 settlement from his department, Snohomish County and the city of Lynnwood.

    That’s the story of the morning as far as I’m concerned. The the drug warrior refusenik is back on the job and his lawyer has a timeshare in the Caribbean.

    Best news from the Balko beat in as long as I can remember.

  19. when another customer came to assist, shoving that customer through a glass door

    If the assisting customer had thrown the pig through the glass, he’d probably be charged with attempted murder.

  20. Glad to hear the guy has his job back, but the rest just makes me want to crawl back into bed.

  21. I wonder if the G-men will swoop in and get Mehserle for Interstate Flight to Avoid Prosecution.

  22. They should make a Google Earth layer from all these incidents.

    Yes! I’ll help!

  23. Cops cover for cops, its how it works. Corruption is bliss and 90% of the cops on the street are as corrupt as the day is long!

    http://www.anonweb.pro.tc

  24. I thought the Wal-Mart story turned out to be a bit less than originally thought.

    Huh? The walmart greeter was doing his job (stopping someone who set off the alarm). If a 71 year old customer walked out of the store, set off the alarm, and then shoved a loss-mit guy (who are often off-duty cops) to the ground, that customer would have been in jail that night. And would probably still be there.

  25. I fear we’ve gone too far down the road of totaltarianism to ever come back.

    Too bad we don’t have another fresh continent to start over and exploit…

  26. Does anyone not really believe the police are merely tools being used to protect revenue streams for the most succesful drug traffickers? judging by the facts of what does and does not get one fired it is easy to see what is going on.

  27. Although the officer’s actions in the story were obviously unjustifiable, I never liked the way Wal-Mart greeters check your bag and receipt on the way out of the store. It’s like they assume anyone with standards low enough to shop at Wal-Mart must also be a shoplifter.

  28. Taktix – there’s always the moon.

  29. One DWI is not even remarkable but being charged four times is ‘something to write home about.’

  30. Orlando officer Fernando Trinidad was caught on video pushing a nightclub patron down a flight of stairs. His police report said that she assaulted him, and curiously, that he tried to catch her as she fell. He was suspended for one day. It’s unclear whether he was suspended for pushing the person down the stairs, for charging the victim with battery, or for lying on his police report. I’d say all three are standard operating procedure for the men in blue.

  31. Taktix – there’s always the moon.

    They’ll make it a prison colony before you can settle there. But eventually the colony will rebel against the Warden.

  32. Wow, falling asleep in front of a school in drive with your foot on the brake? You can’t make this stuff up

  33. Too bad we don’t have another fresh continent to start over and exploit…

    When the Global Warming comes, shotgun Antarctica! (Argentina will be the new world superpower, just you wait!)

  34. So long as they don’t throw rice at the Earth in a pretty grid pattern…

  35. Although the officer’s actions in the story were obviously unjustifiable, I never liked the way Wal-Mart greeters check your bag and receipt on the way out of the store. It’s like they assume anyone with standards low enough to shop at Wal-Mart must also be a shoplifter.

    Weird, that’s never happened to me. I must be scary-looking or something.

  36. But my mommy told me police officers never lie!

    – JTP

  37. I swear I typed something there. Man, google chrome just eats comments.

  38. function DevilsAdvocate

    “How about an officer with an otherwise stellar record, who has a reputation in the department for honesty, but who became an outspoken critic of the war on drugs, and on one occasion declined to arrest a man after finding a single marijuana plant growing outside the man’s home?”

    If somebody is hired to do something distasteful, they have a choice to either proceed in doing the distasteful act, or to stop being employed in that distasteful act. We all agree here that busting people for a single marijuana plant is silly on a number of levels, but our officers duty is to execute the law to the letter (the bill of rights down to petty local ordinances). The problem lies with the law, not the officer.

    endfunction DevilsAdvocate

  39. Weird, that’s never happened to me. I must be scary-looking or something.

    Ugly can be very scary.

  40. Egosumabbas

    I’ll buy that, but in the context which it’s presented you have to admit that the other guy deserved to be fired waaaaay before the officer you are talking about.

