America's Most Successful Stop Snitchin' Campaign

The failure to protect whistle-blowing cops is inexcusable.


Last month, when she awarded Barron Bowling $830,000 for the beating he suffered at the hands of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent in 2003, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson went out of her way to acknowledge another victim in the sordid affair: Kansas City Police Det. Max Seifert.

On July 10, 2003, Bowling was driving down 10th Street in Kansas City, Kansas, on his way to fill a prescription, when Timothy McCue, an on-duty DEA agent, tried to illegally pass Bowling on the right of a wide one-lane street. Bowling accelerated to prevent McCue from passing, and the two cars collided. After the collision, McCue and another agent emerged from McCue's car. According to Robinson's ruling, McCue drew his gun, threw Bowling to the ground, then beat the hell out of him when he lifted his head from the pavement (which McCue would later describe as "resisting arrest"). According to witnesses, McCue threatened to kill Bowling, whom he called "white trash" and a "system-dodging inbred hillbilly."

It only got worse for Bowling. McCue, the DEA, and officers at the Kansas City Police Department then conspired to cover up the beating. Bowling was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and assaulting McCue with his car during the collision. He was later acquitted on those charges but convicted of possessing drug paraphernalia—a marijuana pipe police found in his car. Witness statements incriminating McCue for both the accident and the beating were lost or destroyed, as were photos of the damage McCue did to Bowling's face.

Only one of the officers who came to the accident scene that day had any integrity. That would be Seifert, a cop with an exemplary record who once shot an armed man to free two hostages. Seifert is the one who took the witness statements that implicated McCue. He is also the one who documented Bowling's injuries and testified for Bowling in Bowling's lawsuit. Here is how The Kansas City Star described what happened to Seifert next:

For crossing "the thin blue line," U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson wrote, Seifert was forced into retirement.

"Seifert was shunned, subjected to gossip and defamation by his police colleagues and treated as a pariah," Robinson wrote. "…The way Seifert was treated was shameful."

Seifert also lost part of his pension and his retirement health insurance. So what happened to the cops involved in the cover-up? Ronald Miller, then Kansas City's police chief, is now the police chief in Topeka. Officer Robert Lane went on to become a councilman for the town of Edwardsville; he was later convicted of participating in a ticket-fixing scheme and sentenced to 10 days in jail plus probation. Steven Culp, then Kansas City's deputy police chief, is now, incredibly enough, executive director of the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training. Agent McCue is still with the DEA.

When we hear stories about police misconduct, the standard response from police groups and their supporters is that such behavior is rare, the fault of "a few bad apples." While that may be true, the "good" officers tend to cover up for them. And in some departments, the good cops are afraid to come forward, because they know they will be treated the way Max Seifert was.

Consider New York City police officer Adrian Schoolcraft, recently profiled on NPR's This American Life. Schoolcraft was concerned about the quotas that commanding officers were imposing for stops and arrests. He also reported that some officers were instructed to downgrade offenses, or even talk victims out of pressing charges, to make the city's crime statistics look better. NYPD officials publicly denied there was any quota system or data fudging, but that didn't jibe with what Schoolcraft was hearing in the station house. So Schoolcraft starting surreptitiously recording commanding officers giving instructions on quotas. According to The Village Voice, he brought his complaints to "a duty captain, a district surgeon, an NYPD psychologist, three Internal Affairs officers, and five department crime statistics auditors." None of them took action against the officers imposing the quotas, though last week NYPD announced five officers would face internal discipline for downgrading crimes.

But the department certainly did take action against Schoolcraft. Last October several officers from NYPD's Emergency Services Unit (essentially a SWAT team) appeared at Schoolcraft's Queens apartment, threw him to the floor, handcuffed him, and had him forcibly admitted to the psychiatric ward at Jamaica Hospital. NYPD officials lied to hospital staff about Schoolcraft's condition, causing him to be held for six days against his will. Officially, the visit to Schoolcraft's apartment was prompted by an unapproved sick day. But that does not explain the show of force or the officers' removal of documents related to Schoolcraft's complaints about the NYPD from his home.

Last week The Village Voice reported another troubling incident, in which 10 rookie NYPD cops beat a cabbie outside of an Upper East Side bar in 2008. The cabbie was arrested for aggravated driving without a license. None of the cops was charged, although a few faced administrative discipline. Their captain was promoted. The only cop to suffer any serious repercussions was Sgt. Anthony Acosta, who was handcuffed at the scene for trying to stop the beating. Acosta was later stripped of his gun and badge, and assigned to desk duty.

There are more stories like these. Last year former Albuquerque police officer Sam Costales was awarded $662,000 in a lawsuit against his own department. In 2006 Costales testified against fellow police officers after an incident that resulted in the arrest of retired race car driver Al Unser. Costales said Unser did not assault or threaten officers from the Bernalillo Sheriff's Department, as claimed in police reports. Costales' testimony helped Unser win an acquittal.

None of the Bernalillo deputies was disciplined. By now you probably can guess who was disciplined: Sam Costales. His own chief opened an internal affairs investigation of him. His transgression: He wore his police uniform when he testified in Unser's case. Albuquerque cops apparently are permitted to wear the uniform when they're testifying for the prosecution, but not when they're testifying for the defense. As is often the case when a police officer is investigated, the Albuquerque police union got involved—but not to protect Costales. James Badway, secretary of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, sent an email message to the San Bernadillo sheriff apologizing for Costales' actions. Here is an excerpt:

As Secretary of the APOA I feel it is my duty and responsibility to apologize to you and your officers. Ofc. Sam Costales does not represent APD/APOA. The majority of our officers look at the BCSO as our brother and sisters in blue. We are embarrassed and ashamed of Ofc. Costales's testimony in the Unser trial. If there is anything we can do to rebuild the damage caused by Sam please let me know.

A few years ago, I attended a conference on the use of police informants. In one session, the "Stop Snitchin'" movement, which discourages African Americans from cooperating with police, came up. I was astonished to hear one hip-hop artist and activist say he would not cooperate with the police even if he had witnessed the rape and murder of an old woman in broad daylight. He just didn't trust the police. I told him his position was absurd: Whatever his concerns about the police when it comes to the use of drug informants (concerns I share), they shouldn't prevent him from cooperating with the investigation of an innocent person's murder. His response: "Isn't the Blue Wall of Silence really just the most successful Stop Snitchin' campaign in history?"

