Posts Tagged ‘blue wall of silence’

Police Deviance in Popular culture

19-2

Fictional representations of policing through Television (TV) programs and movies often portray police officers in an unrealistic manner. Unfortunately, many people (including myself) receive their information and knowledge about police through mass media (Reiner, 2010). This can be a cause for concern, as what is shown on TV or films, in regards to policing and police deviance are generally glamorized, or overly exemplified. The media’s image of policing does not depart from actual policing, but cannot be considered a mirror reflection either (Reiner, 2012).

Many police programs demonstrate rule- bending as an essential part of effective policing (Surette, 2007, as cited in Dirikx, Van den Bulck & Parmentier, 2012). The TV series “19-2” centers on two beat cops of the Montreal Police Department, Nick Barron played by Adrian Holmes and Ben Chartier played by Jared Keeso. This TV series provides many instances when police deviance and police misconduct occur and is normalized or not spoken of. Nick, a veteran cop gets partnered with a new transfer from a rural Quebec town (Ben) and from the very beginning Ben is introduced to the police culture at his new department. The police culture as Loftus, (2010) states are norms and values that shape officers everyday decisions and practices. We see many occasions where the actions of police officers are a result of the police culture. For example, every rookie must have an initiation and this series does not deviate from that cultural norm. Ben gets invited to the tavern which is the police pub and is offered his first drink (for free of course), and he takes it. While watching this I thought why he wouldn’t take the drink, had he refused he would have looked a fool.

The police culture is such that had Ben not taken the drink he would have been called on it, and would be considered more of an outsider than he already is. Within the first thirty minutes we see the sergeant tell Nick –who is irritated for being paired with a rookie – the “Commander shits on me, I shit on you…and you’ll have to go shit on the new guy” (Grou, 2014). The Sergeant then goes on to tell him that it’s just the way things work. This further elucidates the police culture in their precinct. Towards the end of the episode the Commanding Officer calls Ben into his office and instructs him to “cooperate” and give him cause to get his partner (Nick) fired. The Commander ends with “I think we have an understanding” (Grou, 2014). Ben was left with no choice as his patrol duty would be compromised and he would be given administrative work. However, when it came time to “rat out” on Nick –and there were many things Ben could have said, as Nick strays from the book –Ben refused to say anything responding with “he is my partner, there is a code” (Grou, 2014). The code Ben is implying would be what is referred to as the “Blue code of Silence”. This code is a key element in the police culture, as officers refrain from speaking about other officers and will lie to benefit their fellow officers. Accepting the code of silence and solidarity allows you to belong.19-2 (1) Ben did not deviate from the police culture norms as he kept his partner from getting fired, and as a result was given a desk job. During the second episode Ben catches one of the officers drinking on the job, and you can see the pained look on his face as he is struggling to uphold the blue wall, while also longing to say something. Ben has done this quite a few times already, where either he turns a blind eye or lies to save his partner, and this could lead to deviance is his career. He may be disturbed by what he is doing, however continuing to do so he will eventually become habituated (Punch, 2010).

As Punch, (2010) indicates there are many types of police officers and Nick portrays the “Dirty Harry”. He uses tough methods that are somewhat deviant which he deems appropriate to result in an arrest. He would use more violence when dealing with the public to get information, and it usually results in him finding the actual suspect. He would then explain to Ben that this is how it is done. Nick would rather deviate and get the job done doing whatever it took rather than let a criminal walk free. Ben on the other hand is what Punch, (2010) refers to as a “Professional”. He would not allow for procedure to be unlawfully enacted, and he works by the book. He considers his job very important, and relies on good, honest policing. Many other types of officers are also illustrated in the TV series. We see “crusaders” these officers are usually on the hunt for criminals and are obsessed with crime fighting; there are other officers who would be classified as Dirty Harrys’ as well. Lastly we also see a “Cowboy”. This officer is usually highly aggressive and would have issues with authority. The officer in the show picks on Ben and insults him through “jokes”. Punch, (2010) also discusses three levels of deviance, and many of the officers would also be classified as Grass eaters. Grass Eaters typically don’t look for trouble, or ways to deviate, but if something comes there way they are open to accept. For example, the officers all accept free meals and drink at their police pub. The officers accept the drinks, otherwise they would be considered deviant had they chosen not to participate.

Throughout the episode we see many forms of deviance and how it is either thought to be normal, or you turn a blind eye. In this series we also get to see what Van Maanen, (2005) refers to as “the asshole”. maxresdefaultVan Maanen, (2005) classifies citizens three ways: suspicious persons, know nothings and the asshole. The officers encounter daily interactions with the asshole. These people have no respect for them nor do they care for what they stand for. As a result, Nick may use excessive force towards these people and possibly jeopardize his career. They also encounter the know nothings, who nod their heads, and make their way, and the suspicious persons (mostly the troubled teenagers). Nick is able to justify his actions towards these people, because they are assholes. The lack of respect can allow an officer to perform “street justice” and rough up the individual they are dealing with (Van Maanen, 2005).

The representation of deviance in this police series is seen as normal, and will continue to be the norm, unless someone challenges it. However, it seems quite unlikely anyone will. Most of the officers are comfortable with the way things are and will not be susceptible to change. This media representation of the police department wasn’t as bad as many of the other police shows I have seen. They usually tend to glamorize and commend acts of violence to get the job done. 19-2 was raw and real, but of course being a TV series there will be many depictions of the police that are incorrect. The image this TV series provides is that police are generally accepted in the society and the public do respect them. Being a televised show they add a lot more high speed chases and crime fighting scenes than normal, and that contributes to a wrong view of what policing actually is. It makes the job seem like an action packed video game, when in reality most of policing isn’t fighting crime, but dealing with average problems that occur to citizens. It is important to note that while watching TV shows and movies about policing the media tend to over exaggerate and dramatize the whole thing. If we continue to receive our knowledge of policing through these fictional representations of action packed, crime fighting heroes, then everyone will want to be a cop. That being said policing is a dangerous job and they do portray the danger (just in a more glamorous way of course!)

