Accountability means holding someone or something responsible. In relation to law enforcement, we hear this word being thrown around quite often. Police accountability attempts to hold a police officer and/or a law enforcement agency as a whole, responsible for upholding justice and the law. In other words, this general concept attempts to hold officers responsible for their actions. Maurice Punch states that police corruption “relates centrally to abuse of office, of power and of trust and manifests itself in many ways but most frequently in consensual and exploitive relations with criminals, in discrimination against certain groups, in excessive violence and in infringements of the rule of law and due process.” (2009: 31).
The movie Training Day is a great representation of police deviance and accountability in popular culture. Denzel Washington is a veteran LAPD narcotics police detective, who trains rookie officer, Ethan Hawke over a course of 24 hours. Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) starts his first day of narcotics as he is mentored by Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington). The methods and tactics Alonzo used throughout the movie are extremely questionable in regards to police corruption and accountability. Alonzo has a history on the streets as being an enforcer, abusing suspects, not treating victims well, and not handling drugs and evidence in a responsible manner. The character of Alonzo Harris is portrayed as being an enforcer and as “running” the streets. At the beginning of the movie, officer Hoyt expresses that he will “do anything” to get the job. Hoyt is eager to get the position as he knows all the perks that come with it. In the beginning, the character of Officer Alonzo is explored. Alonzo lives with a girl and their son. Everyone in that neighborhood hates him because of his corruptive ways. Alonzo makes Hoyt smoke marijuana laced with PCP out of a pipe at an intersection. In this scene, Hoyt is hesitant at first but, Alonzo sways his mind and Hoyt is forced to smoke the pipe. Alonzo tells Hoyt, “you give me a year and I’ll give you a career.” Furthermore, Officer Hoyt learns that all the rules he learned from the police academy do not apply in Alonzo’s world and on the streets. In another scene, Hoyt tries to help a young girl who was about to be raped and tells Alonzo to stop the car. Alonzo did not want to stop however, Hoyt rushed to the girls rescue. Hoyt saves the girl and Alonzo shows up to deliver his own “street” justice. Alonzo uses excessive force and “lays” into them however; he lets them go because he cannot be bothered with the “small fish”. We learn how cops in Alonzo’s position carry out “street justice.” At one point, Alonzo stresses to Hoyt that “to protect the sheep, you need to kill the wolves and the only way to do that is to become a wolf.” They go to lunch with some of the most powerful officers in the LAPD known as the four horsemen. Here, Alonzo finds out he owes the Russian mob a million dollars otherwise they will take his life. Alonzo knowing that his friend, Glenn, has 4 million tucked away somewhere and he decides to rob him. With his unit, along with Hoyt, they go to Glenn’s house to seize to cash. This scene is crucial because there are number of police accountability issues relating to corruption. Alonzo’s unit killed Scott Glenn and then set it up to look like when they came into the house that Glenn fired on them and they fired back, killing him. Hoyt doesn’t want to follow through with the plan and causes a fight between the unit. It turns out that Alonzo had been planning it throughout the entire day. Hoyt won’t go through with it but Denzel reminds him that all the evidence points to it happening. Alonzo also reminded Hoyt about the PCP laced marijuana he had smoked earlier. Alonzo and his squad committed an armed robbery and murder. Hoyt realizes at this point that Alonzo has to be stopped as he is morally torn inside out. Hoyt is clearly distraught and hurt by what had transpired as his moral compass is all over the place. They both head out as Alonzo tells Hoyt he has to drop off a gift for a victim. He leads Hoyt into the house and then eventually disappears. It turns out; Alonzo had paid some people on the street to kill Hoyt. The guys at the house get Hoyt comfortable as they start playing cards and then it turns ugly. However, upon learning that Hoyt was the one that saved his cousin from getting raped earlier, they let him go. Hoyt then decides to bust and take in Alonzo. Hoyt confronts Alonzo in his neighborhood and the two face off. At the end of the movie, Hoyt has a gun pointing at Alonzo, Alonzo then offers to make whoever kills Hoyt “a very rich man.” It seemed that his neighborhood had enough of his antics and turned their back on him. Hoyt is allowed to leave and Alonzo eventually gets killed by the Russian mob.
In the morning all Officer Hoyt wanted to do was to put bad people behind bars however, by the end of the movie, he finds out what it takes to do that, it is too late. At one point in the movie, we learn that Alonzo was just like Hoyt when he first started. Wanting to lock up all the bad guys in prison and ridding the streets of all the filth. Alonzo started to use the dynamics of the dirty, street world against them.
Frank Serpico describes, “Ten percent of the cops in New York City are absolutely corrupt, 10 percent are absolutely honest, and the other 80 percent — they wish they were honest”
Writer, James Baldwin, describes the inner-city cop, “He is facing, daily and nightly, people who would gladly see him dead, and he knows it. He moves… like an occupying soldier in a bitterly hostile country, which is exactly what he is.”
Punch, M. (2009). Police corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Routledge.