Police Abuse

Why Do So Many Bad Cops Get Off Easy?

Lack of accountability is a recipe for official lawlessness.


Tamir Rice, Facebook

American police live in a place even more wondrous than the one you know from A Prairie Home Companion. In Lake Wobegon, all the children are above average. In Police Land, every cop is a model citizen, including those who outwardly resemble criminals. 

When a cop thrashes or kills someone, the ensuing investigations almost always find that what the officer did was excusable, if not commendable. Jesus Christ would get tougher scrutiny from a band of angels than most cops do from the people who review their conduct. 

So it barely registered with most Americans last month when a Cleveland cop was acquitted of voluntary manslaughter for firing at least 15 shots at an unarmed couple as he stood on the hood of their car after a high-speed chase. Outcomes like that, even when the cops grossly overstepped their bounds, are the norm. 

Over four years, The Chicago Tribune recently reported, only 4 percent of all 17,700 complaints against Chicago police were upheld. In those rare instances, the punishment was the equivalent of a disappointed sigh. Of the few cops found to have abused citizens, nearly half got off with verbal reprimands, and only a dozen were fired. 

Even a court finding of misconduct doesn't count for much. The Tribune uncovered several cases in which victims filed lawsuits and got monetary damages—even though the department had cleared the officers. 

Consider Cleveland. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the police department looked into 4,427 uses of force by cops over four years and gave its blessing to each one. In Houston, every shooting over six years was found by the internal affairs department to be absolutely necessary. 

Same basic story in Ferguson, Mo. After the killing of Michael Brown, staffers from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division interviewed the police chief, who admitted that "he could not remember ever imposing discipline for an improper use of force." 

The feds also assume that law enforcement officers are less fallible than the pope. From January 2010 to October 2013, the Los Angeles Times reported, Border Patrol agents shot 67 people, killing 19. Three of the agents are still being investigated. Of the remaining 64, 62 were absolved. The other two got a stern lecture. 

It's all part of a national pattern. Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip Stinson has done extensive research on killings by cops. His conclusion? "It's very rare that an officer gets charged with a homicide offense resulting from their on-duty conduct even though people are killed on a fairly regular basis," he told The Wall Street Journal

Lack of accountability is a recipe for lawlessness. In 1961, the Supreme Court said that when evidence of a crime was obtained in an illegal search, it could not be used in state court. The Fourth Amendment had always required cops to get warrants before ransacking homes. But until 1961, police generally ignored the Constitution because they paid no price for violating it. 

A New York City police official later recalled, "Before this, nobody bothered to take out search warrants. Although the U.S. Constitution requires warrants in most cases, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that evidence obtained without a warrant—illegally, if you will—was admissible in state courts. So the feeling was, why bother?" 

Many cops obviously feel the same way about the rules on how they are supposed to handle suspects and bystanders. If they can get away with mistreating people, they will mistreat people. 

Modern video technology makes that harder. A cop can no longer be sure that when he beats or shoots a suspect without a very good reason, he can cover up what happened. Body cameras and dashboard cameras will make police more careful—and document their abuses. 

If not for an alert citizen with a cellphone, the North Charleston, S.C., officer who fatally shot the unarmed, fleeing Walter Scott in the back would almost certainly have gotten away with it. Instead, he's been charged with murder. 

But digital images matter only if authorities are prepared to punish brutal cops. The shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland was captured on squad-car video, which did not support the police account of what happened. Six months later, his killer has not been charged. 

Bad cops will stop killing people unnecessarily when they know they will suffer real punishment for their crimes. Until then, why bother? 

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. What punishment should cops get, Steve?


    1. Life in max security correctional facility, with no hope ever of parole. And all of their assets seized.

  2. Get your local pd department’s “Brady List” and publish it monthly in the local paper.

    Every month…without fail.

    1. Prosecutors and judges who let crooked cops get off easy should be arrested and sent to the big house for life. Prosecutors and judges are a bunch of crooks as well.

  3. Humanity’s relationship with authority is telling throughout history and contemporary times merely reflect the static nature of collective obedience. Terror and mystery have always been astoundingly effective tools to corral populations.