In his book Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing, former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper explains the implicit threats that make the Blue Wall so successful:

You have to rely on your fellow officers to back you. A cop with a reputation as a snitch is one vulnerable police officer, likely to find his peers slow to respond to requests for backup—if they show up at all. A snitch is subject to social snubbing. Or malicious mischief, or sabotage…The peer pressure is childish and churlish, but it's real. Few cops can stand up to it.

Which makes it all the more important that police administrators and political leaders support and protect the cops who do. The most disturbing aspect of these stories is not that there are bad cops in Kansas City, New York, and Albuquerque. It's not even that other cops covered for them, or that police unions have institutionalized the protection of bad cops. The most disturbing part of these cases is that the cover-up and retaliation extend all the way to the top of the chain of command—and that so far there has been no action, or even condemnation, from the elected officials who are supposed to hold police leaders accountable.

Radley Balko is a senior editor at Reason magazine.

NEXT: According to the Times, Pro-Republican Speech Is Not Technically Illegal, but It Should Be

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  1. The only cop to suffer any serious repercussions was Sgt. Anthony Acosta, who was handcuffed at the scene for trying to stop the beating. Acosta was later stripped of his gun and badge, and assigned to desk duty.

    Anyone who thought NYPD cleaned up its act was, apparently, mistaken.

    OTOH, in the old days NYPD’s Stop Snitching campaign consisted of allowing cops like Frank Serpico to get shot by druggies. So maybe we’re making progress. Now they just give chain the trouble makers to their desks.

    1. Serpico — a damn fine wine it is

    2. Balko has been saying they are getting ready to arrest Sheriff Joe for the last 2 years, how come they haven’t?

    3. Leaving aside the assertion without proof, you know that there are over a billion and a half Muslims

  2. I have been saying this a lot lately:

    Forty years ago my father observed that America was becoming a police state. I actually was skeptical. Once again, a son is surprised at how smart his dad really was.



  3. Well. Good morning and happy Monday to you too Mr. Balko.

    1. He’s always full of good news in the morning, isn’t he?

  4. Has anyone heard any instance of bad police behavior being utilized as a campaign tool?

    1. Our DA is using a fake drug scandal as a campaign talking point on the allegation that the previous DA’s administration was complicit with the police in the wrongdoing. I’m sorry to report that he’s probably right.

  5. This is why I have such a hard time with the “vast majority of cops are good cops” thing.

    It looks to me like the cop subculture infects damn near every one of them with some pretty toxic shit. I’m still looking for evidence to the contrary.

    1. The problem, as Serpico has pointed out before, is that the culture is such that the good cops fear the bad cops. It should be the other way around.

    2. How do you feel about the “vast majority of Muslims are peaceful people” thing?

      1. You’ll find far more Muslims turning in and denouncing terrorists than you will cops doing the same on their brothers in blue.

        But you knew that, didn’t you?

        1. You’ll find far more Muslims turning in and denouncing terrorists than you will cops doing the same on their brothers in blue.

          But you knew that, didn’t you?

          [Citation needed]

          1. The ex-wife of one of the Pakastani terrorists that attacked the hotel in Mumbai warned the US multiple times in the year preceding the attack. {in the news over the weekend, go look it up}

            1. And the underwear bomber’s dad reported suspicions about his son’s activities to towering intellects at the US embassy.

        2. Leaving aside the assertion without proof, you know that there are over a billion and a half Muslims which would probably give them the advantage in the “more doing the right thing” category. Also, in the “more doing the wrong thing” one.

          At what point, in your view, do enough people turn in the bad among them to avoid being painted with the same brush as the bad actors?

          1. I believe he was speaking proportionally, since to discussing such things nominally would silly.

            [Citation needed]
            Go find it yourself. Preferably in the middle of a busy highway since that is the most annoying and stupid meme, next to Flintstone porn, on the internet.

            Conflating a religion with a profession is simplistically silly at best.

            1. posh, what about the Catholic priesthood and good preists versus pedophile priests? It’s an apt comparison and both a religion and a profession.

              1. I think the church is just as at fault as the cops? What’s your point? If anything you’re making my point, priests take an oath, and the majority of the Catholics I know (anecdotal evidence so get your own counter) detest the idea of priests harming children. So cops and priests are very much alike while cops and Catholics are not. Again comparing a religion and a profession is stupid^nth.

                1. Yeah but if your priest makes you recite the rosary with his dick in your mouth, you can rat him out and go to a different church.

                  If a LEO threatens to kill you if you squeel you can call the FBI and wind up the victim of a horrible car accident in which your BAC will be something like .5% before any investigating is done. Also, you will be a known drug dealer and have weed on your body.

                  1. You forgot the stolen gun.

            2. I’m not conflating the two. I’m more interested in his views on the relative responsibilities of the two groups to take action against the bad actors in their midst, as opposed to the legal duties of the two groups.

              He’s skeptical of the “most cops are good” angle because it appears that an insufficient number come forward against the bad cops. That doesn’t seem unreasonable. At some point, it’s hard not to take that inaction as acceptance or approval.

              It seems, however, that the issues with inaction apply to Muslims (or Republicans or Democrats or whatever) as well. Perhaps the threshold for sufficient denunciation of bad actors is lower for Muslims because they aren’t sworn to serve and protect, but does that mean that no threshold exists at all? That utter silence on the issue would be acceptable? It seems unlikely. So, if there is a threshold, does he believe that Muslims have crossed it?

              1. It seems, however, that the issues with inaction apply to Muslims (or Republicans or Democrats or whatever) as well.

                That’s my issue. Inactoin doesn’t apply to Muslims and the idea that all Muslims are comparable with Democrats or Republicans is just as silly as cops and Muslims. Democrats and Republicans have a professional ethical code they agree to follow as a part of their profession. Professionals in every case I can think of have a duty to weed out and expose their own when they violate the ethics of the profession. Extrapolating that concept to an entire religion is pushing the bounds of the concept into fairy tail land. Ideally you could make the argument, but as mentioned before it’s absurd.

