The Blue Wall of Silence – Preliminary Overview and Web Audit

Posted: October 5, 2011 by sonyah21 in Robert Dziekanski, The Blue Wall / Police Secrecy
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The Blue Wall of Silence refers to the rule of silence police officers share with one another. It is an integrated piece of police culture which shows solidarity, loyalty and silence throughout the police force. There is a strong pull for police officers to behave this way because of the need and want to belong to a group, especially seen how police officers treat the force as a sort of brotherhood. This can also mean that new officers are forced to join and comply with this wall of silence to prevent being ostracised from members of the police force. This sense of loyalty can cause officers to lie for one another or look the other way when they see other police officers participating in deviant behaviour. Not staying loyal to your fellow police officers can cause them to see you as a ‘rat’ and someone not to be trusted. For this reason ‘whistle-blowing’ is not commonly seen. Whistle-blowing is the act of police officers reporting the misconduct of other police officers. Many officers do not come forward to report misconduct for the reasons that the consequences can include being shunned by fellow police officers, loss of friends and the chance that other officers will not give you the backup in times of trouble. The Blue Wall of Silence comprises of police officers sticking together by showing solidarity for fellow police officers followed by their loyalty and silence. These factors in the right situational environment promote police deviance and deviant behaviour. Many police officers do not report crimes or misconducts by other police officers because it challenges the traditions and brotherhood of the force. No one wants to be known as a rat or someone who cannot be trusted. For this reason many police officers look away which in itself is deviant behaviour.

Searching for the term ‘The Blue Wall of Silence’ on Google yielded close to four million results. The very first web page listed was a Wikipedia article. There were four web sites out of the ten dedicated to explaining what was meant by the Blue Wall of Silence. This included dictionary and reference type links. Surprisingly there were only two sites that originated from news media outlets and they were older articles from 2009 and 2000.  It was surprising because there has been a lot of news coverage lately regarding police brutality linked to police officers showing solidarity and their loyalty to one another by not telling the public what really happens. Specifically regarding the incident with Robert Dziekanski. Another interesting website that emerged from this search is a collaborative written site that targets police for their accountability, which is updated regularly. This website focuses on police deviance and shares stories and incidents of police misconduct. The overall themes from all these websites share a similar ideal on the wall of silence. The dictionary and reference sites are quite short, they simply term the blue wall of silence as a rule in the police force that police officers look out for one another and don’t ‘rat out’ one another. The Wikipedia page is quite detailed and discusses a lot of the history behind the term but bases all of its information around incidents occurring in the United States. As well there are only two newspaper articles on the first page of hits, which are extremely outdated. They do discuss police brutality and how it was covered up.

Most of the information on the first page of hits are websites written by regular people, including the Wikipedia page, the dictionary and reference pages and the collaborative anti-police page. There is not a lot of information written by legitimate news and media outlets. The ones that are present are seriously outdated and not up to date. As well there are no government reports or official commentaries by the police force themselves. This is not surprising considering police agencies do not admit that there is a problem in their police forces.

  1. Mike Larsen says:

    This is a great first post on the topic.

    You point to the prevalence of American sources and case studies. Perhaps you could do some further digging for your next post and provide your readers with some Canadian examples. The e-journal database ‘Canadian Newsstand’ will be of some use.

    What are the factors that contribute to police dishonesty and willingness to remain silent in the face of corruption? Are police officers more likely to maintain the blue wall of silence in certain circumstances?

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