    When authorities refuse to condemn and punish reprehensible behavior engaged in by those granted authority over the masses they have effectively terrorized the conscious/subconscious collective mind. Law enforcement is a form of bureaucratic absolutism allowed to engage with the public in a way of its own choosing as set out by the legislation which is extremely wary of mass deviation.

    There is a reason only a couple of officials are over a sheriff in a state. The lighter the power structure at the top the more control can fluidly be disseminated toward the population below.

    To flit about this America acting as if your favorite form or brand of government is without its bloody teeth, steel fists, and sneering contempt of the citizen is to exist entirely in a circuitous state of political sorcery… and Libertarians are fucking disrespected every fucking day for their supposed goddamn fantasies. Give me a goddamn break! The average Democrat and Republican is a fucking willing magnet for political manipulation few Libertarians would tolerate for a second.

  4. Yes, by all means, hold police accountable for their actions however some of the notable actions have been presented with undue sympathy for the non-police participant in the incidents:

    Michael Brown had just accosted a store owner a fraction of his size and stole cigars minutes before he was shot. Forensic evidence supported the police officer’s version of events. Photos of Brown (and, in another media misleading, Treyvon Martin) were posted and broadcast that were of them when they were several years younger, and more innocent appearing than when they were killed.

    The kid who was shot while carrying a toy gun, from what I’ve read and heard on major news reports (which I don’t have time now to research and list) was 5′ 7″ (e.g. adult size), even though playing was brandishing the toy (which had its red tip removed.) He was reported by others in the area, supposedly had the toy gun in his waistband, and was allegedly reaching for it when he turned and the cop saw it. In all likelihood he was trying to pull it out to show it was a toy but how many cops faced with similar appearances and actions have been killed in the line of duty? By all reports the officer was distraught when he realized he had shot a kid with a toy.

    1. In all likelihood he was trying to pull it out to show it was a toy but how many cops faced with similar appearances and actions have been killed in the line of duty?

      Name 3 cops killed by quick draw artist.

      1. I love your post, but it would be hard to scour the records from the 1800’s….

    2. Now name 3 private citizens that shot kids with toy guns and weren’t arrested immediately.

      1. I shot a bunch of my friends with toy guns and didn’t get arrested.

        1. Phrasing!

    3. He was reported by others in the area, supposedly had the toy gun in his waistband, and was allegedly reaching for it when he turned and the cop saw it.

      Um, no. Watch the video. The cop rolls up and starts blasting immediately.

      1. Why do you have to go and bring objective facts into this, Jordan? The cop said his life was in danger. What more evidence do you need?

        1. I wish it was possible to get audio of the conversation in the cruiser as they rode to the scene. You can bet that they decided they were going to kill someone before they got there, and any shouting was just a formality before getting their rocks off.

    4. but how many cops faced with similar appearances and actions have been killed in the line of duty

      I don’t give a shit. You don’t want to get shot at, don’t be a fucking cop. Once you sign up for that your ‘right to go home safe at night” (which doesn’t exist) becomes secondary to the presumption of innocence.

      1. Not to mention the fact that “police officer” isn’t even in the top ten most dangerous jobs in the nation and the majority of the deaths that do occur in the “profession” are traffic related and don’t involve a bunch of hip-shooting, fast-draw villains twirling their mustaches after burning down the lovable local constable.

      2. Exactly. I never understood this line of defense. You damn well know the risks.

    5. Michael Brown had just accosted a store owner a fraction of his size and stole cigars minutes before he was shot.

      The cop didn’t know that at the time. The entire incident has to be analyzed from what the cop knew, and all he knew was too mouthy black men weren’t walking on the sidewalk.

      Much of the forensic evidence is inconsistent with his account of what happened before the shooting itself. Ex. A: He claims he was punched really hard, but somehow none of the cigars that Brown was holding in that hand were busted up.

      In all likelihood he was trying to pull it out to show it was a toy but how many cops faced with similar appearances and actions have been killed in the line of duty?