                1. Inactoin doesn’t apply to Muslims…

                  Well, we just disagree there. If members of a group of which I am a part are acting like tools, let alone killing people, I think it behooves me to point out that they are outliers. I think most groups are expected to do the same — do Tea Party “members” have a professional ethical code, because it is sure as hell one currently relevant group that is expected to distance itself from the loons — but your experience could be different.

                  1. A police officer is a public servant. While I wish every Muslim who had knowledge of terrorist plans would come forward to help foil those plans, most Muslims have not taken a public oath to serve and protect a community and most Muslims are not being paid for their service as Muslims.

                    Every single police officer DID take a public oath to serve and protect a community and every single police officer IS being paid (by the public) for their service.

                    Do you really not see the difference? Or are you only pretending?

              2. I don’t like involuntary collectivism. Muslims didn’t choose to be muslim like priests and cops get to choose. Where does the collective guilt stop?

                1. —“Muslims didn’t choose to be muslim like priests and cops get to choose”—


                  1. It’s shocking how many people here seem to think that religion is genetic or something.

                    1. “Muslims didn’t choose to be muslim…” I actually kinda see his point in the sense that most muslims are brainwashed from birth to believe a certain way, like most followers of almost any religion. Although I suppose they did make the choice at some point to NOT consider any alternative. Therefore, young, naive, or mentally deficient muslims (or any other theist) likely have not chosen their religion, but mature followers have.

                  2. i suppose the large correlation between the faith of a believer in whatever religion and the faith of their parents is purely coincidental

          2. Leaving aside the assertion without proof, you know that there are over a billion and a half Muslims

            I feel sorry for that last half a Muslim.

      2. Muslims don’t all take the same oath as civil servants to protect and serve. Cops do.

        1. Yep. We don’t pay “Muslims” as a group to uphold the rule of law. We pay police officers plenty (and give them plenty of power) to shit all over it though.

        2. I’m not especially interested in the duties of Muslims compared with the duties of cops. I’m more interested in his “bad apple taints the barrel” viewpoint and at what point he believes enough Muslims, or a high enough percentage, turn in the bad apples so that we don’t believe their inaction is tantamount to approval.

          If he doesn’t believe that Muslims should be self-policing, no pun intended, that would be interesting to know. If he does believe they should, then there would need to be some point at which they are, or are not, doing the job acceptably well.

          1. Again you are dealing with to vastly different concepts. I’m not responsible if a white guy runs out and does racist shit. As a professional I am held to an ethical standard that if someone in my profession violates that ethic it is my duty to identify them and at least raise the question.

            Your Reductio ad absurdum approach is way off.

            Your assertion that there may be something to his denouncing cops and not denouncing Muslims, in what I have to assume is an attempt at pointing out hypocrisy, is silly, misguided, and intellectually dishonest.

            1. I’m not saying you are responsible for white idiots. I’m not saying peaceful Muslims are responsible for Muslim idiots. It seems typically to be the case, however, that when a white guy does something racist that there are plenty of people who say “Wow, that’s fucked up and unacceptable.” And if enough white guys did that crap and an insufficient number of other white guys voiced their opinion, I think the issue of indifference or acceptance would be raised.

              And I think the lengths to which some people will go to see bad in a group they don’t like while excusing similar, though not identical, behavior in other groups is silly, misguided, and intellectually dishonest.

              1. It is the police’s job to catch criminals. That is not the case for a random Muslim. Important difference. Whatever the moral imperative is on any of these people, the reason why it is so egregious when police fail to self police is that they are failing to do the thing which is the entire reason for their existence.

          2. First of all, it has to be conscious inaction — word about a specific case gets through a police department a whole lot faster than it does the world’s Muslim population.

            And second, yeah I would really question the idea that a vaguely defined population has the moral imperative to self-police. I mean, that’s the whole reason we have legally defined police forces. Not that I think it’s cool to just look the other way when you know about a murder or something, but I’m guessing that sort of case is an extreme rarity. Muslims are under no more obligation to self-police than catholics or atheists or any other loosely correlated group of citizens.

            1. a whole lot faster than it does the world’s Muslim population.

              That’s exactly what those evil Arabs WANT you to believe. Now where’s my tinfoil….

            2. Undoubtedly the standard would be much lower for a more nebulous group.

              I think Catholics have been expected to self-police. I think it would be helpful for atheists to speak out more against the militant pricks (a la O’Hare) who seem just to want to screw with people and bring attention to themselves.

              If you don’t think that nebulous groups have a moral imperative to self-police, that’s cool. I think they probably do, especially if they want any supposed positive perceptions to apply to them (to the extent there is a “they” there). If they are coherent enough a group to positive labels to attach, they are coherent enough for negative ones to attach.

          3. What the fuck does moslems have to do with cops anyway?

            Why do you fucking care what the fuck he thinks about moslems. His views on cops is absolutely fucking correct and that is the only fucking issue.

            1. I’d type more slowly if I thought it would help you. It wasn’t about cops and Muslims, as such, it was about a generalized rule by which one could, or could not, evaluate whether a group of people could be judged by the actions of some subset of that group based on whether or not the rest of the group condemned or ratted out the bad actors.

              Some people believe that Muslims are too nebulous (or lacking in free will, I didn’t really get that part) or otherwise insufficiently regimented to have a moral imperative to condemn the bad actors. I don’t agree but at least it’s a principled distinction between different types of groups. Maybe, you can’t hold a whole fraternity religion responsible for the behavior of a few sick, perverted individuals after all.

              J sub D appeared to go a different route, one based on percentages of people who out the bad actors.

              Why some groups get tarred with the actions of a few and some don’t seems interesting to me. If it doesn’t to you, I presume you have a scroll bar, mouse wheel, or page down button to ease your pain.

          4. “…self-policing, no pun intended…”

            No pun achieved.

      3. Seeing as how I’m more likely to be shot by a cop than killed by Al-Qaeda, I feel pretty good about the “peaceful Muslim” thing.