19-2_Ep 6.23_Day 44_053.YanTurcotte.jpeg

References

Dirikx, A., Van den Bulck, J., & Parmentier, S. (2012). The Police as Societal Moral Agents:   “Procedural Justice” and the Analysis of Police Fiction. Journal Of Broadcasting & Electronic Media56(1), 38-54.                       doi:10.1080/08838151.2011.651187

Grou, D (Director). (2014). 19-2 [Television series]. New York City: Bravo.

Loftus, B. (2010). Police occupational culture: classic themes, altered times. Policing and Society, 20(1), 1–20. doi:10.1080/10439460903281547

Punch, M. (2009). What is Corruption? In Police Corruption: Deviance, Accountability and Reform in Policing (pp. 18-52). Portland: Willan Pub. [Coursepack]

Reiner, R. (2010). Mystifying the Police: The Media Presentation of Policing. In R. Reiner, The Politics of the police (Fourth, pp. 177-202). London: Oxford University Press

Van Maanen, J. (2005). The Asshole. In T. Newburn (Ed.), Policing: Key Readings (pp.280-296) Portland: Willan Pub [Coursepack]

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I had always shied away from criticising the police because I erroneously believed that anyone who criticizes the police is against policing. Anytime someone showed me advance of wide- spread corruption, I ‘closed my eyes.’ I honestly believed that anytime a police officer is caught for his/her deviant behaviour only that particular police officer is at fault; not the entire police subculture. Even though I am not ready to completely shun the “rotten apples” theory, I have started to ‘open my eyes.’ I have found an umpteen amount of evidence that shows police subculture ‘breeds’ corruption. We, as a society, need to start asking ourselves tough questions about the ‘dark’ side of policing. Policing is a great profession; we must find ways to improve it.

On October 13, 2007, at 3:15pm Robert Dzienkanski arrived at Vancouver International Airport (YVR); his flight had been delayed by two hours. He had made plans to meet with his mother at the baggage claim. Sadly, that plan never came to fruition. Since Dzienkanski spoke no English, he needed help in filling out an umpteen amount of forms. After he had completed the formalities, his whereabouts remained unclear, however.  He was seen around the baggage carrousels at several points acting irrationally. Due to the language barrier Dziekanski was forced to wait in the immigration area for seven hours. When he decided to leave, he was re-directed to secondary immigration because his visa had not been approved. After spending some time in the secondary immigration area, he became visibly agitated and distraught. The staff was unable to calm him down due to the language barrier; the RCMP was called to the scene soon after. Four RCMP officers arrived shortly thereafter and took charge of the scene. The police officers tried to communicate with Dzienkanski in a foreign language, he could not understand.  The officers had only been on scene for 25 seconds, when, the supervisor, Corporal Benjamin Robinson ordered the use of the Taser. The RCMP alleged that the Taser was deployed because Dzienkanski tried to attack one of the officers with a stapler; Dzienkanski was Tasered five times, and fell to the ground. Shortly thereafter, he began to convulse on the ground. At no time did the officers render first-aid or call Emergency Health Services (EHS). Finally, when EHS arrived on scene 15 minutes later, Dzienkanski was pronounced dead on arrival. The RCMP claimed proper protocol had been followed, however. A video shot by one of the witnesses poked holes into the RCMP’s theory; much to the RCMPs disapproval. This video was only released after a court order. It was this video that captivated the entire nation against the use of police brutality.

After his death, the RCMP was adamant that their officers had followed protocol. It was only after the video of the incident was released the public saw what had really happened; unknowingly, this video ‘opened the door’ to a host of RCMP’s problem. This video was the main catalyst behind the Braidwood Inquiry; this public inquiry was set-up to investigate what happened that unfaithful day.

To this day some people argue that the police should be able to ‘bend’ or manipulate the law because they have “hard” job. The premise of this statement is fundamentally wrong in our society; no-one is above the law. Even though Dzienkanski’s death was clearly a criminal act perpetuated by the police officers, none of them were charged; even after intense public uproar, nothing happened. This lead to a fundamental debate in our society: should the police investigate themselves? Some emphatically support this notion because they feel police are ‘upholders’ of the law and will be objective to their findings. However, I feel this is ideology is flawed for three reasons: there is often a conflict with the official paradigm and operational paradigm, “blue wall” of silence inhabits objectivity, and often times it is a systemic institutional failure.

“[O]fficial paradigm is shaped to bolster institutional values, whereas the operational code espouses how things ‘really get done” (Maurice Punch 2009: 3). This situation is a classic example of this conflict. Immediately after the incident the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Team (IHIT) deliberately released information that would have shown their officers in a favourable light (Braidwood 2010: 41). When the officers were asked by the Braidwood Inquiry to give their version of events, the four RCMP officers stated that “they felt threatened.” The officers also claimed that Dzienkanski became “aggressive and moved towards [them].” However, after looking at the video anyone can tell that this was a lie. As a result, the officers were eventually charged with perjury. This lie was in direct violation of their institutional core values. Most RCMP officers still believe that the officers involved in Dziekanski’s death did the right thing under the circumstances because Dziekanski did not follow the officer’s orders. In my opinion, it is well-known that police officers are usually taught by the ‘book’ in the police academy, and when the recruit comes in contact with a field trainer, he is taught to ‘throw-out’ whatever he learned in the academy. When an officer is on the job, he is usually taught be his peers that if anyone challenges his authority he better put the ‘perp’ in his place; this is more commonly known as “contempt of cop” . As much as police officers would like to think “contempt of cop” is a crime, the reality is that it is not; the courts have been firmly against this notion, as well. For example, a recent court decision by an Ontario Court found that “it is not against the law to be rude to an officer”. The disparities between the official paradigm and operational paradigms need to be looked at, if we, as a society, are to move forward in the 21st century.

