Bad Cops, Justice, and Accountability 

Why would a police force embrace the idea of the blue wall of silence that seems to permeate America’s police forces?  Why would any public servant charged with protecting the public not report on a colleague’s misconducts, crimes, and/or brutality? Why would you deliberately lie to protect someone who did something wrong?  It does not make sense.

To be clear, an overwhelming majority of America’s policemen and policewomen are conscientious, professional public servants who take their responsibility of protecting citizens seriously and do it well.  They quietly go about their job with little drama or issues.

But we do have bad cops, perhaps more than we want to admit. They are the ones who use and abuse the authority and responsibility entrusted to them.  The logical question is “why are these folks still in law enforcement and why haven’t they been weeded out?”  Fair question and the answers I found are discouraging

Bad cops have been blamed for a lot but bad cops are only a part of the problem.  It is the entire justice system that needs repair.

Is justice equal?

Equal Justice Under Law.” Those are the words inscribed on the front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. These words come from the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

I want to believe in what the words say. Unfortunately, reality does not always live up to the intent of the words.  No, we do not have equal justice under the law in America…we may want to think we do but we do not. Current events bear this out.

Taking it a step further, all Americans do not have equal access to justice either…so what is new?  We see it every day in the news…the rich and powerful essentially skate…the rest of us pay the dues and move on.

Professor Jenny-Brooke Condon, a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law in its Center for Social Justice wrote:

If economic status or other disadvantage presents a barrier to fair treatment in a fair system of justice, then equal justice under the law is meaningless…it is simply an unfulfilled promise. Across numerous domains, both civil and criminal, how much money a person has powerfully determines their ability to defend their civil rights and liberty.

Equal justice under the law also means equal treatment under the law, which for me means equal treatment by police, prosecutors, and judges.  No, all Americans do not have equal treatment under the law.

Why does this keep happening?

So why is that?  What makes a police officer think he can get away with being the judge, jury, and executioner of an American minority citizen or for that matter, any American citizen?

Why do Police Unions and Arbitrators Keep abusive Cops on the street and tolerate and protect bad cop behavior?  The idea of “protecting your own” is bad policy and bad leadership and the reality is that it is prevalent throughout the police community.   The consequence of that policy is that “bad” cops continue to be a part of the force.

An Oakland cop shot and killed an unarmed man in 2007. He got his job back. Seven months later, after he killed another man by shooting him three times in the back, he got his job back a second time.   In both cases, the local police union intervened in Jimenez’ favor.

In another case, Oakland police officer, Robert Roche, was present at the 2011 Occupy protest where Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, a protester, was shot in the head with a lead-filled beanbag, fracturing his skull and causing brain damage. After Olsen collapsed onto the asphalt, a group of fellow protesters quickly gathered around to help the wounded man. That is when Roche tossed a flash grenade in their midst. Roche was fired after being identified as the perpetrator, but appealed with the help of his union and was reinstated

Protection comes from many sources

Unions are complicit.  But why are District Attorney’s willing to “overlook” police misconduct regardless of the validity of the evidence. Why is not seen that the close collaboration between police and prosecutors can impede justice reform if the lines between these two critical players in the system become blurred

None of this is new stuff…it has been going on forever.  The failure of our justice system is self-perpetuating, we never learn from past mistakes. We continue to do the same things over and over again…it is insanity as defined by Einstein “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” or, maybe, it’s doing the same thing over and over again and wanting the same results.

There are a lot of folks in America who will say “it’s just a bad apple or two”, that we have a fair justice system, and all this will blow away.  True, the press and folks will move on from this, but the problem is never solved and that is the problem.

Folks look at the fairness of our justice system through rose-tinted glasses and do not see that there are systemic problems with it.  All Americans are not equal under the law, all Americans do not have equal justice under the law and all Americans do not have equal access to justice under the law. Until we fix the systemic problems and hold those folks who are responsible for ensuring our justice system, from the top to the bottom, is equal for all citizens, we will continue to have more Minneapolis’s and more riots and more disfunction in America.

I wish I could access a magic app and come up with answers to all these issues, however, there is no magic that can fix this…the answer must come from us, and if change is to occur, it is us who must make it happen.


Joe Anderson
Joe Anderson
JOE is a partner at Anderson Performance Partners LLC , a certified woman/veteran-owned business, working with organizations to facilitate problem solving through workforce energy and innovation. He is a retired Marine Officer and a seasoned senior business executive with more than 30 years leadership experience as a senior business executive in several Fortune 500 companies and as a business owner.

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  1. The application of the law is tempered (or rather altered) by human factors that alter its rigor, creating legal uncertainty. In human variability it is necessary to insert the state (at that moment, even in that geographic place), the mood, the preparation, the experience of a magistrate / lawyer / public official called at that moment to decide the fate of a “cause ”Submit them. Depending on how these parameters change, the outcome can be of a certain type or diametrically the opposite. To such an extent that perhaps it is necessary to say how fate plays a sometimes even decisive role.
    So we could conclude by asserting that the law is (almost always) the same for everyone, but certainly not everyone is the same. And it is good to know this in advance.

  2. Joe, first, I want to thank you for your service as a Veteran who served his country. Why? I’d like to think you had strong patriotic desire to keep freedom flowing in our country. There is no sane reason for what happened to George Floyd. Being a retired Law Enforcement officer it’s beyond my understanding how things go backwards instead if forward in 2020. I’ve often said that their are 10% of the population that should not be Law Enforcement. Hopefully there will be better sifting through the vocation of Law Enforcement just as there are in the military to prevent such people putting a black label on such vocations. Thank you for your post.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments and thank you for your service in Law Enforcement. It’s a tough job.
      Bad cops follow the addage that 90% of your problems come from 10% of your people and it is so unfortunate. I’ve seen it, the folks I have led have experienced it and I’ve dealt with it…it is a very disheartening experience. I have a deep respect for law enforcement and the challenges they face and it boggles my mind how such a small minority of people can totally destroy all the good work the 90% of the folks do. Change will occur but it’s slow. Again, thanks for your comments. Joe