      4. Muslims have not generally sworn a binding oath to uphold the law. Nor are they generally given guns and badges and the power to arrest people or shoot them in circumstances where most people would be locked up for doing so. So this does not seem like a terribly relevant question.

      5. How do you feel about “vast majority of Americans are peaceful people” thing?

  6. Balko, you have once again frightened me profoundly. I hope you’ll take that as a compliment.

    1. This. I always say, “I don’t scare easy.” You can’t in my line of work.

      But jeebus H – I was never a fan of the cops, but now I’m actively wary.

      I suppose that’s a good thing – eternal vigilance and all. Sigh – would that it weren’t necessary…

  7. Anyone find out who started the “altercation” over the parking space that ended in officer Brian Stevenson’s death? Was Stevenson snitching on Baltimore’s finest?

    1. I just assumed that he pulled an “I’m a cop, so get out of this parking spot!”

  8. I used to be law enforcement myself and I was glad to get out of that madhouse. The things I saw went way beyond the “comrade-in-arms” mentality; after a while most cops I knew started seeing themselves as the only real humans on Earth and everyone else as criminals that were just waiting to be taken down. Reminds me of something I once read back in high school in James O’Barr’s “The Crow”…

    …responding to the cry for mercy made by his enemy kneeling before The Crow: “When one hunts monsters, one must take great care in not becoming a monster”…

    That scene always stayed with me even as a sailor and then a cop. It’s a big reason why I left both, as far too many of them think that everyone else on the planet is just trash waiting to be cleaned up and the rest just keep quiet because they think that, since they’re humanities garbage collectors, getting a little filthy is just something that happens from time to time.

    1. There was a local cop in a rural area when I was growing up who told me that he was starting to see policing as “us versus them” which meant it was time for him to retire or move on to another job. Too bad there aren’t more people like him.

      1. At least he still had the perspective to notice a transition. Seems like “us v them” is just the ingrained sensibility these days.

    2. Wasn’t that a Nietzsche quote? I believe the next line is “And when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back.”

      1. Probably. O’Barr used a lot of philosophy from various sources in writing his masterpiece.

  9. It’s not the failure to protect these whisleblowing cops that’s the problem. It’s the fact that they need protection at all.

  10. Pssssst…

    you’re not supposed to show pictures of the twin towers anymore


    OK, thanks again for what you do. But the “fuck, I can’t sleep at night now that I know this” is getting old.

    *shakes fist at…whatever causes people to do evil shit like this…the cops, not your post*

  12. Can we get this op-ed printed in the NY Times or Newsweek?

    Didn’t think so.


    1. Maybe Dunphy was one of the good guys, and that’s why we don’t hear from him anymore. 😉

    2. Out saving the world with his limited training budget.

  14. What you have as “San Bernadillo” is most likely actually “Bernalillo”, the county in which the city of Albuquerque resides.

      1. Missed one, just before the excerpt from the letter from the APD chief to the BCSO chief.

    1. Yes, “San Bernadillo” should be “Bernalillo County.” As a Bernalillo County and Albuquerque resident, I’m sure some of my tax dollars paid for Officer Costales’s settlement. I’m happy that Officer Costales brought his lawsuit against BCSO and the rest…I’m also extremely upset that BCSO and the rest gave him grounds for a lawsuit. PS – IMO Darren White is a POS.

  15. In my experience the vast majority of those who seek out a profession that involves carrying a club and a gun do so because they want to club and shoot people.

    I never really feared cops until I overheard some talking about work, not knowing that there were civilian ears nearby.

    The pleasure they took at inflicting violence was sickening.

  16. The Radley Balko kick to the nuts before noon on a Monday; that has to be a record. Shouldn’t the phrase now be “A few good cops could ruin the reputation of the majority”?

  17. Shouldn’t the phrase now be “A few good cops could ruin the reputation racketeering of the majority”?

  18. I’m assuming that at this point, Radley’s work is being sponsored by Xanax, Prozac, and Zoloft.

    1. If not he needs to work out a deal with them. Maybe some targeted PPC advertising near all Balko articles.

    2. “This Nutpunch is brought to you by Suicide Bullets, the only ammunition specifically crafted for killing yourself.”

  19. I highly recommend listening to that NPR story on Schoolcraft. The tape recording of the police raid on his apartment that ended with him being involuntarily hospitalized in a psych ward is absolutely chilling. Some things need to be heard to be fully appreciated.

    1. Seconded. The audio from the hidden (second) recorder in Schoolcraft’s apartment is amazing. You can hear the cops go through the perfunctory motions of declaring him incompetent. They don’t even bother to pretend that they aren’t falsely arresting him – they just state their justification and say they are going to arrest him. When he points out that he can hear them conspiring with the paramedics they just ignore him and repeat their justification for arresting him.

      It doesn’t take much imagination to replace the whistleblower cop with “random black guy” and the charges of non-compliance with medical advice with “resisting arrest” that ends up in a beating and felony assault on a police officer. The large numbers of officers present during the false arrest of Schoolcraft lets you know that this kind of abuse is not unusual enough to be shocking to the officers who serve on the police force. I wonder why it is so shocking to the average citizen?

      1. There is a question of how many of those guys came home and didn’t sleep well that night.

        Does it matter? I don’t know.

        But it’s a lot harder to step in and stop that sort of thing than it is to find it wrong and play along anyway. We have plenty of psych experiments (both lab and real life) to prove that.

        So I would argue that we have 1% good cops, 2% bad cops, and 97% normal cowardly human beings who just want to get their paycheck and go home.

  20. You have to rely on your fellow officers to back you. A cop with a reputation as a snitch is one vulnerable police officer, likely to find his peers slow to respond to requests for backup?if they show up at all. A snitch is subject to social snubbing. Or malicious mischief, or sabotage…The peer pressure is childish and churlish, but it’s real. Few cops can stand up to it.

    The only way this can happen is if MOST of the caps are bad apples. If the number of bad apples was 2%, it would be the bad cop that would see the slow response and the slow backup.

    1. You nailed it.

      98% of cops give the rest a bad name.

      Remember that the next time you’re in their presence. They can beat you bloody for any reason (like not showing “proper respect”), charge you with a crime (or leave you bloody on the side of the road, what are you going to do? Call the cops?), and get away with it 99.9% of the time.