The public has often debated whether the “blue wall” of silence inhibits objectivity? In my opinion, the “blue wall” does hamper objectivity; in fact, this holds police agencies together (Punch 2009: 37). Entire police culture is based on this notion. Any officer that breaks this rule is dealt with severely. For example, when a NYPD officer, Serpico, spoke out against the wide spread corruption within his organization, he was vilified by his colleagues. Even when officers are take part in criminal activities, no-one says anything. For example, the four officers caught on tape Tasering Dzienkanski for no reason were never charged. Not a single officer came forward to testify against the officers involved; these officers Tasered another human being with 50,000 volts of electricity and were never charged. The RCMP was keen to argue that Tasers do not kill. However, the Braidwood Inquiry found that Tasers do kill people; the courts concurred. The company that manufactures these Tasers, Taser International, stated that Tasers are safer than high school sports. The only reason these officers were caught because we live in new era of ‘visible policing.’ “Video capture of images for mass dissemination, repeat viewing and popular debate enables mass mobilization of affect and discussion…” (Andrew Smith Goldsmith 2010: 925).

Some people erroneously believe that it is always a few ‘rouge’ officers that are to blame; just like me. After doing some extensive research, I have found that this statement holds no merit. History has repeatedly shown that the entire institution is usually to blame. For example, when Ian Tomlinson was killed in the 2009 G20 riots in the UK, the police stated that Tomlinson was to blame for his own death. The police had stated that he died due to a sudden heart attack, however. After several post-mortems, the police’s theory on how he died was shown to misleading. The report concluded that Ian Tomlinson died because of “blunt force trauma.” There was public outcry once a video of the incident had been released. Evidence has shown that once a police officer becomes part of a police organization, his views start to transform into the institutions ‘views;’ no-one comes into policing with a deviant mind, it is over time that his views start to shift. For example, a newly sworn police officer will do everything by the ‘book’ at the start of his career. However, as his/her career progresses temptation and peer pressure will usually lead him/her towards deviancy. This is more commonly known as “inclusion.” Once an officer goes down this road the pathway towards a deviant career becomes easier and easier (slippery slope). Therefore, it is ‘ill-advised’ to blame individuals for their deviant behaviours; it is the entire system that is corrupt.

The Dzienkanski incident was a PR ‘nightmare’ for the RCMP; they failed miserably in trying to fix their ‘broken’ system. The RCMP even took the Braidwood Inquiry to court saying that had to right in “issuing findings of misconduct” because the provincial inquiry was outside its jurisdiction. However, the court ruled against the RCMPs favour. Under the RCMP Act a provincial government does not have any powers when it comes to holding the RCMP accountable; any disciplinary actions against the RCMP must come from Ottawa. Even though a new twenty year agreement has been signed with the B.C. government, this was one of the main reasons why province wanted the RCMP out.

The Dziekanski incident was just the ‘tip of the Iceberg’ for the RCMPs problems. Just recently, an undercover RCMP officer in Kelowna was caught on video kicking a suspect in the face while he was in the process of surrendering. Also, a female RCMP member stated that she had been sexually harrassed by her superiors. With a new RCMP Commissioner getting sworn-in on the basis of “accountability,” the force needs to ‘look’ seriously at the issues at hand. The RCMP has tried a civilian as its commissioner. I think it is time for the RCMP to try a civilian investigatory body other than the . This is the only way the RCMP will gain back the public trust which they have lost over last ten years.

REFERENCES:

Punch,  M. (2009). Police corruption. Portland, Oregan: Willan Publishing.

Goldsmith, A. J. (2010). Policing’s new visibility. British Journal of Criminology, 50, 914-934.

In recent years, many media reports and public movements have criticized the practice of police organizations investigating their own colleagues in cases of alleged misconducts or corruption. Police misconduct and deviance is a serious matter seen in Canada and across the world. With misconduct and deviance existing in policing, many argue the notion of police investigating police is not trustworthy and legit.

A number of high-priority cases and media reports, throughout 2004 to 2007, caught the attention of Commission for Public Complaints against RCMP organization and they believed these cases indicate the police investigating police approach is ineffective and subject to bias. The notion of police force seriously investigating their own colleagues is often a deception because, in reality no police officer would want to investigate and challenge their fellow colleague’s decision of breaching the; thus lies the problem.

Without taking proper investigative practices against it, public trust in policing and image of policing are at risk. Once public loses confidence in the police force, the public will no longer depend on police force anymore and soon take matters into their own hands. To them, they may think that since the police forces aren’t accountable to their own actions, why should they? As a result, many vigilantes may form and commit crimes. This topic is significant because it involves the police organization, the victims and public.

After spending significant amount of time in researching for a resolution, it is agreed by the public that police investigating police obviously don’t work well. Moreover, it has come to the attention that a separate investigative unit or a civilian oversight, with no relation to the police organization itself, be created to conduct investigations of alleged police officers involved in misconduct or corruption.

