These are old "opinions" that we posted several
years ago. Reading back through them has
proven interesting, so we figured we'd leave them
Over a six-week period, ABCNEWS' chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross and his team turned in 40 wallets or purses to 40 police officers chosen at random in Los Angeles and New York City. Varying amounts of cash were put in each, as well as numerous pieces of identification, with names, addresses and phone numbers. Quick Links: The Results, Skeptic Citizens.
The test: Would the officers do the right thing and track down the proper owners?
Thirty Years Later (A test 30 years ago...)
Ross' investigative team copied a technique many police departments around the country routinely use to test the honesty and integrity of their officers. In fact, Ross used this technique back in the 1970s as a local reporter in Miami, when confidence in public officials at all levels was at an all-time low.
The results of that wallet test did little to boost public confidence: 10 of the 31 wallets given to officers in the Miami area were never recovered, and two of them were turned in but the cash was missing. A number of the officers were fired or took early retirement after that report.
Almost 30 years later, police honesty and integrity are again being called into question, most recently in Los Angeles, where the police department is trying to recover from a serious corruption scandal in its Rampart Division.
Skeptic Citizens, Optimistic Commissioners
Many people on the streets of LA expressed extreme skepticism about whether LAPD officers would return a lost wallet to its rightful owner.
"To be honest, I think most of them would keep them," said one Los Angelino.
New Yorkers, too, were doubtful. "I'd say a majority would keep the wallets," said one New York passerby.
But neither Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks or New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik were bothered by the PrimeTime investigation.
"There is never an excuse or any rationale for a person keeping it as their personal property," he says. "Officers are put in that temptation every day and our expectation is for them to have 100 percent compliance with the rules."
Kerik said he welcomed the test and was prepared to prosecute any officer who kept a wallet. Police were not given any advance notice as PrimeTime staff members turned in the wallets.
Of the 20 Los Angeles police officers who were given wallets and purses, every single one turned in the wallet and the money. Not a penny was missing from the wallets, which were given to officers of all races, throughout the city.
"Police officers have only one legacy and that's their integrity, their honesty," says Parks. "Their word means a lot � and people believe in that badge and what it represents."
But Parks was upset to learn that in three instances, Los Angles police officers refused to take the wallets in the first place, saying it was inconvenient for them.
"Part of the job is to service the public," he says. "That property could be part of a crime, it could be somebody's valuables. It's our expectation that they would take it."
And for all that has been written and said about the shortcomings of the NYPD, New York's police officers passed the integrity test with flying colors.
"The reality is that all 20 [wallets] came back," says Kerik. "It basically shows that our integrity standards are very high and the cops are doing their job. And it's something we're very proud of."
Just thought it was pretty interesting...watched a news cast from Detroit, Michigan. Apparently a man was shot from a drive-by shooting, and killed. The public in that area is outraged asking why the police could let this happen, actually blaming the police. But this comes back to our society. We don't want the police harassing us and making traffic stops, so the police are finding themselves getting sued for doing their jobs and getting publicly criticized by citizens, the media and their own departments. And we feel sorry for the bad guy who gets hurt while being taken into custody, after making his or her own decision that they were going to fight. But yet, we see people are angry when the police didn't protect them. I guess my first thought was, "Hmmm. First you ridicule us, discipline us, fire us, sue us, don't respect us, like us, etc. and then feel sorry for the bad guys, but then you question why we're not out there doing our jobs." This is an interesting double-standard, because it just goes to show that we cannot have our cake and eat it to. You either encourage the police to do their jobs and take some of these maggots off the streets, or you send messages (through law suits, complaints, media, etc) telling them not to do their jobs. Which is it?
