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by Peter Moskos

December 6, 2015


@PeterMoskos wins the "Most Profanity in One Quote" Award. https://t.co/Rt22OJRYjy
— Jeffrey Butts (@JeffreyButts) December 5, 2015
I'm humbled and honored to win the Golden Middle Finger award. I'd like to thank all the sailors and pirates who taught me everything I know, gosh darnit.

In all seriousness, this Guardian piece by Baynard Woods might be the first fair thing The Guardian has written about police since the Coldbath Fields Riot of 1833:
“I can imagine for Porter it’s difficult,” said Leon Taylor, an African American who served as a Baltimore City police officer for over a decade. “It’s more difficult when you feel that you’re part of the community and the community is willing to negate all of the positive things that you’ve done and all the greater things you could have accomplished because of this incident.”
“If he’s convicted then his lawyer is under an ethical duty to present Porter with other alternatives to being sentenced for the crime or crimes for which he was convicted,” Colbert [a professor of law at the University of Maryland] said. “That’s where he’ll be faced with being offered a negotiation that would likely require his testimony against other officers in exchange for leniency in his ultimate sentence.”
Peter Moskos, a former member of the Baltimore police department who is now an author and professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, acknowledged that there is a blue wall but said it only goes so far.

“The general rule of thumb is: No, cops will not go out of their way to say bad things about another cop certainly,” he said. “But cops also aren’t willing to go to jail for the misdeeds of another cop. ‘Why am I going to risk my pension and my job for your fuck up’ is the general attitude … To some extent, when the shit hits the fan, all bets are off. You do have to cover your ass first.”

“It seems like they’ve adopted a divide and conquer strategy to get the desired outcome of the case,” Taylor said of the prosecution, but noted that ultimately it depends on the outcome.

Moskos was a bit more fatalistic.

“I mean the problem is, even in the best case scenario for cops, they’re still fucked because Freddie Gray went into the van alive and came out dead,” he said. “That can’t happen.”
Yeah, I got four bad boys and two f-bombs in there, thank you very much. Just for the record, we chatted for half an hour and there were long stretches without single a curse word.

As a side note, it always cracks me up when people who don't know policing talk confidently about the "Blue Wall of Silence": "There’s a very strong police culture that values and enforces a code of silence," Colbert says. How the hell would he know?

Cops testify against cops all the time. Cops are testifying against cops right now. And right now people will insist it never happens. I mean, I bet Colbert knows a few professors, maybe some lawyers, who haven't always been on the level. What has he said? How many of you would go out of their way to rat out a colleague? Do students tell on other students who cheats? Not in my experience. Hell I know of a married sociologist who slept with a student. Have I said anything? No. And this isn't out of some academic "wall of silence." I don't even like the guy. But what can I do? It's not a crime. And I can't prove it. Policing is no different.

But one thing Colbert said does make perfect sense. Mosby needs to get a conviction against Portor. She needs to. Because if she does, she can leverage the sentence over him. "Reckless endangerment" can get up to five years (though it's a misdemeanor... how is that possible?). Five years would mean three years with good time. Or, they tell him, you can walk free if you testify enough against Ceasar Goodson to get a felony conviction (Goodson is the only one of the six who might be found guilty of anything real). Such proscutorial games are standard practice, of course. But that doesn't make it right. Still, if Portor is acquitted of everything, which he will be if he does well on the stand (which is not a given), this whole "charge everybody who was there" is going to come crashing down on Mosby, as it should.


fh said...

The jury are not going to be as sympathetic as you might hope. The prosecutor's closing may just go something like, "we buckle ourselves up when we get in a car - that's the law; we buckle our kids - that's the law; why did Porter not buckle Freddie Gray? He had a duty to, the Academy taught him that he did; the department told him multiple times that he did. He just couldn't be bothered is not a defense."

As to your assertion about the wall of silence - 5 cops in Chicago would argue otherwise.

bacchys said...

Generally speaking students and teachers aren't in the job of enforcing the laws. If you see someone doing something you think is wrong or violates some ethical code and it's not your job to enforce that code, it's hardly an act of omerta to stay silent.

Cops, OTOH, are in that job even with each other. But in instances where crimes have occurred cops have written false reports, failed to report the crime, and otherwise taken steps to cover it up. Sure, cops testify against other cops all the time. There are hundreds of thousands of cops in America. Wiseguys would flip on their fellows, too. Once at risk of facing consequences, they roll over. But before then? How many cops step up to report wrongdoing, and how are they treated by other cops after they do?

Dorner's chief complaint was that he'd kept his mouth shut about wrongdoing by other cops and he still got the shaft (in his view).