In the book, “Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing,” written by Maurice Punch, the practice of “policing is accountability” (Punch, 2009, p.2). He states that the ideas of policing are suppose to be impartial and trustworthy. Since police organizations are given the authority to maintain peace, each and every decision police individuals make, it must be fair and accountable. When a police member has crossed the line, he or she shall be deemed responsible for their actions; in order to maintain the idea of police accountability.

Corruption is in every level of organization; whether if it is “low policing” or “high policing”, corruption is present. Essentially, the notion of corruption is involved with the abuse of official power and breach of trust. With the powers given to the police force to maintain peace, police individuals who abuse their authorities to commit deviance acts for personal gains has committed in police corruption.

In the book Punch argues deviance exists in the nature of police organization, police work and culture. He furthermore elaborates the level of deviance using the apple metaphor. He describes the individual level of deviance as “bad apples” and the institutional level as “rotten orchards” (Punch, 2009). Consequently since corruption is a universal characteristic of policing, it is logical to conclude that corruption does not simply involve “bad apples,” but in institutional deviance or “rotten orchards”.

Police subculture, inside the police organization, is what shapes the “informal code;” a guide that governs police behaviours. Police subculture consists of shared norms, values, and beliefs that police individuals follow. As Punch stated (2009) “take culture to refer to norms, values, and practices tied to ‘the way we do things around here’” (p.36). Within the subculture, elements like rule of silence, solidarity, dichotomous thinking, cynicism, suspicion, etc will make it difficult to investigate corruption within police organization.

To start off, solidarity in the police subculture refers to loyalty that each police individuals have for each other, where officers will always back up partners and take action quickly when other officers are in trouble. An element that separates citizens and police officers is cynicism in the police culture. It regards non-police individuals as potentially 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 regarding another fellow member of the police force. This element is really special because police officers follow this culture to lie in order not to expose the secrets of another police officer, even if the secret revolves a serious violation of the law.

Police individuals who follow the police subculture will choose loyalty over integrity; choose brotherhood over the correct thing to do. With this police subculture existing in the police force, it is extremely difficult to gather Intel regarding police corruption. If that is the case, police investigating police is incomputable and unaccountable. If no member of the police force is willing to snitch on their colleagues, then it is safe to conclude that no member of the force conduct a proper impartial investigation challenging their own colleagues’ decisions.

The characteristic trait of dishonesty is noticeable in police individuals. As stated by Goldschmidt and Anonymous (2008), “They [police officers] express firm belief that their extra-legal methods are necessary deterrent to criminal behaviour…” (p.113). A study, Goldschmidt and Anonymous referred to, explains police members, by the means of dishonesty, achieve the justified means by committing deviant acts such as falsifying evidence, perjury, etc. They believe this is the only way to ensure justice has been served and that bad people are locked up. This trait is very similar to the Noble Cause profile, where one believes that tough and devious methods are suitable to accomplish justice. Because of this trait of dishonesty, it is what blinds the police members’ view of impartial policing.

Police officers use techniques of neutralization to justify and rationalize their own moral guilt in order to furtherance their legal means of dishonesty. The use of dishonesty is for police officers to justify their wrongdoings of corruption for personal gains; whether they’re fabricating evidence or committing perjury, they can always have the excuse of violating for, “greater goods of public safety, organization pressures from management, or sub-cultural peer pressures” (Goldschmidt, Anonymous, 2008, p. 129). With this kind of dishonesty behaviour, it is extremely difficult to trust that police investigating police practices are accountable, impartial, and trustworthy.

Numerous attempts have been made by community groups to advocate the campaign of a civilian oversight, as mentioned in the beginning as a resolution, which will be in charge of the police complaint process. With this debate of a civilian oversight group, the public considers it beneficial to replace the practice of police investigating police. The public are aware of the flaws in practices of police investigating police as secretive, unreliable, biased, in other words –unaccountable. From this problem, many believe this civilian organization is necessary for legitimate means of policing. The public also consider this idea will benefit by having an environment where accountability, openness, and impartiality are served (Hryniewicz, 2011).

First, police investigating police practices are based on internal form of reviews. Hryniewicz (2011) stated that “previous research revealed that the lack of transparency evident within the internal handling of police complaints can be significant barrier to police legitimacy, accountability” (p.78). On the contrary, the civilian oversight will be a form of external and transparency review, “largely centred on issues of accountability and legitimacy” (Hryniewicz, 2011, p.77). Due to the lack of these fundamentals, the idea of civilian oversight is a perfect concept.

This organization contributes in a couple ways. Civilian oversight is centred on, “reaffirming the community, citizenship, and public security” (Hrynewicz 2011, p78); something the police duty lacks. In order to make this concept successful, the public’s participation is the crucial. The public can work within community agencies as a role of public policing by reviewing social control efforts of the police force. They can engage in civilian review procedures to evaluate possible cases of police misconduct and corruption.

The concept of allowing civilians to evaluate possible cases is a sound idea because civilians tend to be objective and view the situations in a different way compared to the police do. Another concept to this oversight notion also allows reaffirming citizenship and social values by having the right and privilege to critically question and influence cases. Because this organization will be run by civilians, information can be accessed by all level of citizens and consequently everyone is aware of the latest news of police misconducts.

Ideally, this civilian oversight will consist of community members and even former police officers. In my opinion, I think it is a good idea of including police officers because the whole point of having an independent and diverse unit is to have different point of views analyzing the cases. Therefore, having formal officers’ point of view are very helpful. However, I only agree that it is helpful; if and only if, the former officers were not involved with any deviant acts or participate in corruption in their duration of the force. If former officers, who are involved with this civilian oversight, were also involved with deviant acts or corruption during their time in the force their opinions would favour the scrutinized cop, for obvious reasons.

