The Blue Code of Silence


The Blue Code of Silence (also known as the "Blue Shield") is an unwritten rule among police officers in the United States not to report on another colleague's errors, misconducts or crimes. Other names associated with the Blue Code of Silence are the blue wall, curtain, veil, or cocoon. If questioned about an incident of misconduct involving another officer (e.g. during the course of an official inquiry), while following the Blue Code of Silence, the officer being questioned would claim ignorance of another officer's wrongdoing.


Some police officers enforce a tribal value system also known as an emotional value system which is considered to be a "police family" or "police brotherhood". The tribal value system is a part of the Blue Code of Silence. Members of the tribal system generally receive emotional support and security from other police officers. The Blue Code of Silence is considered to be controversial because it questions ethics and values in law enforcement. In some cases, many police officers have been pressured into following the Blue Code of Silence.[1]



    1 Tribal value system

    2 New York City and The Blue Code of Silence

    3 Testalying

    4 Police corruption

    5 Laws

    6 Cases

    7 History

    8 Police culture

    9 Whistle-blowing

    10 Levels of crime

    11 Exposing the Blue Code

    12 See also

    13 References

    14 External links


Tribal value system


New officers may especially feel pressured in to the tribal value system because they seek support and security from their peers. The tribal value system is driven by strong emotions of protecting fellow police officers and by defeating the "enemy." Having an "enemy" increases emotions and inputs fear and reliability into members.[1] Police officers who are members then feel dependent on the tribal value system because they are scared and vulnerable to the enemy. Most members do not view criminals as the enemy, instead they identify police management, city officials and the media as their enemies. Members tend to not follow policies that come from police administrators, especially if they contradict the tribal value system.

[edit] New York City and The Blue Code of Silence


Some police officers in New York City have been associated with the Blue Code of Silence. The Mollen Commission said, "The pervasiveness of the code of silence is itself alarming."[2] Cities that have the most crime tend to have more police officers that follow the Blue Code of Silence. It is important that officers show loyalty to each other when they patrol regularly in dangerous areas. One police officer from New York City said, "If a cop decided to tell on me, his career's ruined....He's going to be labeled as a rat."[2]



Testalying is a term used when an officer gives a false testimony in court in favor of their fellow police officer. If an officer chooses not to lie in court they may be threatened or ostracized by fellow police officers. In 1994, the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Police Corruption also known as the Mollen Commission did a two year investigation on testalying in law enforcement. They discovered that some officers falsified documents such as arrest reports, warrants and evidence for an illegal arrest or search. Some police officers also fabricated stories to a jury. The Commission found that the officers were not testalying for greed but because they believed that they were imprisoning people that deserved it. Also many prosecutors allowed testalying to occur. People involved in testalying believed that it was not corruption but yet another way to "get the job done."[3]

Police corruption

Main article: Police corruption


Blue Code of Silence is considered to be police corruption and misconduct. Any officers that engaged in discriminatory arrests, physical or verbal harassment, and selective enforcement of the law are considered to be corrupt. Many officers that follow Blue Code of Silence may participate in some of these acts during their career for personal matters or in order to protect or support fellow officers. Some officers may accept bribes, get involved with extortion, steal goods or sell drugs.[4] All of these are considered illegal offenses and are grounds for suspension or immediate dismissal. Officers that follow Blue Code of Silence are unable to report fellow officers that participate in corruption due to the unwritten laws of their "police family".



Many police departments have their own "code of conduct". The department trains new recruits and investigates police officers if they have a complaint from a civilian. There are also some state laws put in place to help protect civilians from corrupted officers. If the officer is found guilty, officers can be sued by the victim for damage caused by excessive force ("police brutality"),false arrest and imprisonment, Malicious Prosecution, and Wrongful Death.[4]


Federal laws strongly prohibit officer misconduct including officers who follow the Blue Code of Silence by testalying or neglecting to report any officer that is participating in corruption. If an officer is in violation of any of the officer misconduct federal laws, only the federal government can issue a suit. The police department is only responsible for preventing corruption among officers. If an officer is convicted they may be forced to pay high fines or be imprisoned. To be convicted the plaintiffs must prove that the officer was following the Blue Code of Silence or particpating in negligence and unlawful conduct. It is often hard to convict an officer of following the Blue Code of Silence or other forms of corruption because, officers are protected by defense of immunity which is an exemption from penalties and burdens that the law generally places on other citizens.[4]


