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The Difference Between a Good Cop and a Bad Cop

I found this on dkos, not my favorite blog, but definitely an interesting piece and relevant to our Cascadian situation.
The Difference Between a Good Cop and a Bad Cop

During my career I have been in countless high speed chases and I must say that when the perps finally bail out of the car and start to run your heart is pumping pure octane. When you catch them (or they surrender) it is very, very difficult to resist the urge to slam them to the ground and beat them to a pulp on sight. Policing is a very violent job, most of what you deal with is people suffering and/or people trying to take advantage of other peoples suffering. Even so I'm not gong to give some sob story about how stressful the job is and how that stress makes you do things like shoot an unarmed man 3 times, because it doesn't. The job is stressful and sometimes you do go overboard, but that is when your professionalism and your ability to transcend your own emotions comes in. If you cannot manage your fear and stress then you do not need to be in law enforcement. If you don't like dealing with peoples problems day after day no matter how petty, then you don't need to be in law enforcement. And for Gods sake If you don't like being around poor people and minorities then you don't need to be in law enforcement!

Yes I am a lefty but in the interest of full disclosure I will admit that I have "tuned up" my share of perpetrators who were trying to resist. So I can say from experience that there is a big difference in having to fight some one that is resisting and brutalizing someone that is not. That is what defines each officers red line and his or her use of force and more importantly the degree to which that force is applied. To put it bluntly it is where your authority begins and that persons rights and acknowledgment of your authority ends. Admittedly I have snatched people out of car windows in anger after they have lead me on high speed chases through school zones at 2:30. I have goaded perps who would swallow crack cocaine rather than get caught with their third felony possession. I have done a lot of things none of which where illegal but to the casual observer may have appeared cruel. It is a grimy job and in some respects you have to get grimy to do it effectively.

However there is a distinct difference between confronting a 20 year old passenger in a car chase and actually having to fight a 6ft 7in, 350lb paranoid schizophrenic who has been off of his medicine for 3 days. Especially when the first thing he does is look you straight in the eye and without flinching calmly tells you "I'm not going nowhere Motherfucker, you are going to have to kill me". In all my experience I have never seen nor heard of an incident like what happened in California. As a matter of fact if that incident had happened in my department the officer would be brought up on aggravated assault charges by the local D.A within 12 hours. The first thing that jumped out at me from the tape was all of the tactical errors that the officer that shot him made. I immediately noticed how he was gripping his weapon (defensively) in front of him like he was trying to hold off Dracula with a crucifix and not securing the suspect.

Rule#1: Make the scene safe. That means assess the situation, ensure your own safety, secure the area and secure the suspect. If you have a perp on the ground YOU SECURE HIS ASS ASAP. The fact that he stood there yelling at the guy says to me that he had no idea what he was doing. His posture, the way that he was holding his weapon, and the fact that he already had a cover unit with him and they were still trying to verbally gain control of the situation shows me one thing. These officers were not well trained, nobody took primary control of the call and they quite possibly were afraid. Cowardice in policing is much different than simply being nervous or afraid.

I have been afraid before I won't even lie about that. Although I have been on the street for a while generally I can still go to a call and be uneasy 1 to 2 times a week. Im not talking about "oh I might have left the iron on at home" uneasy, Im talking the "oh shit this MF might try and hurt me" uneasy. When I get that feeling it just means that I need to be extra careful and tactically aware. But cowardice is a different story. Cowardice paralyzes you and makes you do things like what happened on that video. Cowardice eats away at you and makes you hate the poeple whose community you patrol everyday. When you have that many officers at the scene and the subject is obeying your verbal commands you holster your weapon and secure him. Thats it. I have been in several chases where I never even took my weapon out, I just immediately secured the perp.