As I mentioned before, the police organization are secretive and protective, as a result not exposing certain information. Therefore, the civilian oversight unit cannot guarantee the proper access it needs to appropriately investigate misconduct. Perhaps a solution could be the independent unit consult a judge to issue an order for the police organization to surrender all relevant facts involving the cases.

After acknowledging the idea of the oversight model, one should consider the differences between the model and the police investigating police approach, in terms of process and conclusions. From here I draw your attention to an article posted on 1st of October 2010, from the website, “thepolicefile.ca” about a case involving an innocent man, brutally beaten by two civilian clothed officers.

On January of 2010, two civilian clothed officers responded to what appears to be domestic violence case. The officers arrived to the door of Yao Wei Wu and brutally beat him, causing serious injuries. It then appears a day later, that they arrived at the wrong door. The Vancouver police chief, Jim Chu, apologized to Mr. Wu. As a result, a complaint was filed by Mr. Wu. According to the article, the police were told to complete the investigation by July, but then were given numerous extensions from July to September to late October. As Mr. Wu’s lawyer stated, the only reason why this investigation is considerably prolonged is because the two accused were police officers. If the two parties were both civilian, the investigation would be completed within days.

This is a perfect example that defines why police investigating police approach is not going to be effective and accountable. According to lawyer Cameron Ward, the police are known for their tremendous delays of investigations of alleged police members, “inordinate delay is one of the hallmarks of police investigations of police…” (Sewell, 2010). In addition, this also correlates to how the public feels toward the quality of police work in Vancouver. Towards the end of the article, Cameron also noted that an independent body would have been effective in completing the investigation with results.

So far, there are other areas of the world with similar ideal of a civilian oversight, reviewing police complaints. In Nova Scotia, they have this investigative unit called Serious Incident Response Team (S.I.R.T). In Hong Kong, the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (I.C.A.C) goal is to exterminate corruption in numerous departments in government of Hong Kong, including law enforcement. The RCMP has an organization called the Commission for Public Complaints (CPC) which deals with RCMP complaints.

A recent article posted on, 7th of November of 2011, on the website called, thestar.com, describes Shirley Heafey working for the Calgary Police Commission and her assessment of this oversight body in Calgary that displays “progressive, transparent and accountable” (Steward, 2011) investigative practices, compared to the RCMP.

In the beginning when Heafey heard she was going to Calgary to handle the complaints from the public about the police, she expected the worst. The Calgary Police Commission is a group of civilians, appointed by the city council, to overlook the guidelines and operations of police members. Although the police investigates their own police misconduct investigations, Heafey’s job description consist of auditing police investigations of complaints (including excessive force) and can intervene at any point necessary. She “also attends monthly meetings, which consists of police superintendents who review complaints that have been investigated and makes recommendations to police chief about further action required” (Steward, 2011).

The article explains how Shirley was fairly impressed with the way things were run once she got there: superintendents would get back to her missed call and she had invites to their meeting and training sessions. Heafey continues on describing how in Calgary, she would have total access to files and databases. With the RCMP, she had to fight for the files that she needed to see. In Calgary, the police training in dealing with people with mental illness or some sort of health-care assistance is drastically contrasting to RCMP’s training, “According to Heafey, the RCMP’s training is ‘inadequate’ for the work they are expected to do” (Steward, 2011). Shirley also mentions the kind of openness found in Calgary, cannot be found inside RCMP; more importantly, RCMP’s culture is only to do what is necessary to protect their image.

The article also mentions that in Calgary, the public are inclined to speak up if they feel the public service is not up to par, they do not “put up with crap” (Steward, 2011) This kind of attitude is very contradicting from British Columbia, especially in city of Vancouver. In Vancouver, whenever the public has a complaint they are afraid of speaking up to the police service. They believe even if they take the initiative to present the troubling matter to the police, no progress will be made and they are only left with disappointment, just like how Mr. Wu was left disappointed for lengthened period. Thus, nowadays the public either complains quietly to each other or they take matters into their own hands, rather than going to the police. As a result, this illustrates the confidence the public has with their police services.

The reason behind bringing this article up is because it depicts how an oversight, that is independent to the police force, is a key concept that is proven to negate the traits of dishonesty and unaccountability of police investigating police practices. When this oversight becomes effective, it will definitely boost the confidence the public has with the police and more importantly, the image of the police force. I, including Heafey, would definitely recommend and support British Columbia to commence this idea of a civilian oversight body.

After explaining how effective this oversight body can be, in terms of the public’s side, it can also be beneficial from the police’s perspective. Presently, I am certain that the impression the public has of the police services, such as RCMP, is not where it should be. To be honest, the public of Vancouver is not satisfied with the quality of their work. With the whole concept of secrecy and solidarity, it does not help improve the image of the police force nor improve the quality of their work. Thus, with this oversight overseeing and supervising the investigations it will yield accountability, trust, and more importantly reliable results. Consequently, with good results and accountability, the public can regain their confidence with the police and rely on them once again.

Now after discussing the oversight body is a key concept, it is certainly difficult to immediately change and adapt. Therefore, I believe there should be a few steps to adjust the police service’s approach to this civilian oversight notion.

First of all, there will be no secrecy in the police force. Although civilians may not have access to the whole database, the civilian oversight bodies should definitely have all access to the database of the RCMP during investigations. The police force must surrender all files related to the investigations. In addition, every civilian should have the right to know the progress of their complaints, whether it is on its way, being reviewed, or rejected by the oversight department. If rejected, the civilian must be provided with a legitimate explanation, signed and approved by the head of the oversight department.