"U.S. Supreme Court decisions have continually asserted the general rule that officers must be given the benefit of the doubt that they acted lawfully in carrying out their day-to-day duties, a position reasserted in Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 121 S. Ct. 2151, 150 L. Ed. 2d 272 (2001)."[4]

[edit] Cases


"In 1971, New York City organized the Knapp Commission to hold hearings on the extent of corruption in the city's police department. Police officer Frank Serpico's startling testimony against fellow officers not only revealed systemic corruption but highlighted a longstanding obstacle to investigating these abuses: the fraternal understanding among police officers known variously as "the Code of Silence" and "the Blue Curtain" under which officers regard testimony against a fellow officer as betrayal."[4]


After that the International Association of Chiefs of Police made a code of police conduct publication and rigioursly trained police officers. That is when states issued Civilian Complaint Review Board. In 1991 Rodney King was brutally beaten by multiple police officers of Los Angeles Police Department. The officers involved were expected to have been following the Blue Code of Silence. They claimed that the beating was lawful but it was not until a videotape of the incident was released when it was confirmed that the officers had collectively fabricated their stories. "In the Cleveland case alone, the FBI arrested 42 officers from five law enforcement agencies in 1998 on charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. In a 1998 report to U.S. Congressman Charles B. Rangel, the federal General Accounting Office (GAO) found evidence of growing police involvement in drug sales, theft of drugs and money from drug dealers, and perjured testimony about illegal searches."[4]



Blue Code of Silence and police corruption stems from the mid-to-late nineteenth century. The Pinkerton National Detective Agency were known for using police officers to violently end strikes. Many members of the Ku Klux Klan were police officers that protected each other when conducting racist acts. This later gave rise to the Civil Rights Act of 1964,which gave new protections to citizens who had long suffered discriminatory policing.[4]


"Additionally, a string of landmark Supreme Court decisions during the era gave new force both to individual privacy rights as well as to curbs upon Police Power: highly influential cases resulted in the strengthening of Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable Search and Seizure, evidentiary rules forbidding the use at trial of evidence tainted by unconstitutional police actions, and the establishment of the so-called Miranda Warning requiring officers to advise detained suspects of their constitutional rights."[4]


This criminalized officers who did not have the nescessary paperwork to conduct a search or who where involved in faslifying documents also known as testalying.

Police culture


Police culture or “cop culture," as it is sometimes called by police officers, has resulted in a barrier against stopping corrupt officers. Police culture involves a set of values and rules that have evolved through the experiences of officers and which are affected by the environment in which they work. From the beginning of their career at their academies, police are brought into this “cop culture."

police officer.


While learning jobs and duties, recruits will also learn the values needed to make it to a high rank in their organization. Some words used to describe these values are as follows: a sense of mission, action, cynicism, pessimism, machismo, suspicion, conservatism, isolation and solidarity. The unique demands that are placed on police officers, such as the threat of danger, as well as scrutiny by the public, generate a tightly woven environment conducive to the development of feelings of loyalty.[5]


It is these very values that lead to what is now known as the “Blue Code of Silence”; isolation and solidarity lead to police officers sticking to their own kind, producing an us-against-them mentality. The us-against-them mentality that can result leads to officers backing each other up and staying loyal to one another; in some situations it leads to not “ratting” on fellow officers.[6]

[edit] Whistle-blowing


Whistle-blowing (police officers reporting other officers' misconduct) is not common. The low number of officers coming forward may have to do with the understanding that things happen in the heat of the moment that some officers would rather keep personal. Another reason officers may hesitate to go against the blue code may be that challenging the blue code would mean challenging long-standing traditions and feelings of brotherhood within the institution. The fear of consequences may play a large role as well. These consequences can include being shunned, losing friends, and losing back-up, as well as receiving physical threats or having one's own misconduct exposed.