    2. There’s probably some truth to this straight-up ratio analysis, but the whole fraternal mythology of American policing surely skews the critical mass of bad apples much lower than it would otherwise be. If you’ve been trained to think of a group of people as your “brothers”, you need to be in genuine personal crisis mode before you consider flipping on them. It’s not just a matter of fear and balance of power, it’s about that whole culture.

    3. The problem is, there are two types of bad cop: the 2% who commit wrongdoing, and the 97% who condone it. Neither will stick up for the 1% of good cops, even if only a few do anything really horrible.

      1. You can see this play out on tape in the Schoolcraft audio. He says there were a dozen officers present as he was falsely arrested in his apartment. Nobody could mistake the disingenuous smirk in the commanding officer’s tone as he issued his justifications for a false arrest. Surely it was even easier to see this when looking at his face and hearing it in person. A dozen is a pretty large number for “rare rogue cops”. Particularly so when you realize that they needed complete confidence that not even one among them was an honest COP who would report the truth.

        It is also chilling to note that their confidence was not misplaced. Nobody reported the police misconduct, and none of the officers in question helped to free him from the illegal imprisonment in a mental hospital. In fact, several other officers helped to continue the cover-up by lying to Schoolcraft’s father when he began looking for him.

  21. Where’s the best place to learn to arm one’s self against these LE types? And just so I don’t get the “Constitution/Bill of Rights” answer, I mean at the tactical level. And no, I don’t mean guns/knives/etc, I mean books, websites, etc. I recall a couple years back seeing an interesting website about a guy waging a seemingly one-man campaign in NM/AZ against the border patrol and his “am I being detained?” tactic that seemed to symie those douches. That’s kinda what I’m looking for.

    1. Flex Your Rights is a good one.


  22. Before we condemn the police, we should recognize with what cops have to deal

    1. If you can’t handle the career, don’t go into it.

      I don’t care what they have to deal with. You are responsible for your actions.

      Nice troll BTW.

      1. Yeah, exactly. Cops will go on endlessly about how tough their jobs are as justification for special treatment/special privileges. But nobody forced them into police work. If they can’t handle it, then they should do something else. I’d even be ok with using taxpayer money to fund training programs for cops who can’t professionally do the job.

    2. No one’s disputing the difficulty of a cop’s job, but when you think you are above the very laws you are sworn to protect that’s when I get pissed.

      Also, cops who see flagrant crimes committed by their fellow officers getting shunned and smeared by them for upholding the law. Yeah, that pisses off many a Reason reader and me alike.

    3. Police officer didn’t make it into the top ten most dangerous job list.


      1. Jesus, I’ve held 4 of those jobs over my lifetime. Two of them in the top 5.

        I knew one of them was listed in the top 5. The most dangerous job list per the BLS is skewed. They use some odd career groupings and omit others. There are also lists dealing with most likely to be injured (on a scale of injury).

        1. I would have put POTUS as #1.

          4 of 44 ain’t good odds.

      2. Gah… so, at 63, having worked as a logger, farmer, bush pilot, construction worker, roofer… I’m lucky to be alive? I was an Air Traffic Controller for awhile too… and that’s the job that I figger came the closest to killin’ me! Now, after reading Balko so much, I’m just waitin’ for a cop or a fed to do me in.

    4. Writing tickets, harrassing non-violent citizens, and standing around crime scenes is very important work, don’t ya know?

      1. Yes, because those are the only things they ever do and are discouraged from doing anything else. If someone commits a crime against you, are you going to go to the police to find the perpetrator or maybe blame the police for not doing enough?

        1. I have gone to the police when crimes were committed against me and they couldn’t care less.

          It wasn’t a matter of them not doing enough, it was a matter of them doing nothing at all.

          On the other hand I have been caught speeding and committing other crimes against the State.

          They pursued those with gusto.

          My conclusion: cops care a great deal when you commit a crime against their employer, when the crime is committed against a member of society that they are sworn to serve and protect… not so much.

          1. Your conclusion is based on how many interactions with police? I think speed limits are way too low, but guess what, police don’t make the laws, they only enforce. Whether or not you or I like it, speed limit enforcement is part of their duties. If a police officer is on highway patrol, should they just go to sleep and not give any tickets or summonses? That’s a better use of taxpayer dollars?

            1. We have a system of law that creates criminals out of people who are otherwise minding their own business.

              The problem is that such a system of law attracts the wrong kind of people to law enforcement.

              I don’t blame the cops for that.

          2. And what were these crimes that were committed against you? There are cases (pickpocketing and similar cases) when police are unable to do anything.

            1. Unable or unwilling?

              In my experience they only care when they can extract payment from you or if it makes the news.

              1. What is your experience? There are dozens of arrests made daily in NYC for real, actual crimes where it doesn’t make the newspaper or doesn’t involve a fine. I have no idea where you’re getting this ‘experience’ from.

            2. I can vouch for one case where I witnessed someone repeatedly ramming a car in the parking lot with another car, causing major damage to the vehicle, probably totaled. I called the cops and reported a description of the car, license and driver. The officer who responded didn’t even bother to write it down. When I asked why he said there was nothing they could do. How was he to know if he had permission to damage the car? It could have been his own car, for all the officer knew.

              It was interesting to see the tortured logic that is so often used to justify unreasonable searches or incarcerations turned on it’s head to justify inaction.

              1. It’s almost like you take a single incident and make it out to be the norm.

                #confirmation bias

                1. Well I’ve experienced multiple incidences with the police where they couldn’t care less about my complaint. Two of the most egregious were not arresting two neighborhood thugs who broke into my house- they had bragged about it to my neighbors daughter- the cops did come and get fingerprints, I don’t know why since they never even picked the guys up for questioning. Another was when a woman repeatedly tried to run me off the road into a dumpster, then cars- I was on my bike. They said they might be able to get a squad there in a half hour. I had her description, license number, car type and color. I called back the next day after waiting for the cops who never showed up. The cop who took my phone call never wrote down the information I gave him. That’s for an attempted murder with a car.