The police subculture is one of the essential elements that hold the police investigating police approach unaccountable. Therefore, I suggest modifying the police subculture by breaking the blue wall of silence. As explained above, the blue wall of silence is an unofficial code of conduct where police officers shall not blow the whistle on misconduct conducted by their fellow members. I understand that blue wall of silence is part of “doing policing,” however it must be broken to eliminate the secrecy idea. Perhaps, by breaking the blue wall of silence, we should encourage more whistle blowing from fellow members of the force and guarantee full protection and immunity.

References:

Goldschmidt, J., Anonymous. (2008). The Necessity of Dishonesty: Police deviance, ‘making the case,’ and the public good. Routledge 18. 2: 113-135.

Hryniewicz, D. (2011): Civilian oversight as a public good: democratic policing, civilian oversight, and the social, Contemporary Justice Review, 14:1, 77-83

Punch, M. (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. United Kingdom: Willan Publishing.

Sewell, J. (2010, October 1). Police investigating police in Vancouver. Retrieved from http://www.thepolicefile.ca/?paged=2

Steward, G. (2011, November 7). Steward: The very model of a modern police force. Thestar.com. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1082953–steward-the-very-model-of-a-modern-police-force#article

There are several variables that influence how the police – and specifically the RCMP – view complaints.  The major contributors are the dichotomy followed by police culture, the origins of the RCMP, their reputation and how the police deal with ‘rats’ internally.  The changes in a post-9/11 environment indicate a high-policing atmosphere.  In a perfect imagining the oversight and the compliant mechanisms are meant to be staffed by external police bodies.  Staffed by civilians who make recommendations to better policing practices and accountability for the agency.  But due to constraints of power and the fact that many such bodies are staffed by retired police officers this ideal is slow to realize.

There is distinct dichotomy between the public and the police.  The Us vs. Them argument has been used to explain the isolation and the divide felt between the public and the police.  The argument states that those outside of your social group are unable to relate to what your social group faces and/or experiences.  Some factors that may help with this are irregular hours, sometimes impossible demands, high stress and extremely dangerous situation.  This is reflective of Barker and Carter’s definition of police corruption, which is the “latent result of society’s attempt to execute unenforceable ‘victimless’ crime laws”  (46).  This has helped the police to foster negative mind set towards the oversight commissions and are intentionally subverted by the police; through intimidation, non-compliance, bias and questioning their message.  When a complaint is issued, the investigation that follows puts undue pressure towards the complainant by placing them on trial and “reprehensible tactics to discourage citizens from filing complaints against.” [Barker and Carter 378].  The complaints form of the RCMP is more interested in the complainant then the event.  This is reflective of the dichotomy argument.  Non-compliance is shown as an unwillingness to comply with summons from these committees and by not heeding or implementing their recommendations.  One consequence of the committees is their lack of power [Goldsmith and Lewis], although a few can make recommendations but the police agencies do not have to heed their advice.  Bias was evident in how the police did not give these committees credence because they were not on ‘the job’.  Also they have been frequently criticized for disregarding the interests of the complaints.  The police often question the message of the committees.  They claim that the community want someone to blame, scape-goats and fulfills the communities need for vengeance.  It is important to mention the Nolan principals which emphasizes trustworthiness and accountability but this example is applied across the pond in the UK [Punch 2009].

Critics have many theories as to the cause of police deviance.  One cause may be because of police [sub]culture, especially when use in concert with the dichotomy.  Police [sub]culture is known to be stable over geography and time.  Meaning that it is found elsewhere in the world at varying periods in time.  As a result of the dichotomy the police fully socialize only within their group.  Leaving them unable to socialize with those outside their group or even to be able to empathize with them.  As a result, when socializing with outsiders causes suspicion, by the nature of the this provides positive feedback on said suspicions.  This also feeds into the blue wall of silence that further helps to isolate peace officers from society, in that when they feel that society or others from outside their societal group have have unfairly judged them they effectively close ranks.  Presenting an unformed front both externally and internally.  Other peace officers sympathize and empathize with those involved.  Through this isolation many officers begin to feel and treat the non-police identity [encapsulating those who are not part of the police force].  This is shown in how they refer to using a highly masculine and sometimes racist vernacular that permeate and is pertuated by the police culture.  The police canteen culture also feeds into this.  John Van Maanen describes how those who do not yield the instructions from the police are viewed with hostility and labeled as an Asshole.

It appears that the commissions, inquires and other complaint mechanisms are like the police, reactive to crime.  As Punch states, the deviance is built into the system.  Even with complete clean out of deviant characters the deviance will still be learned by other recruit.  This means that there is some mechanism within the organization of policing that allows for this to grow.  The oversight and inquires are rendered null by their lack of power and by the police under the blue wall of silence protecting their officers from prosecutions.  This may be to protect their reputation or public image.  But as Barker and Carter quote from the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice: these oversight committees are symptomatic of a larger problem of the lack of public confidence.  Punch states that police are presented “with an inherent dilemma in relation to performing their task and enforcing the law in a context of rules, resources and laws that restrict them in some way” [2].

