Who Are the Good Cops?
by Ed Sawicki - July 6, 2020
Between 2007 and 2013, I attended a few training sessions where law enforcement officers were taught how to deal with subjects where deadly force was needed. The training encouraged deadly force in any situation where officers were at risk. Officers who may have exercized restraint before the training, were less likely to afterward.
One training session was conducted by an outside firm. The trainer was a seasoned, retired officer. I'll call him Bill. He started the session with photos and dashcam videos of police officers being killed in the line of duty, sometimes as the result of a traffic stop.
Suddenly, Bill displayed photos of Barak Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid. He also mentioned the ACLU. He said that these people were the most serious threat to officer safety. There was no explanation.
I was enraged and wanted to insist that Bill provide an explanation. But I looked around the room. I saw no faces that displayed the outrage that I felt–or even surprise. To speak up would have put my career in great jeopardy and I needed the job for the health care benefits.
So, I know what it's like for good cops to do nothing in the face of an overwhelming, systemic ideology. They fear the retribution that is certain to come.
One-hundred percent complicity
In May 2020, George Floyd was murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. Chauvin put his knee on Floyd's neck, preventing him from breathing. Three other police officers were standing close by watching it happen as they listened to Floyd gasp that he couldn't breathe. One-hundred percent of the officers on the scene did nothing to stop the murder.
In July of 2014, Eric Garner's murder on Staten Island by police officer Daniel Pantaleo was committed with at least eight other officers on the scene not stopping the murder. Again, 100% of the officers at the scene did nothing to stop the murder. The medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide. Officer Pantaleo was never charged with a crime. It took the New York Police Department more than five years to terminate his employment.
Occassinally, good cops try to stop bad cops but there are many documented cases of them being punished for it. Let's look at two somewhat different cases with the same outcome for the good cop.
In 2008, Black officer Cariol Horne was terminated from the Buffalo Police Department for using “unwarranted” physical force to stop the chokehold that white officer Gregory Kwiatkowski used during a 2006 arrest. Officer Kwiatkowski was choking Black suspect Neal Mack, who was in handcuffs. When Horne's words didn't stop Kwiatkowski from choking Mack, she grabbed his arm. Mack maintains that Horne saved his life.
The Buffalo Police Department brought disciplinary charges against Horne and fired her a few months before she was eligible to receive a full pension. Kwiatkowski piled on by suing Horne and her lawyer for defamation.
Bad cops tend to stay bad and Kwiatkowski continued to terrorize the Black citizens of Buffalo. In 2018, he was sentenced to four months in federal prison for using "unlawful and unreasonable force" against four Black teenagers.
In May 2016, Weirton, West Virginia officer Stephen Mader responded to a call by a distraught woman who said that her boyfriend, R. J. Williams, was threatening to harm himself with a knife. She said that Williams had a gun, but that it was unloaded. She wanted the police to save his life.
When he arrived at the scene, Mader determined that Williams was not a threat and was trying to commit suicide by cop. He was trying to talk Williams down. Two other officers arrived on the scene. Williams raised the unloaded weapon and pointed it in the direction of the officers. One of them shot Williams in the head. When the officers inspected Williams’s gun, they found it unloaded, just as the caller said.
The Weirton police department fired Mader for exercising restraint. They claimed that by failing to immediately shoot Williams, he put his life in jeopardy as well as the lives of others. This in spite of the fact that all indications were that William's gun was unloaded.
Mader sued for wrongful termination and settled for $175,000. But the police department would not take him back.
State Laws against chokeholds
In June 2020, the New York state assembly passed the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act. It stipulates that any New York police officer who injures or kills somebody through the use of a chokehold or similar restraint can be charged with a class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill.
What are the chances of equivalent laws being enacted in a so-called red state?
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