Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXV, No. 514 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY June 30, 1999

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: East Orange color clash; out with the old; the right to bear arts; riding into the sunset.
By their own hands: Police suicide rate climbs, and agencies seek answers.
Trouble on the line: Problem-solving gives way to finger-pointing in NYC 911 snafus.
Not-so-petty cash: Memphis tightens use of undercover drug fund.
Do-it-yourself approach: Phoenix-area police tire of delays in rape exams.
In the lurch: High-tech company folds, leaving behind a high-tech mess for Louisiana PD.
At your fingertips Microchip puts DNA evidence analysis as close as your cruiser.
Forum: Police critics need the “blue wall of silence”; hats off to the Police Corps.
Federal File: A roundup of criminal justice developments at the Federal level.
Looking askance: For some jurisdictions, racial profiling is driving the police agenda.
Upcoming Events: Professional development opportunities.

Note to Readers:

The opinions expressed on the Forum page are those of the contributing writer or cartoonist, or of the original source newspaper, and do not represent an official position of Law Enforcement News.

Readers are invited to voice their opinions on topical issues, in the form of letters or full-length commentaries. Please send all materials to the editor.


Police critics need the ‘blue wall’

     With all due respect to former New York Police Commissioner William J. Bratton and his recent published comments regarding the Abner Louima brutality case, police officers are not individual bricks rigidly bound by the mortar of a police culture into a metaphorical “blue wall of silence.” Police officers do not take a special pledge to cover misdeeds, nor will they routinely commit perjury to protect outrageous police behaviors. Both the Mollen and Knapp commissions demonstrated that police officers will cooperate with any investigation legally conducted under the rule of law. When there is evidence of police misconduct, the elected and appointed officials who are responsible for the direction and regulation of the police force should not expect the accused officers to investigate themselves.
     Activists need the existence of a “blue wall of silence” as a convenient construct to conjure up the illusion that the police are out of control. This short phrase reaches into the emotions of the public to extract all the negative perceptions and stereotypes of the police. This catchy sound bite gives opportunists a chance to advance a personal agenda. The opinion tendered by former Commissioner Bratton was peppered with pejorative: “brutal assault”; “outside the norm”; “widespread corruption”; “pathological police criminals”; “utter disgrace to the police uniform.” The term “blue wall” implies that police officers condone despicable conduct. Bratton offers this prediction: The wall is cracking, weakening, and will fall...

Hats off to the Police Corps

     The Police Corps is an excellent vehicle for developing new officers and enhancing the skills of existing officers, and yet considerable confusion and frustration surrounds the program. While two professional organizations, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Association of Police Organizations, contend that Police Corps funds should be channeled directly toward the educational advancement of in-service officers, the fact is that it would serve law enforcement well to more diligently develop new officers with the hopes of achieving higher retention rates and better qualified police officers in our communities.
     The Justice Department, spurred by an act of Congress, developed the Police Corps to assist law enforcement agencies, especially smaller ones, in recruiting and retaining better trained and educated law enforcement officers. This is an excellent idea that should not be too difficult to accomplish. A facilitator is appointed for each state — usually through the governor’s office. This person then becomes responsible for administering the funds based on a set of prescribed criteria. Then there are the recruiting and selection processes, coupled with other administrative facets of facilitating the funds, which can become cumbersome. In addition to selecting candidates for the program, the program manager will also have to find host agencies for the qualified prospective recruits.