Sperico came forward to address the issue of his compatriots in “grass-eating” and  “meat-eating”.  This type of terminology came up at the Knapp Commission.  Grass-eating refers to a sporadic deviance, that does not actively engage in deviant behavior.  These opportunities can be receiving free or oppertunties  discounted food stuffs based on their occupation of an officer.  Where as meat-eaters were constantly involved within the criminal elements.  The types of deviance elaborated on in this commission where, the padding of evidence to either convict a desired suspect and/or to increase their sentence.  Because he went outside his ‘brothers in blue’ he was viewed as a traitor, one that could expose the deviant structure and place them all in jail.  This was particularly worrisome because police officers do not survive long in jail.  This is because of retaliation for other inmates and dominance/territorial disputes.  Also like any social code, there are rules to follow.  He broke the rules, an example had to be made to be shown to others who wanted to tell.  Sperico was left with no back-up when raiding a drug-dealer which resulted in a gun-shot wound to the face.  This incident is relevant because without confidence in the police who will follow their orders?  Who will come to them with problems or sensitive information?  As explored in the paragraph before, reputation is everything.  Without it the police are powerless.  With no merit in their symbols of their authority [squad car, uniform, issued commands, etc.] no one would heed their commands.

There seems to be a troubling occurrence that has been since the 9/11 occurrences.  Information sharing, joint operations across the nation, the Anti-Terrorism Act and high policing are just a few significant occurrences.  Information sharing although not outright adverse, in some practices it becomes draconian.  Maher Arar, for example, spent almost a year being tortured in Syria because of information provided to the US from the RCMP.  This type of sharing is manipulation of the system.  Project A-O is where Canada kept a list of names of whom they viewed where a security risk.  Surveillance was intensified around them.  For joint operations, there is the G20 which was the largest collaboration of security personnel.  It is difficult to ensure accountability because of so many participants.  Was it the RCMP, who were managing the security, when the Ontario Provincial Police actually did the commission of the crime?  After the US enacted the Patriate Act post-9/11 Canada mirrored it with the Anti-Terrorism Act with made terrorism criminal and within the realm of the police.  This act was mainly to placate the US and grant the RCMP more security powers, which where lost when CSIS was created.  The US is a major trading partner of Canada [Diab 2008].  High-policing is a form of policing [though not necessarily conducted by the police] in which the agenda of the government is carried out and the letter of the law is blurred.  For instance, Security Certificate.  This certificate allows the government to detain a ‘suspect’ without arrest or trial and ultimately deport them.  If the ‘suspect’ held refugee status, they could be deported back to their fled country where their lives would cease [Larsen, October 27, 2011, personal communication].

Essentially the accountability structure did not expand as the police powers did.  And any outside views is seen with distain and hostility with movements made hid evidence and particpation of other agencies or people within their own forces.  The RCMP has essentially operated as it has been since 1919.  Recovering their security responsibilities through the Anti-Terrorism Act.

References

Barker, Thomas and David Carter. (1996).  Police Deviance (3rd Ed.).  Anderson Publishing Co.: Cincinnati, Ohio.

Diab, Robert. (2008).  Guantanamo North: Terrorism and the Administration of Justice in Canada.  Fernwood Publishing: Black Point, Nova Scotia.

Goldsmith, Andrew and Colleen Lewis (Eds.)  (2000).  Civilian Oversight of Policing: Governance, Demovracy and Human Rights.  Hart Publishing: Oxford and Portland, Oregon.

Kappeler, Victor, Sluder, Richard and Geoffrey Alpert.  (1998).  Forces of Deviance: Understanding the Dark Side of Policing  (2nd Ed.).  Waveland Press, Inc.: Long Grove, Illinois.

Maanen, John Van.  (1978).  The Asshole.  Retrieved from  http://jthomasniu.org/class/Stuff/PDF/vanmanah.pdf. (Oct. 29, 2011).

Murphy, C. and McKenna, P.  (2007).  Rethinking police goverance, culture and management.  Ottawa: Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP, Public Safety Canada.

Payton, Laura and Alison Crawfor. (2011).  7 Issues facing the next RCMP Commissioner.  CBC news.  Retrevied from http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2011/10/27/pol-list-rcmp-issues-comissioner.html. (Oct 27, 2011).

Perrott, Stephen and E. Kelloway. (2011). Scandals, sagging morale and role ambiguity in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police: the end of a Canadian institution as we know it?.  Police Practice and Research, 12:2, 120-135.

Punch, Maurice. (2009).  Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing.  Willan Publishing: Portland, Oregon.

As mentioned from previous post, police misconduct and deviance is a serious matter seen across the world. With misconduct and deviance existing in policing, many argue the notion of police investigating police is not trustworthy. Without taking proper investigative practices against it, public trust in policing and image of policing are at risk.

In the book, “Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing,” written by Maurice Punch, the practice of “policing is accountability” (Punch, 2009, p.2). He states that the ideas of policing are suppose to be impartial and trustworthy. Since police organizations are given the authority to maintain peace, each and every decision police individuals make, it must be fair and accountable. When a police member has crossed the line, he or she shall be deemed responsible for their actions; in order to maintain the idea of police accountability. Corruption is in every level of organization; whether if it is “low policing” or “high policing”, corruption is present. Essentially, the notion of corruption is involved with the abuse of official power and breach of trust. With the powers given to the police force to maintain peace, police individuals who abuse their authorities to commit deviance acts for personal gains has committed in police corruption.

In the book Punch argues deviance exists in the nature of police organization, police work and culture. He furthermore elaborates the level of deviance using the apple metaphor. He describes the individual level of deviance as “bad apples” and the institutional level as “rotten orchards” (Punch, 2009). Consequently since corruption is a universal characteristic of policing, it is logical to conclude that corruption does not simply involve “bad apples,” but in institutional deviance or “rotten orchards”.

Police subculture, inside the police organization, is what shapes the “informal code;” a guide that governs police behaviours. Police subculture consists of shared norms, values, and beliefs that police individuals follow.  As Punch stated (2009) “take culture to refer to norms, values, and practices tied to ‘the way we do things around here’” (p.36). Within the subculture, elements like rule of silence, solidarity, dichotomous thinking, cynicism, suspicion, etc will make it difficult to investigate corruption within police organization.