                  1. Get serious Esteban. I myself have seen the cops less than 5 feet from someone’s bumper at over 70 mph, and this to “encourage” the person in front of them to get out of the way, and not just once. I have also seen people doing dangerous maneuvers in light traffic, where the police just ignored what was occurring right in front of their eyes. More?? I was given a ticket by a police officer going more than 15 miles over the speed limit for making a turn in front of him without allowing for the proper distance. Well I was more than 50 ft in front of him, and how is that he can speed, and gets away with it, but when I don’t even come close to causing an accident I am ticketed?

                    Ever tried calling the police about a disturbance of the peace? I have, all with negative results and one time had a neighbor’s nephew playing music in his car at 2 in the morning and when I confronted him his uncle trespassed and wouldn’t leave. Cops response? Neighbor’s dispute. So next time I have to wonder if I am forced to resolve the dispute by kicking the crap out of my neighbor am I going to be thrown in jail?

              2. Here’s a secret on getting an immediate response from LE.

                When you dial 911, be sure to note that you saw the perp holding or carrying a what may be a gun, or heard something like gunshots.

                However, somebody is probably going to be shot if the cops think the perp is packing.

        2. Yes Esteban, they are. Solving crimes, locking up offenders, costs money. Citations, fines, fees, generate revenue.

          From a fine Bel-Ridge police chief:
          “When it comes down to it, money is what counts,” says a department memo dated March 17. “State cases do not generate money for the department. Municipal tickets do.”

          1. I can’t figure it out, are we living in a prison state where the government will do anything to lock people up or a lawless society where police never arrest anybody?

            If you think most cops act the way you say they do, you’re living in a fantasyland.

            1. And I would say your white knight fantasy of law enforcement stands in stark contrast to the reality of the thin blue line.

              And it’s not a “prison state” we live in (North Korea is a better example). It’s more along the lines of a police state.

              1. I was referring to the cries that the prison-industrial complex imprisons vast amounts of people (and the innocent too!). But then I’m told cops don’t do anything but give speeding tickets and stand around. I’m very confused to which one it is.

              2. I don’t have white knight fantasy of law enforcement. My dad was a cop, yes, but my own limited interactions with police officers have not been positive, so I can understand why some people who have had unpleasant experiences with cops make the leap to think that many cops are rude, dishonest, brutal, etc. However, I think this leads to confirmation bias in future interactions with police, where people expect a negative experience and act accordingly. I think police officers also have a similar problem, where too many can develop a siege mentality and probably profile based on past experiences.
                I definitely believe that there should be stronger penalties when police act improperly and these cases today are unacceptable. My problem is when people unfairly accuse all police officers of being violent or corrupt or lazy (or some combination). Until we develop a robot that does policing, there are going the people doing the job, and all people are imperfect.

                1. Did you read the article?

                  We’re not talking about one office being a jerk.

                  Were talking about offices going so far past the line they can’t see with a good pair of field goggles and their fellows engaging in a conspiracy to protect them from the consequences; and the cost to the innocent victims and the public purse be damned.

                  Balko lists the following good cops screwed over by the thin blue line

                  * Former Kansas City Police Det. Max Seifert
                  * New York City police officer Adrian Schoolcraft
                  * Former Albuquerque police officer Sam Costales

                  and enlists former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper to talk about the threat that potential good cops face.

                  But you’re right, Radley could be cherry picking these incidents. In that case it shouldn’t be hard to find examples where the system worked as intended, where cops who went way over the line were stood down and disciplined by their own peers. Where officers of the law recognized a need to protect the public from one of their own.

                  I would welcome a few stories like that. But until then I know the score, pal. You’re no cop, you’re little people.

                  1. So obviously the whole system is in the shitter because of these examples. You have to assume that all cops are corrupt at this point right?

                    I don’t think Radley cherry picks these, I think they happen and shouldn’t be tolerated, I just don’t think it’s right to assign collective guilt to the thousands of law enforcement officers because of the examples he gives. Is it ever right to assign collective guilt to a group of people?

                    1. Now we know where dumphy got off to

                      esteban = dunphy

                2. It’s far from a confirmation bias, though negative experiences with police to tend to color future behavior towards them (my own have taught me that the three best actions to stay out an immediate jam are: 1. Don’t appear guilty. 2. Give only as much information as you absolutely have to. 3. Give the cop plenty of “yes sir” “no sir.”) However, the fundamental problem with cops is the same with politicians. We have on the one hand, the great and honored myth of the tireless, underpaid, underappreciated public servant, and we have the experience of the power-hungry petty tyrant who will take his or her little office, badge, or name tag, and proceed to run roughshod over those insignificant civilians.

                  I’m leery of anyone who’s highest ambition in life is to wield power over others, whether it’s to El Presidente de EE.UU, or a work-a-day meter maid.

                3. Don’t you think it’s safer to err on the side of caution and assume the police are rude, brutal, violent, and corrupt? If you’re pulled over and have this mentality of them, knowing they can kill you and get away with it, then wouldn’t you be more submissive and less hostile out of a sense of self-preservation?

                  It doesn’t follow that “People generalize all police as violent and homicidal. Therefore, people are more likely to be belligerent and disrespectful in their interactions”

                4. I’m shocked, shocked, that the son of a cop would defend a cop. Because the government paid for your house and schooling and food you will defend them regardless. Money has bought your blindness. You must not read Balko too much. How many thousands of stories need to be strung together to make it routine business instead of isolated incidents?

                  1. Guys, calm down, don’t you realize these are just isolated incidents?

    5. Yeah like snitches. Fucking heroes man.

    6. In other words, because they “have a tough job” they are allowed to abuse, terroriZe, and murder Citizens?

      No thanks.

    7. “We should recognize with what law-abiding citizens have to deal”

      I’m sure thats what you meant.

  23. I don’t care what they have to deal with. You are responsible for your actions.

    this is why we need cops .

    Would you rather have vigilante death squads?

    1. No, I’d rather have cops who uphold the law they were sworn to protect.

      No one here is saying there are all bad cops, but when the culture is such that good cops can’t speak out against them, that’s fucked up.

