And why whistle-blowers are an asset when utilized
There is one scene that is so common in almost all mafia movies or TV shows, the payment of protection money. You pay the fee they ask for, and you are covered, or so is the promise. However, what do you do when the cops come knocking on your door to ask for protection money? Of course, criminals would love to have a cop in their pocket, someone they can pay off to look the other way. Yet, when the good cops go undercover to risk their lives to weed out the bad cops, why do police departments retaliate? This happened to Sergeant Steven Lee, who went undercover for the Internal Affairs Bureau to uncover corrupt police officers taking bribes from karaoke bars. Sergeant Steven Lee is now in trouble from the same IAB for blowing the whistle.
The New York police department has a history with whistle-blowers. In the late 60s to early 70s, detective Francisco Vincent Serpico serving with the NYPD, was a whistle-blower whose whistleblowing on police corruption was a subject of the movie, Serpico earning the detective fame. The film was starred by the veteran actor Al Pacino, but before I get carried away, perhaps it is best to note that whistleblowing can be an asset when adequately utilized. In the case of detective Serpico’s momentous deed, the then-mayor of New York ordered the Knapp Commission to investigate the NYPD’s alleged corruption. The commission’s findings were damning. They confirmed widespread corruption within the department and made their recommendations.
Four decades later, in 2010, Adrian Schoolcraft, an officer with the New York police department, secretly recorded his colleagues and handed over the tapes to NYPD investigators. The recordings were meant to be used as evidence of police corruption, arrest quotas leading to wrongful arrests, and underreporting crimes in a bid to keep the crime numbers down. The NYPD, instead of taking a strong stance against the rogue officers within the department, Officer Adrian was punished.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely. This could not be further from the truth for officer Adrian Schoolcraft as he not only found himself assigned to a desk job but also abducted from his home by fellow NYPD cops and had him forcibly admitted to a psychiatric facility. He was nearly locked up in the mental asylum. In 2010, Officer Adrian, now a victim of the NYPD, filed a lawsuit against Jamaica hospital and the NYPD. In 2015, both claims were settled, earning him $600,000 from the NYPD. The city should not have paid as that money could have been used to improve New Yorkers’ lives rather than back up power-hungry cops.
NYPD officers should not fear for their careers or wellbeing in 2021. Unfortunately, whistleblowers in the United States in general never enjoyed much protection or even received a pat on the back. It usually comes with prison and a witch hunt.
On paper, the United States has a whistleblower protection law to guarantee freedom of speech. That is unless you uncover government secrets as in the case of the infamous Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who in 2013 exposed the classified mass intelligence gathering surveillance the NSA and the British Government’s government communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
The backlash against Snowden was so huge that he had fled to Russia. Besides the irony of Snowden’s refuge in Russia, Private Chelsea Elizabeth Manning (Formerly known as Bradley Edward Manning) is another victim of US backlash against whistleblowing. Both Private Manning and Edward Snowden were charged with espionage.
Unlike Snowden, Private Manning was not so lucky as she was court-martialled and convicted for committing violations of the espionage act in disclosing government secrets to WikiLeaks. She was given a 35-year prison sentence where she served seven years of the full sentence before President Obama pardoned her. Powerful men like the then speaker of the house, Paul Ryan was opposed to her release. The emerging theme is that the United States is not whistleblower friendly.
To conclude, the NYPD now has the opportunities to make right the departments past mistakes. From firing good officers on trumped-up public masturbation charges to physically abducting and placing officers in mental asylums, the NYPD has done its share of wickedness. Now is the right time to send the right message to the rank and file, that reporting officer unbecoming conducts or crimes done by cops is okay. Reward Sergeant Steven Lee and punish the corrupt officers in the NYPD. That is the only right message for a department whose history is filled with confirmed widespread corruption allegations.