      Umm, practically none? Out here in Accountability Land, we’re not allowed to just shoot people who have a gun in their hand. Nope, we have to show that they were threatening somebody with it.

      1. This. The initial statement by Wilson is so coached and rehearsed I bet the other cops in the room had a hard time not laughing.

    6. The twelve year old was tall. That’s your actual fucking argument.

      I’m child-sized. And, speaking from a position of being too small to ride in most modern passenger seats without risk of decapitation, fuck this douchebag.

      1. But…but you have the doom, Hamster.

      2. “You must be *this tall* to be shot by police. Or not, they’re really not picky.”

        1. Wasn’t there an article a couple weeks back about that cop who faceslammed a woman into the curb? And she was five foot nothing. Let’s not speak of Bou-Bou. We’re pretending that never happened.

          Logic, motherfucker.

        2. So, getting shot by the cops is like a carnival ride?

          1. They’re a lot harder on sticking to the height restrictions at an amusement park.

            To cops, it’s more of just a suggestion.

    7. Yes. . . Michael Brown had accosted a store owner. . . who identified him as *not* being the person in the store & on video.

      Nice troll fail, fuckwit.

  5. the answer to “why do cops get off so easy?” is simple: DA’s and prosecutors.

    these same folks need the support of police in the rest of their jobs. they try criminal cases. if the police do not support them, they are dead in the water.

    the police are like a gang. they will turn, en masse, on anyone who attacks them.

    suddenly, the DA is gutted. no one will work on cases. they slow work, lose evidence, fail to testify, you name it.

    then, the powerful police union throws its support and money behind a competitor next election.

    the conflict of interest is outlandish.

    prosecutors are being asked to go after their big donors.

    we need an independent office that ONLY prosecutes police.

    until we have one, no other “reform” will matter.

  6. How many cops does it take to change a light bulb?

    Trick question, cops don’t change anything. First they beat up the room for being black then they arrest the bulb for being broke!

    1. Nice. I’ve got to remember that.

  7. Cops are doing jobs they are traditionally not meant to do: collecting revenue and exterminating undesirables. If all they did was secure peace and order, they would be respected. The way they’re whining at recent scrutiny is evidence itself of their insular, above-the-law entitlement attitude. Power has to be checked and balanced. We shouldn’t trust the most learned of people with unchecked power, let alone the armed fat yokels who patrol our streets.

    1. So, what’s the solution? More government? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

      1. You forgot to add less accountability.

        1. And another layer of bureaucracy…

          Never forget that.

      2. Well, obviously, if Team Blue was in charge, cops would be held accountable for their actions, just like they are in New York, Chicago, Seattle and LA!

      3. Saltpetre in the coffee and make the maximum age for joining the police force the minimum age for joining the police force. Old peace officers aren’t going out of their way to hassle you the way law enforcement officers are, they don’t give a shit what you’re doing as long as you’re doing it peacefully and quietly. And they’re too tired to argue over who has the biggest dick.

      4. I don’t even know what that means. Only idiots think government is measured by volume.

        The solution is proper checks and balances like I said. Screen out the psychotic douchefucks. Have at least the level of accountability of your average grocery store employee.

        1. I don’t even know what that means.

          Yeah, that’s what I thought.

          Only idiots think government is measured by volume.

          Says the idiot who doesn’t know what that means.

          The solution is proper checks and balances like I said.

          More government.

    2. Ummm…this is actually an intelligent comment and I find myself agreeing with it. This can’t be the real Tony.

      1. He may recognize the problem correctly, but you can count on him going full retard when it comes to suggesting a solution.

      2. Tony has a conscience. See the story of children having their scotch eggs confiscated. He does. Just no brain. He doesn’t understand that the outcomes, which he recognizes as bad, are the direct result of the policies he pushes. He just can’t grok that. There might be some hope for Tony.

        Also, he is not as bad as the TurdPolisher who instantly attributes every bad outcome to TeabagThuglikkkan Christfags.

    3. That last bit should read “We shouldn’t trust the most learned of people with unchecked power, but at least they aren’t armed fat yokels so we have no choice”. Because we all know that’s what you’re really thinking.