First of all, solidarity in the police subculture refers to loyalty that each police individuals have for each other, where officers will always back up partners and take action quickly when other officers are in trouble. An element that separates citizens and police officers is cynicism in the police culture. It regards non-police individuals as potentially 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 regarding another fellow member of the police force. This element is really special because police officers follow this culture to lie in order not to expose the secrets of another police officer, even if the secret revolves a serious violation of the law.

Police individuals who follow the police subculture will choose loyalty over integrity; choose brotherhood over the correct thing to do. With this police subculture existing in the police force, it is extremely difficult to gather Intel regarding police corruption. If that is the case, police investigating police is incomputable and unaccountable. If no member of the police force is willing to snitch on their colleagues, then it is safe to conclude that no member of the force conduct a proper impartial investigation challenging their own colleagues’ decisions.

The characteristic trait of dishonesty is noticeable in police individuals. As stated by Goldschmidt and Anonymous (2008), “They [police officers] express firm belief that their extra-legal methods are necessary deterrent to criminal behaviour…” (p.113). A study, Goldschmidt and Anonymous referred to, explains police members, by the means of dishonesty, achieve the justified means by committing deviant acts such as falsifying evidence, perjury, etc. They believe this is the only way to ensure justice has been served and that bad people are locked up. This trait is very similar to the Noble Cause profile, where one believes that tough and devious methods are suitable to accomplish justice. Because of this trait of dishonesty, it is what blinds the police members’ view of impartial policing.

Police officers use techniques of neutralization to justify and rationalize their own moral guilt in order to furtherance their legal means of dishonesty. The use of dishonesty is for police officers to justify their wrongdoings of corruption for personal gains; whether they’re fabricating evidence or committing perjury, they can always have the excuse of violating for, “greater goods of public safety, organization pressures from management, or sub-cultural peer pressures” (Goldschmidt, Anonymous, 2008, p. 129). With this kind of dishonesty behaviour, it is extremely difficult to trust that police investigating police practices are accountable, impartial, and trustworthy.

Numerous attempts have been made by community groups to advocate the campaign of a civilian oversight, which will be in charge of the police complaint process. With this debate of a civilian oversight group, the public considers it beneficial to replace the practice of police investigating police. The public are aware of the flaws in practices of police investigating police as secretive, unreliable, biased, in other words –unaccountable.  From this problem, many believe this civilian organization is necessary for legitimate means of policing. The public also consider this idea will benefit by having an environment where accountability, openness, and impartiality are served (Hryniewicz, 2011).

First of all, police investigating police practices are based on internal form of reviews. Hryniewicz (2011) stated that “previous research revealed that the lack of transparency evident within the internal handling of police complaints can be significant barrier to police legitimacy, accountability” (p.78). On the contrary, the civilian oversight will be a form of external and transparency review, “largely centred on issues of accountability and legitimacy” (Hryniewicz, 2011, p.77). Due to the lack of these fundamentals, the idea of civilian oversight is a perfect concept.

This organization contributes in a couple ways. Civilian oversight is centred on, “reaffirming the community, citizenship, and public security” (Hrynewicz 2011, p78); something the police duty lacks. In order to make this concept successful, the public’s participation is the crucial. The public can work within community agencies as a role of public policing by reviewing social control efforts of the police force. They can engage in civilian review procedures to evaluate possible cases of police misconduct and corruption. The concept of allowing civilians to evaluate possible cases is a sound idea because civilians tend to be objective and view the situations in a different way compared to the police do. Civilian oversight also allows reaffirming citizenship and social values by having the right and privilege to critically question and influence cases. Because this organization will be run by civilians, information can be accessed by all level of citizens and consequently everyone is aware of the latest news of police misconducts. As I mentioned before, the police organization are secretive and protective, as a result not exposing certain information. Therefore, the civilian oversight unit cannot guarantee the proper access it needs to appropriately investigate misconduct. Perhaps a solution could be the independent unit consult a judge to issue an order for the police organization to surrender all relevant facts involving the cases.

So far, there are other areas of the world with similar ideal of a civilian oversight, reviewing police complaints. In Nova Scotia, they have this investigative unit called Serious Incident Response Team (S.I.R.T). In Hong Kong, the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (I.C.A.C) goal is to exterminate corruption in numerous departments in government of Hong Kong, including law enforcement. The RCMP has an organization called the Commission for Public Complaints (CPC) which deals with RCMP complaints.

Ideally, this civilian oversight will consist of community members and even former police officers. In my opinion, I think it is a good idea of including police officers because the whole point of having an independent and diverse unit is to have different point of views analyzing the cases. Therefore, having formal officers’ point of view are very helpful. However, I only agree that it is helpful; if and only if, the former officers were not involved with any deviant acts or participate in corruption in their duration of the force. If former officers, who are involved with this civilian oversight, were also involved with deviant acts or corruption during their time in the force their opinions would favour the scrutinized cop, for obvious reasons.

With this much influence on public policing, the community holds a sense of security and by making a difference, the community has a sense of fulfillment. When community become involved with participating in such experience, it “enhances police credibility, accountability, and ultimately, public confidence in police services” (Hrynewicz 2011, p.78).

References:

Goldschmidt, J., Anonymous. (2008). The Necessity of Dishonesty: Police deviance, ‘making the case,’ and the public good. Routledge 18. 2: 113-135.

Hryniewicz, D. (2011): Civilian oversight as a public good: democratic policing, civilian oversight, and the social, Contemporary Justice Review, 14:1, 77-83

Punch, M. (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. United Kingdom: Willan Publishing.