About . . . . Classes . . . . Books . . . . Vita . . . . Blog. . . . Podcast

by Peter Moskos

October 7, 2009

Why Police Officers Hate the Department

People often fail to understand just how dysfunctional a big-city police department can be (and some have told me small town PDs are worse).

Justin "H.L." Fenton reports in the Sun:
Sgt. Carrie Everett... spoke to a reporter after she was administratively charged in connection with an incident in which a murder suspect committed suicide by jumping from a top-floor window while under police supervision at Mercy Medical Center. Everett said the department's policies governing patients in medical custody were flawed and put officers and the suspects at risk.

The department charged her internally with "conduct unbecoming a member of the Baltimore Police Department and speaking with the media without permission."
Nothing like blaming the messenger.
Police officers below the rank of commander are prohibited from speaking to members of the media. A spokesman said officers are trained to be police officers, not to talk to reporters, and said officers only have a "ground level" view of the department.
I was never "trained" to talk to reporters. And yet I seem to manage OK. Plus, I don't buy the the department can constitutionally limit free speech in such a manner. And sometimes, dare I say so myself, a "ground-level" view of the department can be most instructive. But let's get back to this incident.

When I had hospital detail (one of the least favorite details for police and all too frequent if you happened to have 324 post), I made sure a prisoner was chained to his or her bed. Then I sat outside the room. And you sit there. If you're lucky someone will come by and bring you coffee or food. Luckily, unlike a lot of police, I like reading.

Now let's say I'm sitting there reading the the paper or my book and a murder suspect quietly gets out of his cuffs and jumps out the window, killing himself. That's not good. But my second thought would probably be joy that he went out the window rather than out the door.

Did I do my job? No. Should I get in trouble? Yes. But does it say in the General Orders that I need to be in the room at all time? I don't think so. But I was responsible. So blame me, not my sergeant.

There's something strange about holding a supervisor responsible for officers working alone without direct supervision. Especially when the rules aren't clear. If you want to blame the sergeant, why not go higher and blame the command staff? Oh. yeah. It's never their fault.

Meanwhile the department will continue its practice of making "supervisors 'fall guys' for failures of procedure."

And the best part? This sergeant, for being right, gets rewarded with reassignment to... guess where. Yes, the lovely Eastern District. Officers in the jackpot often get reassigned to the Eastern or Western, depending on which would make a longer commute. Such is the nature of the jackpot (and one of the silver linings of already working in the Eastern or Western). So now, through no fault of their own, all the officers of the Eastern get punished with a disgruntled sergeant working over them. When shit does indeed roll downhill, why does it always seems to end up in the Eastern?

No comments: