Whistleblowers

Police Punish the ‘Good Apples’Law enforcement needs to protect those who prioritize their sworn duties above loyalty to their peers.

Isaac “Ike” Lambert was a decorated detective who had served more than 24 years in the Chicago Police Department. In 2017, an off-duty officer shot a teenager named Ricardo Hayes, who had autism and whose caregivers had reported him missing hours before. Some officers, according to Lambert, then tried to charge Hayes with assault on the basis of a distorted police report. Lambert noticed that his colleague’s official narrative of the encounter was sharply at odds with eyewitness accounts and other evidence (including video of the incident). Lambert declined to press charges against Hayes, then repeatedly refused to sign off on the officers’ fraudulent report—despite higher-ups insisting he help bury the incident. For this, Lambert asserted in a whistleblower lawsuit, he was promptly “dumped” to patrol duty.

In a case like this, an understandable inclination would be to focus on the victim, an unarmed autistic kid who had committed no crime, or on punishing the police officer who assaulted him. (Officer Khalil Muhammad received a mere six-month suspension for shooting Hayes.) Lost in the discussion are principled officers like Lambert, who resisted attempted malfeasance by his colleagues and paid a price for it.

He is far from alone. Police officers in the United States engage in all manner of bad behavior, such as excessive force, sexual misconduct, financial impropriety, and the manipulation of evidence. Holding them to account criminally, civilly, or professionally is extremely difficult, even in cases involving blatant malpractice and misconduct. Yet, even as bad cops evade punishment for wrongdoing, those who stand up to corruption, report negligence or abuse, or decline to comply with bad orders are frequently marginalized, demoted, or outright fired. Full Story

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