Interesting new development in law enforcement that I just heard about. Apparently in Lansing Michigan, officers are assigned a "scantron" sheet to fill out when they issue tickets. Supposedly it's going to go into law this summer. Here's how it works. For every ticket you write, you have to log the person's race, gender, etc on the scrantron so that your tickets can be analyzed. From what I understand, its primary focus is "racial profiling." If your numbers indicate that you've written more hispanics or blacks then whites (for example), an internal investigation is opened on you. You could be looking at criminal charges and civil rights violations in the end. This is very interesting. Here's a scenario: An officer is looking over his own stats toward the end of the month and realizes he has written more tickets to whites then he has blacks. Now the officer has to go out and "purposely" write tickets to more blacks so that his or her numbers match up, or vise-versa. What if an officer is routinely sent to accident scenes and later determines that his tickets don't match up? Here's my prediction of what will happen if this becomes law: Officers will simply stop writing tickets, period. The attitude (of the officer) will eventually diminish and they will begin writing some tickets; however, they will then revert to "checking their stats" to make sure their numbers match. That's bad for several reasons. One, it violates people's civil rights. Two, some people will be able to get away with crimes or traffic violations simply by their race. :P
Question Sent In
I get these type of questions (below) a lot, so I finally addressed it with an honest opinion. If you have an opinion on law enforcement in general, send it it. I'm putting "your" opinion up here too (as much as I can). If you want it posted to this page, please indicate "opinion" in the subject line of your email. Thanks.
Question: Hi. I wanted to get some input from you. I have a hard time regarding cops as likeable persons. I feel as though they have become tax collectors by issuing citations. Aren't they supposed to serve and protect? I understand the dangers of drunk and reckless driving, however, we all make stupid mistakes, why are we being punished? It is our tax money that puts cops on the streets in the first place. Please help me understand your line of work, and help me gain greater respect for your position. thank you.
Answer: Well, where do I start. Before I forget, let me clear one thing up...it's also MY tax dollars that put me on the street too. And as far as your own comment ("I understand the dangers of drunk and reckless driving, however, we all make stupid mistakes..."), tell that to a father who lost his wife and kids by a drunk. Or tell that to a mother who lost her little girl because someone wasn't "responsible" in the first place. I understand what you're saying, but the sole purpose the police are doing those things (what you're referring to), is to hopefully get people to stop doing later.
To help you understand a little about a cop, let me tell you a little about my story. When I was in high school my hair literally touched my butt and I played in bands all the time. I hated the police. In fact, it's a surprise that I've went into this field knowing how much they've harassed me. But, one day I was at home playing my guitar and a cop came to my front door. My mom thought I was in trouble and so did I. The cop asked me, "Are you Jason?" I said yes, and he said, "This sounds dumb, but, I heard you were really good on guitar and I would like to jam with you." Honest! Anyway, to cut to the chase, I started jamming with him and some of his friends and formed a small band. I was always asking him about police work and he was always asking me about guitar work. I asked him the same things you just asked me. I get it a lot, which is understandable. So here goes:
I got into police work because I thought it would be exciting and fun. I also don't like seeing bad guys get away with stuff, and innocent people get hurt. I'm just one of those people that would help anyone. When I first started police work, literally my first couple of days, I couldn't believe how people were looking at me. I was waving hi, smiling, all proud, but most weren't smiling back. You get looked at all the time by people that think they know who and what you're all about. Little do they know, I'm just wanting to go home and can't wait till my shift ends. But I see people look at me with the impression that they think I "can't wait to go arrest someone" or "I get my kicks off by writing tickets." It gets old and you learn to just block it out and do your job. I think it makes you harder and more cold toward people, although, I try to fight that attitude everyday.
People judge you from the sidelines based on what they've been told or fed by the media. And I completely understand this, because I used to feel the same way until I walked in a police officer's shoes. It's hard. Sometimes it feels like everything and everyone is against you, because not only do you get slack from the public, your own department doesn't stand behind you when they should. You feel like, "Why am I out here doing this shit...risking my life; my career; a lawsuit; everything...when a public generally doesn't care, and probably a large portion consider the police public enemy #1. But, like I said, I understand. One of the most troubling things is, to me, the media. When a real criminal breaks into a house and rapes a little girl or kills someone or seriously hurts, steals...whatever from an honest citizen...versus a cop 2000 miles away that is "accused" of doing something, the media will make the big story the cop story. What's more scary is, I believe a lot of people are more interested in the cop story 2000 miles away. That one cop story just painted a picture for every other cop in the world to people. And when the story is "dis-proved," the media doesn't come over the air and say "We were wrong," which leaves the impression that all cops are that way.
