Ali & Pat Earl and Bighouse Emauel Jim Danny Doug Red & Dotie Curt, Hattie & Al
UNPARALELLED UNCOMPROMISED UNFORGIVEN UNSUNG
REMEMBERING MY BROTHER SGT. EARL K. BELL 12-25-1940---8-1-2013
A GOOD COP WHO BROKE THE CODE OF SILENCE IN THE WASHINGTON, DC POLICE DEPARTMENT. A CODE OF SILENCE THAT HAS GOTTEN EVEN LOUDER TODAY THEN EVER BEFORE!
Actor Al Pachino is seen here playing the role of New York City cop Frank Serpico. The real Serpico is seen leaving the Bronx Courthouse alone after testifying before the Knapp Commission on wide spread police corruption in the department. Sgt. Earl K. Bell the Frank Serpico of the DC Police Department.
The story below is a reprint from Frank Serpico as he writes about the continued corruption and today's police brutality in police departments around America 40 years later
I call it "Testi-lying." It has been a regular practice in police forces across the United States, at least since I served on the NYPD: Official testimony that is made a part of a police after-action report but is pure lies, an invention. In the old days police would carry a "drop knife---an inexpensive weapon cops would bring along on patrol to drop onto or next to suspect that they had taken out so that they could say that he had threaten them. Today you don't even need to do that; all that you have to do is justify the use of deadly force if you are a police officer is to say that you feared for your life, for whatever reason. If the victim dies, that just means there will one less witness around to contradict the test-lie.
In the case of Officer Michael Slager of the North Charleston police, it appears he was being extra-carefulto cover his tracks. Probably he could have gotten away with simply declaring, as he did in the radioed report, that Walter Scott "took my taser," and that would have probably have sufficed to exonerate him. But Slager having shot Scott eight times in the back--as everyone can see in the now famous video--perhaps felt that he needed a little help explaining what he was up to. So apparently dropped his Taser next to Scott's body, which would obviously help to make the case that Scott "Took my taster."
If you think that what happen in North Charleston is a unique case, its not. Only recently, in another case, a policewoman in Pennsylvania first Tasered a black man then shot him twice in the back as he lay face down in the snow. She was chasing him for an expired parking ticket. There were five seconds between shots. She said she feared for her life. It was captured on her own Taser camera.
I have been saying this for a long time, ever since I spoke before the Knapp Commission investigating corruption in the NYPD more then 40 years ago: Unless we create an atmosphere where the crooked cop fears the honest cop, and not the other way around, the system will never changed. Unless honesty is rewarded more often then corruption, the police will lose credibility altogether. I wrote a letter to President Bill Clinton in 1994 addressing this very issue, saying that honest cops have never been rewarded, and maybe there ought to be a medal for them, he wrote back but nothing change. Now in the era of citizen videotaping, police credibility is at stake as never before. If enough testi-lying is uncovered, then who is going to believe the police even when they are telling the truth? They will be seen as crying wolf.
Until now the shoot first fear of my life mantra has eliminated any cause for concern in the taking of life by police. When a civilian committs a crime, every nuance is looked at, the better to "throw the book at" the suspect. When cops err, it is the opposite reaction. Eyes are averted, aggravating circumstances are ignored. And now the public is learning about every time a new video tape emerges that undermines the official police story.
There is only one solution: The good cops really have to step up, and the system has to reward them, rather then punish them. The other day I got a letter from a journalist in Argentina who was complaining about police and judicial corruption there. I wrote back to him, there are good cops, even where you live, but if the good cops don't want to be painted with the same broad brush as the bad cops, they need to come forward and expose the guys who are doing bad things.
Instead, you habitually get police union representatives defending these police officers no matter what they do. Take New York City detective who was caught on camera recently abusing an Uber driver with threats and foul language, This was truly disgusting behavior. Yet predictably enough the detective union leader, Michael Palladino, was out there making excuses for him, suggesting that, well, it was only one incident, and everyone has a bad day. " Cops are just like everyone else," he said. The detective is one of good character . He really should not be judged by one isolated incident." What Palladino overlooked was there were numerous other incidents in that officer's file that were not caught on tape.
What should the public believe when when everytime the police close ranks like that? Afterward Police Commissioner William Bratton announced he was removing the detective's shield and placing him temporarily on desk duty while an investigation is conducted . But this man needs to be demoted to uniform at the very least, or "back in the bag" as we use to say. Imagine what he is capable of doing under the cover of darkness if he can talk to someone like that in broad daylight. But will anyone follow up to see if that happens?
Its important to make the point that we shouldn't make cops feel that as a whole they are under attack. There are plenty legitimate incidents where police believe, correctly, that their lives are in danger. I was in a few of those situations myself during the course of my career.
But unless the police forces and society as a whole take action we're not going to be able to distinguish between the legititimate claims and made-up testimony. And this is not just a phenomenon; the law itself needs to be changed so that when a police officer shoots a suspect in the line of duty, a real investigation is conducted, and by an outside, impartial body.
If changes are not made, the age of the citizen videotaping could began to alter forever our society's view of the police officers who protect us. A long time ago Norman Rockwell painted a famous picture of a friendly neighborhood cop bending down to help a little boy. How much longer will America cling to that image, in the face of images of the kind we saw in North Charleston?
Frank Serpico is a former New York City detective
END RUN:A TALE OF TWO WIDE RECEIVERS