  41. Ugly can be very scary.

    So true. So very, very true.

  42. Feeble minds, cop haters.

  43. “Johnnykrisma | January 14, 2009, 10:52am | #

    Egosumabbas

    I’ll buy that, but in the context which it’s presented you have to admit that the other guy deserved to be fired waaaaay before the officer you are talking about.”

    Sure, since the former was actually VIOLATING multiple laws while the latter merely refused to enforce one.

  44. cop haters

    Love the police. They are here to help you. Love them. Just close your eyes and let your cares drift away…

  45. So true. So very, very true.

    This is not the response I expected.

  46. I reserve my natural right to shove to the ground anyone who attempts to detain me without a warrant. That includes agents of big corporations.

  47. SugarFee Said:


    cop haters

    Love the police. They are here to help you. Love them. Just close your eyes and let your cares drift away…

    Well…we would if they didn’t act luck a bunch of petty assholes.


    Guns don’t kill people…cops kill people.

  48. [Nods in Egosumabbas @ 10:46’s direction]

  49. but our officers duty is to execute the law to the letter

    Did someone say “execute?!”

  50. Did someone say “execute?!”

    “You will be taken to the Hall of Justice for Processing.”

    -Processing. Huh. Don’t you mean execution?

    “…Processing.”

  51. This is not the response I expected.

    I like to keep you on your toes, motherfucker.

  52. That’s better.

  53. re: “the letter of the law”

    Driving 66 in a 65 mph zone is illegal. No cop has ever smelled the emanations from a conversation about suspension for failing to ticket a car going 66 in a 65.

  54. Point being: overlooking a plant is the same subjective decision, since my post was abundantly unclear…

  55. …overlooking a plant is the same subjective decision…

    It is possible that a plant could sprout from a seed someone tosses into your yard*, unknown to the owner of the house. That would be similar to the situation of a friend who had a glass bowl confiscated and broken by the cops rather than being charged for ‘paraphernalia’, at the discretion of the officer. Of course it was no coincidence, they later found that he was growing several more indoors.

    *A great April Fool’s joke, btw.

  56. I never liked the way Wal-Mart greeters check your bag and receipt on the way out of the store. It’s like they assume anyone with standards low enough to shop at Wal-Mart must also be a shoplifter.
    It happened to me once. It will never happen again.

  57. I never liked the way Wal-Mart greeters check your bag and receipt on the way out of the store. It’s like they assume anyone with standards low enough to shop at Wal-Mart must also be a shoplifter.

    It’s not the fault of the greeter; s/he is just doing the job s/he was hired to do. If you don’t like the policies of the store, don’t shop there.

  58. I’m late to the party here, but will throw in my two cents regardless. The greeter should not have grabbed the detective by the arm, and the detective shouldn’t have flipped out and shoved the man to the ground. He would have been well within his rights to give a stern verbal warning: Take your hand off me immediately, or you’ll be in handcuffs.

    Merchants can only detain a shopper with probable cause or reasonable suspicion (depending on your state) that he or she’s committed a crime. Those bleating security alarms — which, by the way, are not magic shoplifting detectors — are activated hundreds of times a day. Magnetic strips in credit cards have been known to activate the silly things. They are a shoplifting deterrent only and do not provide sufficient proof for detainment.

    Anne, the greeter was not simply doing his job. Greeters and security guards have every right to ask to see a customer’s receipt but no right to search someone’s personal property without their permission (a consent search) or physically detain someone without any evidence of wrongdoing.

    While I understand most of us are Libertarians here, the slavish veneration of the almighty store policy throws me for a loop. Yes, it’s private property, but the last time I checked, Wal-Mart does not have its own criminal jurisdiction. The state law requiring merchants to meet established standards for detention still applies, and it trumps the store’s policy.

  59. “Healthy Distrust”,
    If the site in your link is actually yours, I’d say your “healthy distrust” might be starting to grow into an “unhealthy obsession”. Jus’ sayin’…

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