But anyway, an even stronger problem in police work today is the fact that a lot of cops are getting "out" of police work. Most cops get to a point where they just don't care anymore in a sense that they stop going out of their way to catch criminals. They only "answer their calls," and do what they "have" to do. Forget initiating stuff (being proactive...looking for drug dealers, etc.), because any experienced officer that is fed up will tell you, "It's just not worth it." You risk death; getting a complaint against you; losing your job; making the front page of the newspaper, etc. And let me tell you, any person that's arrested for any reason what-so-ever, can call the media and complain and the media will air their story as long as it "sounds good." Read my own story on my "Scariest Calls" page (http://www.realpolice.net). That's 100% true, and that stuff happens everyday.
And some say, as I have too, "As long as you're not doing anything wrong you don't have anything to worry about." Bullshit! You can be accused of anything. I was written up for scratching a cruiser while chasing a felony suspect that was selling crack cocaine. I've never been in trouble, EVER. I know of another officer that received 2 days off without pay for putting the wrong VIN # on a tow slip...never been in trouble. An officer recently was just written up for "failing to color in a bubble on a UD-10 accident report." It happens all the time. On a much larger scale, cops are getting sued for ridiculous amounts over ridiculous allegations. I just received papers for my first law suit, for an incident that I did nothing wrong. This will be proven; however, it's going to be a long headache. A second suit (which I know is definitely coming), involves another incident I also did nothing wrong. In fact, I volunteered to "go along" and help out (Obviously I can't talk about these suits; I can tell you that I honestly did nothing wrong and that they are very stressful to go through...the allegations are completely ridiculous. But if one officer gets sued, then all the officers on the call get sued). There's another officer that had about 15 years seniority, married with kids...and honestly, one of the best guys you'll ever meet, who was ordered to arrest someone. So he did (for false reports to police). Anyway, the jist of the story is, the defense attorney showed that it was a misdemeanor "not" committed in the officers presence and sued. Take a guess at the amount he owes? Reliable sources say $800,000.00 out of HIS pocket and a million dollars out of the departments. That's eight hundred thousand dollars. Another story I know of, is when a cop told a man with a gun to "drop his gun," the man simply refused. The suspect's "boy's...his friends," shoed up and they all jumped the officer, smashing and kicking his head and face into the cement and violently beating him. The officer was out numbered by approximately 8 to 1 and an independent witness told police that "It was the worst beating she had ever seen" and compared it to the Rodney King beating. The officer testified that he was losing consciousness and out of fear of dying, he shot a couple rounds, one of which paralyzed one of the men; however, he saved his life because they stop beating him. Result? Officer was sentenced to prison (7 to 14 years if I'm correct), because (from what I understand) he shot in a "disregard" to others and not aiming at a specific person. True story. There's tons of 'em. So, why work? If you're human, you're probably going to make mistakes. I hear people say, "Well, that's wrong...they shouldn't have done that." Yeah, right. Now what? They did; they are; they're going to keep doing it. So where's the solution?
On the other side of the coin...I don't doubt that there are idiot officers out there. Especially in areas where there's nothing to do. However, you can't assume all officers are the same. Most are good people and are there to help you when you need it. There doing much more then just writing tickets I assure you. And I got a ticket from an asshole when I was younger too. I mean the guy was whistling as he was walking back to his car, telling me to have a nice day. I was pissed. But, I did squeal my tires. But he's an asshole still; not my problem; his wife's problem.
Well, I hope this gave you some insight. As far as tickets, even though there's not an official quota, you do have to do your job. I don't enjoy writing them anymore. I actually feel bad a lot of times; however, it's proven that writing tickets and enforcing traffic laws brings down accidents; by someone paying a fine and telling their friends about it (will think twice about speeding, etc), other cars driving by the traffic stop will see (or should)..."I better slow down in this area," etc.
