The Blue Wall Of Silence

Posted: October 4, 2011 by dhaliwal23 in The Blue Wall / Police Secrecy

What is “The Blue Wall of Silence”? | Preliminary Overview and Web Audit

The term “Blue Wall of Silence” also known as the “Blue Shield” first triggered in New York, United States. This unwritten code can generally be defined as: “A rule among police officers not to report on another officer’s errors, misconducts, and or crimes when questioned about an incident of misconduct involving another colleague, during a course of an inquiry”.

Every country has a police force to enforce its laws and ensure that public peace is maintained overall. In a democratic system of government, the police are expected to maintain public order without violating a citizen’s civil or human rights. The idea that in a democratic country the police do uphold civil liberties and do not violate human rights is not necessarily accurate. The Blue Wall of Silence can be one of many contributing factors that help police officers uphold the deviance involved in their department.

The Blue Wall of Silence symbolizes the loyalty among police officers within the force. To maintain this loyalty an officer may be forced to neglect the presence of police brutality which can hurt the victims by preventing them from getting justice. Moreover, the Blue Wall of Silence and police brutality have been and continue to be, protected and facilitated by the police culture.  A mutual link then can be made between police culture and police corruption, which makes this topic significantly interesting.

According to Maurice Punch (2009), corruption in policing generally refers to: an officer perceptively doing or not doing something that is contrary to his/her duty for some form of financial or material gain. In most cases, it is geared largely in the direction of bribery and individual gain in return for favors.

Research has been collected through previous cases involving police misconduct that caught the media’s attention and went global, for example the New York Police Department. In New York City, some police officers have been associated with the Blue Wall of Silence that led to the Mollen Commission in 1994. Mollen’s mandate was to examine and investigate “the nature and extent of corruption in the Department; evaluate the departments procedures for preventing and detecting that corruption; and recommend changes and improvements to those procedures”.  The Commission found that officers falsified documents such as arrest reports, warrants and evidence for an illegal arrest or search and they justified themselves by believing that this was not corruption but yet another way to “get the job done”. The Mollen Commission concluded by saying “The pervasiveness of the code of silence is itself alarming”.

During the course of my web audit, using the Google search engine, I entered the term “Blue Wall of Silence” and received approximately 3,950,000 hits with content extending from dated to more recent incidents. The first page consisted of information from the Wikipedia , News Media ArticlesMultimedia, and from former NYPD Police Officers that went against the code.  I found the Wikipedia – the free encyclopaedia provided a good definition on the term and provided a direct link to the Mollen Commission, which made it easier to understand the whole phenomenon that took place in New York City.

Additionally, I found the first page is restricted by a lack of academic articles. However, found it interesting how there are a range of perspectives with respect to this topic. For example, the first page consisted of a link where a police officer spoke out regarding the issues associated with the unwritten code, within his department. Furthermore, this topic can be controversial towards the public’s eye and we can start to ask questions, Can this Unwritten Code The Blue Wall of Silence be broken?


Punch, Maurice. (2009). Police Corruption Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Willan Publishing. Devon, UK.

  1. Mike Larsen says:

    This is an informative first post.

    Perhaps one of your future posts could discuss how accountability bodies – special investigations units, complaints commissions, commissions of inquiry, or the courts – attempt to circumvent or penetrate this code of silence.

    It would also be interesting to consider this from the perspective of the police organization. What are the benefits that members derive from participating in or upholding the code of silence? What are the disincentives to violating the code?

  2. dhaliwal23 says:

    Mike thank you for your suggestions, it has helped me refine my next blog for this assignment. I will discuss the police culture itself to give a brief analysis of why the blue wall of silence exists in the first part of the blog, I will of course reference the article you provided by Thomas Nolan. After that I will focus on the accountability issues I have read in several of the articles while doing this research.

    Please let me know if you have any thoughts!

  3. […] unreliable and unsympathetic, one whom cannot be trusted with police information (Punch, 2009). The blue wall of silence, under the police subculture, is the code where each police officer shall rat out the secrets […]

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