There are also forces that work against the Blue Code of Silence and promote whistle-blowing. Many police officers do join the police force because they want to uphold the law; the blue code goes against this ideal. Some officers snitch for less noble motives, such as to retaliate for mistreatment by fellow officers, to seek administrative recognition, or to prove loyalty to the department. Additionally, some officers are recruited by their administration to snitch. If it is in an officer's job description to find misconduct by other officers, he or she is more likely to go against the blue code. Officers who go against the blue code may have a deal to avoid being fired or to receive immunity from prosecution. Some officers have also been known to break the code to sell a story to the media.[7]

Levels of crime


Police officers are more likely to cover up certain kinds of errors by colleagues. One study showed that excessive use of force was the crime most commonly shielded by the Blue Code of Silence.[8] Two studies suggest that some police feel that the code is applicable in cases of “illegal brutality or bending of the rules in order to protect colleagues from criminal proceedings," but not those of illegal actions with an “acquisitive motive."[9]


Cases such as the Rampart Scandal and many other police corruption cases demonstrate that blue code culture can extend to cover-ups of other levels of crime, acquisitive or not. The Blue Wall of Silence has been called "America's Most Successful Stop Snitchin' Campaign," referring to cases where police covered up the misdeeds of fellow officers and where whistleblowers were harassed, professionally sanctioned, or forced into retirement.[10]

Exposing the Blue Code


One method of preventing the Blue Code of Silence from penetrating the police force is prevention. Many states have taken measures in police academies to promote the exposure of the blue code. In most areas, before being admitted into the academy one must pass a criminal background check. Through additional background checks, polygraph testing, and psychological evaluations, certain departments are better able to select individuals who are less likely to condone wrongdoing. In these departments, police are exposed to a basic training curriculum that instructs on ethical behavior; this instruction is reinforced in seminars and classes annually in some cases.[10]


Several campaigns against the blue code or for making the blue code more visible in the public eye have taken place in the United States. One of the first of these campaigns was the Knapp Commission in New York (officially known as the Commission to Investigate Alleged Police Corruption) which was headed by Mayor John V. Lindsay in 1970. Following the Knapp Commission was the Mollen Commission. The Mollen Commission was established in 1992 by New York City Mayor David Dinkins to investigate the nature and extent of corruption in the New York City Police Department NYPD, and to recommend changes to improve these procedures.[11] These and other investigations have revealed details of the inner workings of the NYPD.[12] The activist network Copwatch has also been active in the documentation and exposure of police brutality and abuse of power.[13]

[edit] See also



    Chicago Police Department


    Frank Serpico

    Joseph Gray

    Rampart Scandal

    Stop Snitchin'


[edit] References


    ^ a b "Code of Silence". Real Police. Retrieved 12 April 2011.

    ^ a b "Code of Silence".

    ^ ""Testilying" to Get the Job Done". Retrieved 12 April 2011.

    ^ a b c d e f g h "Medical dictionary Legal dictionary Financial dictionary Acronyms Idioms Encyclopedia Wikipedia encyclopedia ? Police Corruption and Misconduct". Retrieved 12 April 2011.

    ^ Jerome H. Skolnick (September 2001). "Corruption and the Blue Code of Silence". Police Practice and Research, 2002, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 7–19. Retrieved 2011-02-17.

    ^ Barry Wright (January 2010). "Civilianising the ‘blue code’? An examination of attitudes to misconduct in the police extended family". International Journal of Police Science and Management. Retrieved 2011-02-16.

    ^ Rothwell, Gary R.; Baldwin, J. Norman (2007). "Whistle-Blowing and the Code of Conduct in Police Agencies". Crime and Delinquency (Sage Publications) 53 (4): 8–10. doi:10.1177/0011128706295048. Retrieved 2011-02-24.

    ^ Ann Mullen (2000-11-08). "Breaking the blue code". Metro Times. Retrieved 2007-08-28.

    ^ Louise Westmarland (June 2005). "Police Ethics and Integrity: Breaking the Blue Code of Silence". Policing and Society. Retrieved 2007-08-28.

    ^ a b Radley Balko (October 18, 2010). "America's Most Successful Stop Snitchin' Campaign: The failure to protect whistle-blowing cops is inexcusable.". Reason Online. Retrieved 2010-10-18.

    ^ JEROME H. SKOLNICK (September 2001). "Corruption and the Blue Code of Silence". Police Practice and Research, 2002, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 7–19. Retrieved 2011-02-22.

    ^ Gabriel J. Chin (Ed.) (1997) New York City Police Corruption Investigation Commissions. New York: William S. Hein & Co. ISBN 978-1575882116




    This page was last modified on 31 May 2011 at 03:19.