America’s Most Successful Stop Snitchin’ Campaign

The failure to protect whistle-blowing cops is inexcusable.

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 the way they will be treated.

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.

http://reason.com/archives/2010/10/18/americas-most-successful-stop

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