Police deviance and accountability in popular culture is usually glorified. They are extremely exaggerated examples of police wrongdoing and corruption. A typical television show or movie portrays a corrupt police department with one officer, usually the main character, depicted as the “good guy” who stays away from deviant behaviours and also tries to stop corruption. One such film is Pride and Glory. Ray Tierney is a detective with the NYPD and a cop in a family of cops. His father, Francis Sr. is the assistant chief, the Commanding Officer of the precinct is Francis Jr. also known as Franny, is his brother. His brother in-law, Jimmy, is also part of the same precinct as an officer. Jimmy is the leader of a corrupt gang of NYPD officers. During a drug bust raid, four officers of Franny’s precinct are killed in a firefight while looking for a drug dealer named Angel Tezo. Ray’s father pressures Ray to lead the task-force that will investigate this incident and he accepts, despite being haunted by a prior unrelated incident where he was forced to protect a bad cop by internal departmental authorities. Ray gets a lead on a getaway cab from an eye-witness, however, Jimmy beats him to it and burn all evidence surrounding it, including the car. Several scenes later, Franny confronts Jimmy about some of his illegal dealings and Jimmy reassures him that he would not face the consequences himself.
Meanwhile, Ray finds another lead from Tezo’s girlfriend who tells him that Tezo was informed of the raid by a police officer named Sandy. Consequently, Ray approaches his brother Franny to ask him if there are any officers in his precinct by that name, but Franny says no in an attempt to protect his men. At the same time, Franny confronts Sandy and he admits to tipping off Tezo of the raid because of a childhood friendship, thinking Tezo would simply flee, instead of engaging the police in a firefight. Franny orders Sandy to turn in his badge and gun.
The drug dealer who is paying Jimmy to kill Tezo shows up to his house. He presses Jimmy to kill Tezo otherwise he threatens to kill him and his family. Now, facing pressure, Jimmy and the other corrupt officers rush to find Tezo. They bust into Tezo’s cousins house, beat him and threaten his family. After threatening to burn his baby son with an iron, Tezo’s cousin tells Jimmy of his whereabouts.
Ray also learns of Tezo’s location and calls for back-up. However, he enters the apartment building by himself after hearing gun shots. When he arrives to Tezo’s room, he finds Jimmy and his officers torturing Tezo to death. Jimmy takes Ray’s gun and kills Tezo with it and tells Ray he can be the hero that caught the cop killer. Ray is outraged and attacks Jimmy, but quickly realizes it was his gun that killed Tezo. Ray tells Franny of Jimmy’s corruption, however, Franny is hesitant to ask and risk his position.
Upon hearing of Tezo’s death, Sandy calls a news reporting agency to expose the corruption of the NYPD. After his confession, Sandy kills himself and the authorities blame him for the death of the four officers earlier in the movie. Concurrently, Francis Jr. meets with Jimmy, who is surprised that Franny is angry with him. Franny then admits that he gave his officers the flexibility to make some extra money and tells Jimmy he will not allow him to frame Ray for Tezo’s murder. Then Jimmy offers Franny his cut, but he refuses and leaves.
At this stage, Internal Affairs is questioning Ray about the Tezo incident. Ray tells them everything except for the fact that Jimmy killed Tezo, instead he says he did not kill Tezo and walks out of the interview room. However, when it is Jimmy’s turn for questioning he and his crew of corrupt officers all say that Ray shot Tezo point blank. Francis Sr. shows both Franny and Ray the tape of Jimmy’s interview and they are furious.
The movie concludes with a dramatic scene commenced by two of Jimmy’s corrupt cops. These two attempt to rob a convenience store but fail because the owner shoots and kills one of the cops and also a bystander was hit and killed in the cross fire. Meanwhile, police cordon off the store with one cop holding the owner hostage and local gangsters beginning to riot. Franny responds to the scene and gets his officer out of the store alive, while the crowd is getting uncontrollable, being led by Tezo’s cousin, who announces what Jimmy did to him and his family. Nearby, Ray confronts Jimmy at a bar and the two fight, until Ray wins and handcuffs Jimmy taking his badge and gun in the process. Ray is walking Jimmy to his car when the angry mob, including Tezo’s cousin, show up and demand vigilante justice. Ray tries to stop the mob but a few hold him back while the rest beat Jimmy to death. The final scene depicts Ray, Francis Jr., and Francis Sr. about to give testimony in court.
Pride and Glory portrays police deviance just as any other popular culture media. Police officers from the NYPD are shown destroying evidence, robbing, extorting, threatening, assaulting, and of course murdering. Most of the NYPD in Pride and Glory are portrayed as meat-eaters (Punch 2009). Meat-eaters are defined as those who actively seek out opportunities to use their power for monetary benefit (Punch 2009). Jimmy and his crew of corrupt officers could be classified as meat eaters under the Knapp Commission typology because they were seen robbing stores, threatening civilians, destroying evidence, and murder for monetary gain. However, Ray can be seen as a Bird because he “avoids deviant practices” (Punch 2009). “The birds just fly up high. They don’t eat anything either because they are honest or because they don’t have any good opportunities” (Punch 2009). Francis Jr. is depicted as a grass-eater because he knew about Jimmy’s corruption and allowed it, even though he may not have accepted any kickbacks or money.
Under Roebuck and Barker’s classification of activities, the police officers in Pride and Glory fall into at least one ordering. All of the bad officers abuse their authority to receive incentives (Roebuck and Barker 1974). By burning the getaway cab, which was considered evidence, they compromised a criminal investigation. This is called “the fix” (Roebuck and Barker 1974). Furthermore, when Jimmy offered Franny his cut of the deal, it could be labelled as “internal payoffs” for favourable treatment. Jimmy and his corrupt officers also gave “protection of illegal activities” to drug dealers and engaged in “direct criminal activities” (Roebuck and Barker 1974).
All things considered, police deviance in popular culture is exaggerated for viewership and sensationalizing. As a civilian I did not know that police in western culture engaged in “grass-eating” and corruption before criminology 2355. However, I do not believe corruption to this magnitude is rampant. It may be limited to a few officers of a department but not all. At the same time, the level of deviance in certain departments like the NYPD is shocking. To a certain degree, popular culture may be giving an accurate picture of the types of corruption in police departments. When Ray tells his father about his findings pertaining to the four officers killed in the line of duty, his father tells him “anything that makes cops look culpable is no good” (New Line Cinema 2008).
- Pride and Glory. Directed by Gavin O’Connor. Performed by New Line Cinema.
Punch, M. 2009. “Police corruption: deviance, accountability and reform in policing.” What is corruption? 18-52.
Roebuck, J.B., and T Barker. 1974. “Social problems.” A typology of police corruption 423-437.