    2. I’d rather have a system of law that doesn’t hold the average person in contempt, and give police the power to stop, detain, arrest, and even commit acts of violence on people for otherwise minding their own business.

      The fact that they can do these things creates an incentive for thugs to seek out employment in law enforcement.

    3. Not sure what, if any point you are trying to make.

      Was the pizza delivery guy supposed to have a cop riding along with him?

    4. “Would you rather have vigilante death squads?”

      Would you rather try arguing your point without false dichotomies?

    5. The only reason there would be ‘successful’ roaming death squads would be due to confiscation of your firearms. Pray tell, who is it that normally does that?

    6. Why is the alternative to a fuckface abusive cop anarchy? Why can’t we have a minimally effective police force that doesn’t shit on citizens?

  24. Would you rather have vigilante death squads?

    I don’t see why its an either-or type deal.

    1. It’s an either-or deal for the same reason calls for limited government are met with arguments against no government.

      It’s easier to knock down straw men than to engage in actual debate.


  26. vigilante death squads

    Chaos! War! Famine! Pestilence! DOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!

    1. Well I don’t think it’s quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip up sir.

      1. And that includes my reply posting skills, sir.

        ::unwraps chewing gum::

  27. These issues that Radley points to are important and shouldn’t be tolerated, but give you the impression that they happen a lot more often than they do.

    On another note touched on in the piece, my father was a NYC Transit Cop (before they were merged with the NYPD) and when he was hired in the 60s, they actively discouraged arrests as a policy and between certain hours of the night, they didn’t allow arrests to be made, as to make the subways appear safe at night.

    1. Well I don’t think it’s quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip up sir.

    2. Isolated incident.

      A few bad apples.

      1. Where are the other examples of corrupt and criminal police. Radley providing several instances where the police act illegally or unethically but there are thousands of interactions that occur between police and civilians every day in this country. Wouldn’t there be more news reports or cellphone videos if this were as common as many of you are making it to be?

        1. Give me a minute now…

          1. So you’re talking about one incident where police were fired at, killed the resident and then falsified reports, and then convicted for manslaughter as proof the system is broken?

              1. Where did I deny that police misconduct occurs? I know it occurs and there should be stiffer penalties when allegations of misconduct stand up to scrutiny.

        2. I seem to recall something about the DC snowball fight spazz out incident…something about a PD flack holding a press conference to announce that the office had never drawn his gun…yeah, something like that.

          1. Yes, I remember that incident. That’s my point, the police misconduct was recorded, and in the era of ubiquitous cell phone cameras, a lot of it is, and should be. I am completely against laws prohibiting the taping of police activity. More accountability is a good thing to root out the bad cops.

            1. asshole

              1. I don’t know who this dunphy character is

        3. Well, I know better than to refuse to serve a blue suit every again…

        4. Umm because there are laws AGAINST RECORDING POLICE NOW? You haven’t been watching much news, have you..?

          1. There’s something in a comment I wrote, just a little further up the page where I said I’m against such laws. Hey, you know the police don’t write the laws right?

            1. They don’t write them. Very few people do.

              But who do you think pressed for them to be written?

    3. Esteban,

      With all due respect, you’re demonstrating Balko’s point. Here was an organization, with plenty of good and decent people, as I’m sure your father was, that was systematically failing to even attempt to fulfill its responsiblity in order to fudge data. Are you telling us you don’t think what they were doing (again, as an organization, not as individual officers) was corrupt?

  28. Our police forces are absolutely pathetic. I put the clues together when I started investigating LE as a possible career after college. My conclusion is that our law enforcement agencies, ALL OF THEM, are in an extreme state of disarray. Our officers are uneducated, greedy, and selfish. They are basically just hired thugs; part of the big corporate system. The elite do not want smart cops. They want stupid cops that do not know the law very well and will be happy with driving their stupid cop cars around going after citizens and “terrorists”.

    I cheer when cops die. There are VERY few good cops out there. Good cops not only do their jobs correctly, but they go after bad cops. VERY few cops achieve this.

    What a pathetic country. The way we are living is NOT sustainable. This country is going to crash.

    1. hey, Coast Guard aint bad…. We can police the police

    2. “I cheer when cops die.”

      Fuck you, you fucking piece of shit.

      1. In George’s defense, I know where he’s coming from.

        After having your ass beaten while you’re face down on the ground screaming for help by a cop looking for “dope” that wasn’t there, it’s not hard to celebrate dead cops.

        I’m not saying its rational or right, but I am saying that its a simple mindset to get in.

        1. So the new standard of thought at Reason is I’ll go with whatever’s simplest, I don’t want to bother being rational or right. Check.

  29. These issues that Radley points to are important and shouldn’t be tolerated, but give you the impression that they happen a lot more often than they do.

    Interesting how what follows after the but strongly implies that, in fact, they aren’t that important, and tolerating them isn’t that big a deal, no?

    Better to end that sentence at the comma, I think.

    1. I don’t know where you get that from, I don’t see how it’s confusing. My point is that they happen, but not as frequently as many posters here would like to think they do. When they do happen, they shouldn’t be tolerated.
      I hope I’ve helped.

      1. your commanding officer said to pick up donuts when you come back to the precinct.

        1. If only I was in law enforcement. if only…

        2. And who is Dunphy? And how are you refuting my points? Are ad-hominem attacks the new fall fashion?

      2. “My point is that they happen, but not as frequently as many posters here would like to think they do”


        1. There are hundreds of thousands of interactions between police and civilians every day that don’t end up with someone being shot, framed, beaten, etc. I mean, there’s that.

      3. Tell you what Esteban, you name a cop who did the right thing telling the truth about his fellow officers bad behavior and benefitted. We’ll name TEN who were punished. Sound fair?

        1. Internet tough guy going after my dad. Given that you know nothing of my dad, this is pretty hilarious. Keeping on fighting the good fight. No justice,

          1. Woops, wrong place, that was supposed to be lower down.

            On your point, what a ridiculous standard. How many cases of each are publicized?

