In response to the sheriff problem in Los Angeles I have written:
Overlooked crime is not incidental to a hierarchical organization whose members are cemented not by a common mission, but by subservience to authority. In other words, crime is of the essence because the shared guilt in covering it up is the glue that holds the organization/squad/gang/detail/fraternity together. (At Yale they practice a variant at skull and bones so it is shared shame, rather than guilt, that binds the brothers).
Committing a crime and covering it up together has the additional advantage that some innocent victim bears the cost. Moreover, because there is no particular animosity towards a particular victim, whether of gang rape or murder, it is difficult for our legal system to assign guilt. The victim is innocent by intent, sort of like collateral damage in a war. The object is to impress on the surviving witnesses that they had better behave themselves, if they do not want to suffer a similar demise. So, the more witnesses the better.
If you have seen the picture of Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, you might not have noticed that Chauvin is looking directly at the camera, almost daring the person filming to interfere. His expression says “yes, watch what I am doing and make sure I don’t do it to you.”
Part of the problem, I believe, is that the law enforcement community has adopted a new metric for retention and promotion. Instead of assessing an individual’s performance (arrests, traffic citations, emergency response), the new measure of performance is the person’s relationship with superiors. Ass covering is rewarded; writing up factually accurate reports that stand up in court is not. The result is that subservience and shoddy work product are rewarded and prosecutors are involved because they are relied on to hide the shoddy work with plea bargains.
All of this, by the way, has been facilitated by computerization. In the name of reducing paper work, officer performance is supposed to be tracked by uploading information into carefully designed forms. But it does not happen. Or we have GIGO.
I have been tracking police department operation since 1981. The problems are systemic. I have seen them in Florida, New Hampshire and Georgia. I have been falsely arrested once (in Florida) and stopped for a moving violation once (in New Hampshire) in 63 years of driving. The NH stop was also bogus. Seeing a Georgia plate, the cop thought he had a drug dealer in his sights and then got angry because he had made a mistake and threatened arrest, if I did not drive off ahead of him.
Yes, affirmative action requirements, the war on drugs and the decreasing rate of violent crime have contributed to the systemic problem. But the system has to be reformed, not just in public organizations. The private sector has also moved from rewarding performance to rewarding subservience. The culture of obedience is counter-productive.