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by Peter Moskos

June 7, 2015

"Cop of the Year"?

I was recently asked for comments about a "Cop of the Year." It doesn't matter which. I didn't know the cop, so I didn't say much. I have no clue what he did (or didn't) do. But I am suspicious of "cops of the year." Are my suspicions justified? I'll presume there are lots of nice "cops of the year" out there. Wonderful cops of the year. But I don't remember meeting one. Of course a good cop would be modest about such an award and wouldn't wear it on his sleeve.

So maybe I'm just barking up the wrong tree. But it sure does seem like a disproportionate number of arrested cops have been a "cop of the year" at some point. (Of course if I'm looking for something like this, and I am, then I'm susceptible to "confirmation bias.")

I do worry that the same factors that make a cop "cop of the year" -- aggression, a lot of arrests, a focus on results, seeing your job as a crusade against evil, seeing no gray in the world -- these are exactly the same factors that get you in trouble in the long run.

Quite simply, it's nearly impossible to consistently make 10 times as many arrests as other cops. Seems to me that being a "super cop" is more a red flag than a cause for celebration.

Also, I never wanted to work with an over-driven I'm-going-to-save-the-world let's-lock-up-all-the-bad-guys adrenaline-loving supermen. I mean, why is somebody getting into a signal-13s when you're off duty? And when that happens, why would that person end up on my post saying, "you never saw me." I never wanted to see him because trouble was always finding him. Maybe he was just a better cop than me. Either way, I stayed clear.

[I just googled the guy I'm thinking of, because I assumed he didn't retire as a cop. And he didn't. Though he does seem to have a better job. So for all I know he mellowed and learned and took a wise career move. Maybe. But to see him described in one article as a "by the book" cop? Ha.]

Anyway, this all came to mind because another "cop of the year" was just sentenced to 10 years for drug charges. So I googled "'Cop of the year' sentenced" and came up with a bunch pretty quickly. Coincidence? I don't know. But they were all described as having at one been recognized as a "cop of the year":
Philip LeRoy, Queens. Drugs. The most recent.

Noe Juarez in Houston. Cocaine trafficker for Los Zetas.

Drew Peterson, Illinois. Domestic murder.

Ron Coleman, Houston, Drugs.

Jonathan Bleiweiss, Florida. Forced sex with male illegal immigrants.

Jerome Finnigan of Illinois. Armed robbery (and racist bad taste).

David Britto, Boynton Beach, Florida. Drugs.

James Joseph Krey, Florida (again). Domestic-related.

Michael Grennier, South Plainfield, NJ. Child porn.

Michael Froggatt. Gold Coast, Australia. Drunk Driving.

Matthew Anselmo. Omaha Nebraska. Mail fraud & money-laundering.
Pace yourself, I say. You got years on the force to do good. And you don't want to get burnt out of banged by the department because you took the job too seriously.


campbell said...

But it sure does seem like a disproportionate number of arrested cops have been a "cop of the year" at some point.

Heh. At last years awards banquet a bunch of us were looking at all the names on the cop of the year plaque and making this exact joke.

CollegeCop said...

18000+ law enforcement agencies, several hundreds of thousands of cops spread over a huge chunk of a continent and no universal criteria for 'cop of the year' awards (I don't even now of a department that has such an award except 2.

Also notice that many of those people you link committed their crimes after their LE career was over. People change, circumstances change. That's not to say that no correlation is possible, there just isn't enough information to even take a guess.

The above being said, In my department we had a guy who was well loved by the administration, the faculty, the students, everyone (If we had an Officer of the Year award, he would have won it, probably every year) who lost a child to cancer, later got divorced and ended up having serious financial issues. He ended up doing something stupid and uncharacteristic in a moment of anger and is no longer in law enforcement. I image that happens a lot.

David Woycechowsky said...

I understand that no wrongdoing has been shown in this incident, but I had to link this new story here anyway. Patrolman of the year:


Anonymous said...

I like a lot of what you are trying to say about policing and culture in other places on this blog (although your BS defense for the Cleveland shooting still rankles), but until we acknowledge that probably 5 to 10% of cops are just plain bad/unfit to serve and that another 20% or so have problems that need to be addressed, then we are unlikely to get anywhere. It's not one bad apple; it's endemic and not acknowledging it is part of the total lack of accountability that US law enforcement enjoys(?). No surprise that any given cop of the year is gonna have a sordid past or future when so many cops really are gonna end up doing wrong at some point in their career. It might just be that being the kind of standout that makes you "cop of the year" makes your failures harder to coverup, but so many,, many cops have a secret that would get them indicted if it came to light.

