‘Duty to Intervene’ Policies Conflict with Police Culture

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Minneapolis was among several cities with policies requiring police officers to intervene to stop colleagues from using unreasonable force, but that didn’t save George Floyd. Law enforcement experts say such rules run up against entrenched police culture and the fear of being ostracized and branded a “rat,” the Associated Press reports. In Minneapolis, two of the four officers involved were rookies and Derek Chauvin, a 19-year police veteran who put his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck despite his cries that he couldn’t breathe, was a training officer. “This is a lesson for every cop in America: If you see something that is wrong, you need to step in,” said Joseph Giacalone, a former New York police sergeant now at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “There are a lot of gray areas in policing, but this was crystal clear. … You’re better off being ostracized by the group than going to prison for murder.”

Andrew Scott, a former Boca Raton, Fl., police chief who testifies in use-of-force cases, said, “They’re suffering the effects of an organizational culture that doesn’t allow that or reward that behavior. The fraternity of law enforcement is a tight fraternity and fraternities have a group think.” Attorneys for Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng said both were on their fourth day as full-fledged cops during Floyd’s arrest, while Chauvin was a designated training officer. “They’re required to call him ‘Sir,’” said Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray. “He has 20 years’ experience. What is my client supposed to do but to follow what the training officer said? Is that aiding and abetting a crime?” “Duty to intervene” policies have been in place for years in New York City, Miami and New Orleans. Since the Floyd case, Dallas and Charlotte are among places that have enacted such policies.

One thought on “‘Duty to Intervene’ Policies Conflict with Police Culture

  1. Such rules run up against entrenched police culture and the fear of being ostracized and branded a “rat.” Show me a major occupational/professional group/industry where this is not true. It’s called the white wall of silence in nursing; try to get rid of a lousy teacher; pedophilia in the worldwide Catholic church; abusive docs in gymnastics; the list goes on. This fact does not mean I condone any of this behavior. Rather, we need far more effective models to counter the all-too human tendency to look the other way and avoid a snitch jacket. Just culture is one such proposal, but litigation in the US presents a formidable barrier to openness and candor.

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