    4. My head just exploded from the irony.

    5. No. Cops are doing exactly what they have always been intended to do; collect revenue and keep the Lower Orders in check. There have been short periods when they aspired to more noble ends, but these have been short lived. The political class has no use for an enforcement arm that actually respects the rights of Little People.

      And note that this tendency is at LEAST as marked in Democrats as it is in Law ‘n Order Republicans. The Liberal Intellectual Radical Rogressive left has need of a large and seething underclass that feels oppresssed, and so they craft laws and policies to make one.

      The only joy I can find in the whole mess is that, while the LIRPs undoubtedly think they can control the mob they are creating, history has shown that they can’t and will be torn to pieces by it.

    6. A fair point, now apply it to the Lightworker.

      1. Preferably with a planishing hammer.

    7. Are you real?

      /reaches for Tony’s face.

      For once, lucid.

      1. The puppeteer forgot to change his handle back.

        The Tony joke is so over, whoever you are. Retire it and try making a new character.

    8. Power has to be checked and balanced.

      Oh, so you’ve decided the 2nd amendment is actually necessary, right?

      1. You’re insane.

        1. Yeah…rights are for crazies and schizos, amirite?!?

        2. Insane or not, before we set aside the obvious and intended purpose of the 2nd Amendment, I want to see an actual attempt to amend the Constitution to make that legal. Because I am far less worried by random nuts with guns than I am by governments that recognize to limit to their power.

          The Second Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights to assure that the common citizen would have legal and unhindered access to military grade weapons. We know this because the debates on the Bill of Rights are well documented, and they say so.

          Now, in a world where firearms can strike effectively at half a mile, and have cyclic rates in the several hundreds a minute, that may be a bad idea. But that doesn’t mean we dispose of the Bill of Rights. There is a procedure for amending the Constitution IN the Constitution. You want gun control? Use that procedure. Or admit that you despise all limits on governmental authority and are, therefore, a totalitarian fascist.

  8. I hate to by cynical here but this is a problem that is unlikely to be fixed. Why? Because Conservatives fetishize the police and refuse to believe any shooting was unjustified and Liberals are suspicious of the police but refuse to challenge the powerful public employees unions that protect police from accountability.

    The media seems to always be for bipartisanship, but it is when the two parties agree that those who love liberty need to duck and cover.

    1. Conservatves are, slowly, getting over their fondness for the thugs in blue. The liberals, on the other hand, are definetly NOT declining to,challenge the unions. Their motives are even less admirable. They need a seething underclass to vote for them, and to scare the middle class into accpting fascism. Oh, sure, they like the public emploee unions, but that isn’t what keeps them from reforming the police. They WANT a largely unaccountable enforcement arm. What they don’t ever realize is that such an organization will not follow their orders once a big enough strong man comes on the scene. Give enough power to The State and a Stalin will arise.

    2. The reason people on the left will only look at police misconduct from a racial angle is that they totally fetishize the cops. After all, it’s the left that is largely responsible for the petty bullshit laws that the cops enforce, each of which creates potentially deadly encounters with the police. Cops will always be violent thugs. That will never change, because that’s who is attracted to a job where you use violence without any accountability. The way to reduce potentially deadly encounters with the police is to reduce the stack of laws that they enforce. But people on the left will never agree to that.

      1. “The way to reduce potentially deadly encounters with the police is to reduce the stack of laws that they enforce.”

        This is certainly a good and necessary step, but it’s not sufficient as long as the cops aren’t punished when they step outside the bounds of what they’re supposed to enforce or how they’re supposed to enforce it.

        1. Who will do the punishing, and what will stop the people tasked with punishing the police from abusing that power? That’s just the nature of the beast. Power will always be abused because having power means no one will stop you.

          1. I don’t think there’s an easy solution. I’m just saying that reducing the laws, while a good step, is not even close to a cure-all because it doesn’t address the issue of accountability when cops do fuck up.

            1. I never said it was a cure-all. I said it would reduce potentially deadly encounters. I think that accountability is an unsolvable problem, just like limited government. The only thing that limits government is the self-restraint of those who govern, and the only people cops are accountable to are themselves. That’s the nature of power, and when you combine it with human nature, the result is always deadly.

