Police Have an Obligation to Report Their Colleagues

A video recording caught a Chicago officer harassing a Chinese-American while on duty—and her co-workers are responsible for speaking up.
More
Swanksalot/Flickr

Police officers are being recorded as never before. As a result, there has been an increasing number of documented cases of misconduct. YouTube is filled with instances of abuse that never could've been corroborated without video and audio footage. Watching those videos, it quickly becomes clear that misbehaving police officers often openly perpetrate their misdeeds with colleagues standing right there. Other officers present at the scene may not participate. But neither do they report the misconduct when they get back to the station.

In those cases, keepers of the "Blue Code" should also be punished. For an example, in Chicago, police raided a massage parlor owned by a naturalized immigrant of Chinese origin. She's an American citizen, though the behavior of the officer would be just as inexcusable if she weren't.

A transcript:

Police Officer: You’re not fucking American! I’ll put you in a UPS box and send you back to wherever the fuck you came from!

Owner: I’m a citizen, OK?

Police officer: No you’re not! No, you’re not a citizen! No, you’re not! No, you’re not! You’re here on our borrowed time. So mind your fucking business before I shut this whole fucking place down. And I’ll take this place and then whoever owns it will fucking kill you because they don’t care about you, OK?

I’ll take this building.

You’ll be dead and your family will be dead.

As a spokesperson for the Chicago police department would later acknowledge, "The alleged conduct and comments are reprehensible and completely intolerable." If you look at the video, you'll see that several officers witnessed the comments:

Did those present report their colleague's behavior? Or would the department never have known about it, but for the recorded footage and the victim's lawsuit? The answer is still unclear. But this is exactly the sort of case where a failure to report misconduct could be verified, and where it ought to be punished. When an officer's bad behavior is unambiguous, letting it go should itself be a serious infraction. The punishment should be severe enough to end the Blue Code going forward.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Ghost Trains of America

Can a band of locomotive experts save vintage railcars from ruin?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Video

How Is Social Media Changing Journalism?

How new platforms are transforming radio, TV, print, and digital

Video

The Place Where Silent Movies Sing

How an antique, wind-powered pipe organ brings films to life

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in National

Just In