CollegeCop said...

Isn't it amazing how people can pull imaginary numbers out of their back sides liker they are real. This anonymous dude thinks a full 30% of cops are screwed up in some kind of way. And all based on zero actual facts.

I saw this once before and it was hilarious. http://www.policemisconduct.net/ was started by a dude in the pacific northwest who got in trouble with the law (at a concert where the concert goers were the ones who turned him over to police, notice he didn't start an 'anti-concert goers" project lol). He was sure there was a huge 'problem' that needed to be addressed.

You know what this police misconduct project has found? From their 2010 stats page: *6,613 – Number of sworn law enforcement officers involved (354 were agency leaders such as chiefs or sheriffs).

6,313 out of (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2010) 750,000 Sworn Law Enforcement Officers. LESS THAN ONE PERCENT.

Somehow this anonymous poster believes that there is a massive cover up regarding the other 29.3% of LE he thinks is bad lol.

Peter Moskos said...

Mr. Anonymous didn't say 25-30% of cops are "bad"... he said that 20% have problems that need to be addressed. I think that's too high, but it's not a crazy point. Now this is all just half-assed conjecture anyway, but I would guess that perhaps 2 percent of cops are bad/unfit for service and maybe another 10-15 percent have problems that need to be addressed.

But who knows? I doubt it's any higher than one would find in any other occupation. Probably the bad percentage among cops is lower than one would find in non-law enforcement. And the percentage of those with "issues"? Probably a bit higher because of the job.) At least that's my guess. But a bad worker in the DMV can only do so much bad. A bad cop can do a lot of bad.

But I don't know. And there's only so far I'm willing to go with my own half-assed conjecture.

The truth is that most cops do *not* have a secret that would get them indicted if it came to light. I stand my belief (and I've said this before) that police have much more integrity/honesty/professionalism than the workers in every other occupation I've ever worked in. By far.

I think that outsiders who look in confuse what turn out to be endemic problems in police organizations: dysfunctional, closed, not conducive to communication, defensive, not clear on their mandate, mismatch between training and reality, and arbitrary discipline. Much of that, in my opinion, stems from absurd "patrol guides"/"general orders" in the context of a military-like chain-of-command that refuses to accept much less appreciate the existence of discretion and informal rules and behavior that make policing possible and humane.

Peter Moskos said...

How often do you think people's perception of bad police behavior come from cop impersonators? It's not talked about much, but it's got to matter.

Impersonators usually get arrested when they pull over a police officer for speeding. God only knows how many other people got pulled over before they just happen to stop a cop. (Luckily, given their propensity to speed, cops serve as very effective bait!)


There are both impersonators who try and do good (in their mind) and those that use the fake uniform to commit crimes. What they hell was this guy going to do?!

Anonymous said...

PCM, that's exactly what I meant as far as percentages. I think you are looking with rose colored glasses just like you are when you describe the professionalism of the BPD which every other report that I have read has contradicted. I don't think cop impersonators have much to do with it. The biggest question in terms of seeing from the other side (the cop's side) is if you are going to change the culture where bad behavior or emotional issues should not be tolerated is to change the all or nothing discipline environment and offer help where appropriate, 2nd chances when warranted, and clear accountability (no favorites). I know that some of that is happening in medical environments (and some isn't).

Jeffrey Imm said...

There are 1 million in law enforcement in this country, and too many have lost their voice and lost their way. Too many have forgotten who they work for and too many have forgotten their vow to our Constitution. So if you don't personally "know" a police officer of the year like McKinney PD's David Eric Casebolt who assaults a 14 year old girl, pounds her head into the ground, and pulls a gun on other children... well you see this response that you can't "say much." This provides an example of the REAL problem in law enforcement today. The ability to talk about everything else, turn your back on the public, wear hoods and go on CNN and threaten a protection racket that unless you are allowed to break the law, you won't enforce the law, and talk about anything and everything - EXCEPT when someone in law enforcement breaks the law. Then, all of a sudden the majority in law enforcement get laryngitis, they "don't know all the facts," and the ever-popular "can't say much." The reality is not that they *can't* "say much," but rather they *won't "say much." Even when it is on video, right in front of their eyes, they resort to a deafening silence.