      2. The way to reduce potentially deadly encounters with the police is to reduce the stack of laws that they enforce. But people on the left will never agree to that.

        Not True. The Minneapolis City Council (All Dems save for one Green Party member) just took the lurking and spitting laws off of the books because the cops allegedly use them to harass black and brown folk.


        1. Wow. I’m pleasantly shocked.

        2. Wow! I’m going there for vacation.

      3. The Left is only looking at police misconduct from a racial angle if you believe that they mean it. Note how, somehow, the powers and privileges of being a Government Stooge never seem to diminish. Oh, a few small fry who embarrassed they Masers may be sacrificed, but the organization goes on grinding the Lower Orders underfoot. Nor is that an accident; it’s policy. A) The Liberal Intellectual Radical Progressive establishment is fundamentally elitist and has no use for Little People who don’t toe the line and B) The LIRPs need a oppressed underclass to continue to hold power.

        Some day American Blacks are going to wake up to how badly they have been used by Democrats in general, and by Black Democrat Race Pimps in particular. Then hell is going to go for a walk with the sleeves rolled up.

  9. I gotta say, the worst case of self-dealing by the Cop-Industrial Complex may the cop who killed two bicyclists while breaking multiple laws in his cruiser, who only had to plea to a misdemeanor and is still on the job.

  10. Government is another word for what we all do together, so the more relevant question is: why do we all get away with murdering children so easily?

  11. its a case of fear our law enforcement officers are working under constant threat most are white and expect respect and compliance most white citizens do but African American culture is different they get loud and non compliant and the cop gets more fearful most male anger is fear disguised anyway it dont take much to have a tragedy. My advice to all but especially african ameticans
    1. Shut the hell up
    2. Comply with their requests
    If you must open your mouth you could say I sure hope im not the only one around sir should you choke on yo donut and be looking to me for the heimlick manuever then smile politely and wink at the cop…….stop!! im flucking with you dont say nothing!! unless you want your mother crying on nitely news but if your holding cash you gonna lose it so be sure to run da bank roll up the crack yo azz put some homemade peanutbutter on that bread

  12. our law enforcement officers are working under constant threat

    Well, no, they’re not, actually.

    My advice to all but especially african ameticans
    1. Shut the hell up
    2. Comply with their requests

    Fuck you.

  13. Final judgment on whether an officer shooting is justified rests not with the Los Angeles chief of police but with the Board of Police Commissioners. The commission is composed of three women (one black, one Asian, and one Hispanic) and two white males (one of them gay).

    Watch this video for look at police work i.e. “Activist critical of police… ”


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  15. Don’t forget the six cops who beat Kelly Thomas to death got off scot free.

  16. They get off easy because the crooked prosecutors and judges see to it. The cop is a crook, the prosecutor is a crook, the judge knows they are both crooks, and since the judge is a thug too, it is all fine and dandy. It is government taking care of government. Just like the IRS does not enforce fed tax laws on fed employees. We have millions of current and past federal workers that have not paid income taxes in years. No wonder why the politicians don’t care about taxes, they don’t pay any thing any way. The people need to wise up.

    1. At least 50% of all state court prosecutors are lifetime prosecutors.

  17. Even when the Department wants to discipline an officer, Police UNION instigated laws and terms of union contracts contain procedural traps, delays, and outright prohibitions that make effective discipline impossible. In Minneapolis a known thug in blue is being prosecuted by the Feds because the City can’t touch him.

  18. you make $27h…good for you! I make up to $85h working from home. My story is that I quit working at shoprite to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $45h to $85h?heres a good example of what I’m doing.

  19. More of this crap?
    You have no idea of what is considered correct, or incorrect, police procedure.
    Please go try living somewhere where there is no police presence – Somalia seems to fit the bill – and then complain about how the police operate in this land.
    Your silly ideas of “community policing” and kumbaya, if the criminal says he shouldn’t get arrested, then the cop should just walk away, would lead to chaos and anarchy.

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