Thanks for the question. Cops are human. And let me know when you want your butt whipped on NHL's 2000 hockey. LOL. :)
Sent in: I worked with the ***** Police Service, in ****, Ontario, recently as a Co-op student. Through this experience, which was possibly the best of my high school career, I learned a lot about being a cop. One of the things I read, on a book at the station, was a story about a couple cops in ****. One guy would often let off good looking women when they weren't wearing their seatbelt, but the other one ticketed the women. When asked why he ticketed them, he said "I don't want to see those good looking faces mashed through the windshield." I think this is one part of the job that the public just don't understand. I mean, you guys are out there trying to save lives, while the public is making your lives as hard as possible. Any time when I was with the police that I heard people complain, I was ready to tell them to shut up and get lost. I didn't mind you (wouldn't be a very good impression) but the public just seems so stupid, you know? Maybe it's just me, but I can't see how the public can be so narrow minded. It's weird really. The same people who prosecute us for giving out traffic tickets are the same ones who expect and demand that the police help them with any of their needs. It kind of pisses me off, but I've learned to accept it. Oh well. I guess the public and the media will always be completely ignorant.
Police Officers Are Just Human Beings Police officers, believe it or not, ARE human. They come in both sexes, but mostly male. They also come in various sizes. This sometimes depends on whether you are looking for one or trying to hide something. However, they are mostly big. Police officers are found everywhere, on land, on sea, in the air, on horses, and sometimes in your hair. In spite of the fact that "you can't find one when you want one," they are usually there when it counts most. The best way to get one is to pick up the nearest phone. Police officers deliver lectures, babies, and bad news. They are required to have the wisdom of Solomon, the disposition of a lamb and muscles of steel, and are often accused of having a heart to match. He is the one who rings the doorbell, swallows hard, and announces the passing of a loved one, then spends the rest of the day wondering why he took such a crummy job. Police officers on television, are oafs who couldn't find a bull fiddle inside a telephone booth. In real life, he is expected to find a little blonde boy "about so high" in a crowd of a half million people, In fiction he gets his help from "private eyes," reporters and "who-dun-it" fans. In real life, mostly all he gets from the public is "I didn't see nuttin." When he serves a summons, he is a monster. If he lets you go, he is a "Doll." To little kids, he is either a friend or a "boogey-man" depending on how the parents feel about it. Police officers work around the clock, split shifts, Sundays, and holidays,and it always kills him when a joker says, "Hey, tomorrow is election day, I'm off, let's go fishing." (That is the day he works 20 hours.) When a police officer is good, he is a "grafter, and that goes for the rest of them too." When he shoots a stick-up man, he is a hero, except when the stick-up man is only a kid, "anybody coulda seen that." Police officers have homes, some of them are covered with ivy, but most of them mortgages. If he drives a big car, he's a chiseler; a little car -- "who is he kidding?" His credit is good; that is very helpful, because his salary isn't. Police officers raise lots of kids; mostly they belong to other people. Police officers see more misery, bloodshed, trouble and sunrises that the average person. Like the postman, the police officer must be in all kinds of weather. His uniform changes with the climate, but his outlook on life remains the same; mostly a blank, but always hoping for a better world. Police officers like days off, vacations and coffee. They don't like auto horns, family fights and anonymous letter writers. They have an Association, but they do not strike. They must be impartial, courteous and always remember the slogan, "at your service." This is sometimes hard, especially when some character reminds him, "I'm a taxpayer, I pay your salary." Police officers get medals for saving lives, stopping runaway horses, and shooting it out with bandits (once in a while his widow gets the medal). But sometimes the most rewarding moment comes when, after some small kindness to a person, he feels the warm handclasp, looks into grateful eyes, and hears, "thank you and God bless you, son." "Author Unknown"
These are old "opinions" that we posted several years ago. Reading back through them has proven interesting, so we figured we'd leave them up.
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