  30. I honestly do doubt that most police officers are bad people. But I think police advocates referencing “a few bad apples” are remiss in omitting the rest of the phrase: “spoil the whole bunch”. The police are, by nature, an organization prone to abuse and, probably of necessity, tight-knit organizations. That is, sadly, a situation that relatively small minority can exploit to their advantage. Most members of the group, even those that might be horrified by the actions of the leadership cadre on an individual basis, will quickly find ways to rationalize support for their behavior.

    1. Nope, you’re wrong. When the majority of a group is fine with perjury, unprovoked violence, theft and framing innocent men and fine with victimising those who object to this, the majority of the group is bad. But it another way, what would they have to do to be bad in your opinion?

  31. What do you expect from a bunch of people (cops) that have what appears to be very limited cognitive reasoning abilities? Remember we don’t go after the best and brightest to become cops.

    Thus they are to stupid to recognize that when they allow the bad apples to sit in the bin and never toss them out themselves it makes the whole bin smell rotten.

    Then if I extend the cops the same courtesy they give to us in that guilt by association and accomplice to a crime etc. Are we not to think the same of them? Really though why would anyone think cops are good if they continue to knowingly allow bad cops to be bad and cover for them?

    If you are a supposedly good cop but you do nothing to rid us of the bad ones IMO you are just as fucking bad if not worse.

    It’s called having your cake and eating it too. Getting fucking old!

    1. There’s only so much police officers can do at the individual level though, especially if they’re not in a position of authorithy

    2. There’s only so much police officers can do at the individual level though, especially if they’re not in a position of authority

      1. the Thin Blue Line wants to thank you for your contribution to The Cause.

        Don’t let those “civilians” get you down – all for one and one for all! And that only means your brothers and sisters in blue, dunphy, not the future perps out there crying about the speeding tickets, but happy when we’re taking down the Bad Guys.

        Now hurry up with those donuts – the Chief’s getting antsy!!!

      2. The “Just following orders” excuse didn’t really work out at the Nuremburg trials either.

        1. Nice, so the police are NAZIs now. Awesome comparison.

  32. Balko for President.

  33. Cato.org has the entire film along with a discussion.

  34. Personally I know a guy is gay when we meet and i feel the need to check my fly~ 345ggfsd

  35. Esteban
    If your father was a good cop he would have been kicked out of the force for not defending the thin blue line. I’m guessing he was a pussy and tolerated police abuse so he could get his pension.

    1. Internet tough guy going after my dad. Given that you know nothing of my dad, this is pretty hilarious. Keep on fighting the good fight. Let’s rid the world of police.

  36. A cop’s job is not to defend other cops from the laws they are sworn to uphold. A cop’s job is to defend citizens, nothing more. So if that threat comes from the police, a good cop defends the citizen, not the police.

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  38. Cops are the stinkiest farts of society, mindless moronic buffoons who lack any common sense, instincts or overall niceness to the citizens who pay their wages. Little wonder that they’re only good at beating the wrong person up, showing up too late at a crime, being stupid, and being fat.

    1. People on this site are so predictable any time the police are mentioned. Does someone pass out a script or are there just bots that write the same things on every Balko article?

  39. Law enforcement are granted powers and protections much greater than those allowed ordinary citizens. The only way to prevent the abuse of such powers is to have equally greater punishments when those powers are abused. Every law enforcement official that was proven to have collaborated an organized subversion of law like that case described in the article, should be executed for treason. Every one of them had sworn an oath to uphold and protect the law, they actively subverted the law in coordination with their fellow officers, they have betrayed their oaths and their country. Treason: the other capital offense.

  40. That hip hop artist was absolutely correct.
    Never trust the police. Having said that
    I probably would cooperate if I witnessed
    a similar crime. At the same time I wouldn’t
    for a second trust the most ingratiating
    con-artist cop on any police force.
    I would just say my piece & hope to
    to get the hell away from them ASAP.
    Balko really has to be kidding about
    condemnation from politicians.
    Ever hear a politician describe what
    happens when you go against cops
    IN ANY WAY? You are not likely to
    unless things have been “worked out”
    in advance.

  41. I take it cops don’t like Radley Balko.
    Good thing Reason Magazine is libertarian
    and back by “the good name and reputation”
    of David and Charles Koch, not to mention
    their billions of dollars.

  42. Some people think that the police academy teaches a person to be a police officer. What your mother, father, sisters, brothers, extended family and community teach you as you are being raised is where you learn to be a good/decent or bad cop. It is habilitation ladies and gentlemen. What you do when no one is looking is how you will either respect or disrespect yourself and others. Heaven forbid you have the power that police officers have on the street and you abuse that authority. A scumbag is a scumbag is a scumbag whether wearing a badge or not. Thanks for your time.

  43. let’s not forget Drew Peterson. The Bolingbrook Police Department and Coroner’s office covered up the killing of his first wife and enabled him to kill his fourth. Only when the story broke nationaly did anything get done about it. Why? Mayor Claire uses the BPD as his personal goon squad.

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  48. North Korea suggested that if the U.S. sincerely hope that easing the Korean Peninsula should not

  49. Law enforcement are granted powers and protections much greater than those allowed ordinary citizens.

  50. Makes me wonder if the RICO Act applies to some of these police departments…

  51. bergman I think it does apply i’d have to check though

  52. This interesting stuff I hate snitches,and yes they indeed are very successful

  53. North Korea suggested that if the U.S. sincerely hope that easing the Korean Peninsula should not

  54. Law enforcement are granted powers and protections much greater than those allowed ordinary citizens.

  55. this is a greatpost i love it

  56. Brett Gyllenskog, Smithfield, Utah

  57. Eh bien, je suis un bon poste watcher vous pouvez dire et je ne donne pas une seule raison de critiquer ou de donner une bonne critique ? un poste. Je lis des blogs de 5 derni?res ann?es et ce blog est vraiment bon cet ?crivain a les capacit?s pour faire avancer les choses i aimerais voir nouveau poste par vous Merci
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  58. Eh bien, je suis un bon poste watcher vous pouvez dire et je ne donne pas une seule raison de critiquer ou de donner une bonne critique ? un poste. Je lis des blogs de 5 derni?res ann?es et ce blog est vraiment bon cet ?crivain a les capacit?s pour faire avancer les choses i aimerais voir nouveau poste par vous Merci
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