Who Are the Good Cops?

by Ed Sawicki - July 6, 2020

Murder of Eric Garner
Murder of Eric Garner

Between 2007 and 2013, I attended training sessions where law enforcement officers were taught how to deal with subjects where deadly force was needed. The training encouraged deadly force in any situation where officers were at risk. Officers who may have exercised restraint before the training were less likely to afterward.

One training session was conducted by an outside firm. The trainer was a seasoned, retired officer. I'll call him Bill. He started the session with photos and dashcam videos of police officers killed in the line of duty, sometimes the result of a traffic stop.

Suddenly, Bill displayed photos of Barak Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid. He also mentioned the ACLU. He said that these people were the most serious threat to officer safety. There was no explanation.

Obama, Pelosi, Reid photos
Pelosi, Obama, and Reid

I was enraged and wanted to insist that Bill provide an explanation. But I looked around the room and saw no faces that displayed the outrage that I felt–or even surprise. To speak up would have put my career in great jeopardy and I needed the job for the health care benefits.

So, I know what it's like for good cops to do nothing in the face of an overwhelming, systemic ideology. They fear the retribution that is certain to come.

One-hundred percent complicity

In May 2020, George Floyd was murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. Chauvin put his knee on Floyd's neck, preventing him from breathing. Three other police officers watched it happen as they listened to Floyd gasp that he couldn't breathe. One hundred percent of the officers on the scene did nothing to stop the murder.

In July 2014, Eric Garner's murder on Staten Island by police officer Daniel Pantaleo was committed with at least eight other officers on the scene not stopping the murder. Again, 100% of the officers at the scene did nothing to stop the murder. The medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide. Officer Pantaleo was never charged with a crime. It took the New York Police Department more than five years to terminate his employment.

Occasionally, good cops try to stop bad cops, but there are documented cases of them being punished for it. Let's look at two somewhat different cases with the same outcome for the good cop.

Cariol Horne

Photos of Horne, Kwiatkowski, and Mack
Horne, Mack, and Kwiatkowski

In 2008, Black officer Cariol Horne was terminated from the Buffalo Police Department for using “unwarranted” physical force to stop the chokehold that White officer Gregory Kwiatkowski used during a 2006 arrest. Officer Kwiatkowski was choking Black suspect Neal Mack, who was in handcuffs. When Horne's words didn't stop Kwiatkowski from choking Mack, she grabbed his arm. Mack maintains that Horne saved his life.

The Buffalo Police Department brought disciplinary charges against Horne. It fired her a few months before she was eligible to receive a full pension. Kwiatkowski piled on by suing Horne and her lawyer for defamation.

Bad cops tend to stay bad, and Kwiatkowski continued terrorizing the Black citizens of Buffalo. In 2018, he was sentenced to four months in federal prison for using “unlawful and unreasonable force” against four Black teenagers.

UPDATE: On April 14, 2021, a court awarded Horne the reinstatement of her pension. It happened while the trial of White office Derek Chauvin, accused of murdering Black man George Floyd, was ongoing.

Stephen Mader

Photo officer Stephen Maer
Officer Stephen Mader

In May 2016, Weirton, West Virginia, officer Stephen Mader responded to a call by a distraught woman who said that her boyfriend, R. J. Williams, was threatening to harm himself with a knife. She said that Williams had a gun, but it was unloaded. She wanted the police to save his life.

When he arrived at the scene, Mader determined that Williams was not a threat and was trying to commit suicide by cop. He was trying to talk Williams down. Two other officers arrived on the scene. Williams raised the unloaded weapon and pointed it toward the officers. One of them shot Williams in the head. When the officers inspected Williams’s gun, they found it unloaded, just as the caller said.

The Weirton police department fired Mader for exercising restraint. They claimed that by failing to immediately shoot Williams, he put his life in jeopardy as well as the lives of others. It didn't matter that all indications were that William's gun was unloaded.

Mader sued for wrongful termination and settled for $175,000. But the police department would not take him back.

It's so rare that good cops stop bad cops from doing bad things that I'm tempted to call it myth.