Back to my original example. When I got the call of the 6'7" crazy dude and he began to fight, it took myself and 2 other officers 4 minutes just to get a pair of handcuffs on him. Even with cuffs on he fought and kicked for another 4 minutes. Anybody who has wrestled, or done any sort of grappling will tell you that 6-8 minutes locked up with someone is an eternity. Especially when that person is in an altered state of reality. That said when we were talking about the incident afterwords not one of us had ever even considered shooting him. Those officers should be fired because they are a danger to themselves and the citizens.
I still dont buy the lie 02.Feb.2006 09:30


Oh this cop sounds so nice and respectful. However lets look a little deeper. He says if you dont like poor minorities dont get into law inforcment. He is exactly right. He admits that the police targets the poor and the colored, and has no problem with that. This cop is a racist and a classist. or maybe he's just another brainwashed soldier for the rich. NO he's both. I have no sympathy for this cop only the poor familys he has hurt.

being a "good cop" is ever a work in progress 02.Feb.2006 13:23


This cop appears to be no angel, but neither does he claim to be. What he's written here isn't a confessional for law enforcement. People in quarters far and wide are inherently rascist and classist, cop shops not excluded. The cop is simply saying that anyone with such tendencies shouldn't be in the business.

Through his writing here, the cop confides the approach we can expect some of the less violent of them to take towards people. He talks about some of the physiological and physical realities of the job for both cop and subject. The potential for decline in regard for humanity a cop facing typical cop jobs can descend to seems to concern him a great deal. He sounds like the kind of cop who might be receptive to superior and more humane policy and procedure if any were available.

It's a good thing when indy can publish an intelligently and aparrently honestly presented perspective from someone in law enforcement that may offer some spark of hope for change favorable to everyone. Maybe there are a few more people out there who can offer an intelligent response in return.

Please explain 02.Feb.2006 14:02


... "Admittedly I have snatched people out of car windows in anger after they have lead me on high speed chases through school zones at 2:30. I have goaded perps who would swallow crack cocaine rather than get caught with their third felony possession. I have done a lot of things none of which where illegal but to the casual observer may have appeared cruel. It is a grimy job and in some respects you have to get grimy to do it effectivel"

Why would a cop participate in a high speed chase through a school zone, knowing that it could endanger kids at 2:30? And if they do, is that justification for "snatching" someone out of a car window at the point of arrest, out of anger no less?
Why would a cop "goad" a person who swallowed crack cocaine when they already have the person in custody? What does "goad" really mean in that circumstance anyway? Does it mean "Goddamnit, I don't understand why a person would not want to spend their life in jail for a drug offense, I must "goad" them because they swallowed the evidence that could imprison them for the next 20 years."?
Just because an action isn't illegal doesn't make it right and the old "it's a grimy job" line does not hold water. You are a cop. You would not have chosen to be one if you did not like to be grimy. I realize that this person sings the "I am not like all the other cops, I am a lefty do-gooder cop" mantra to themselves at night, but that does not make them any better than any other cop.

C/R 02.Feb.2006 14:34


Classism (in favor of the priviledged) and racism (in favor of the dominant race) are intrinsic qualities for any law enforcement officer in a corporate-capitalist society. There are no exceptions, only varying degress. Period.

An opinion... 02.Feb.2006 15:12

Pravda or Consequences

The last time I looked, cops were having a difficult time recruiting and in Portland I understand that requirements were lowered to allow more candidates.

Me thinks that we are moving to a mercenary state only because the public sector is more and more strained financially and 'contracting out' (like for-profit prisons) may be the only option for some communities.

The addiction for power will ultimately destroy us all. We do have other choices.

If you define "professionalism" as doing what you have been trained to do 03.Feb.2006 02:44


The cop who gives in to the urge to slam them to the ground and beat them to a pulp is the professional. That is what they are trained to do. Many, though, could do with a refresher course in not getting caught.

There really, really, IS no difference 03.Feb.2006 08:37

Lew Nassa

Sorry to have to put my two cents in here, but I must:
I have been good cop and bad cop, and they are one. When you first find yourself making the jurist's decisions, when you determine for the first time that this "scum bag" deserves the pummeling that you, or your buddies are administering, you become the other. You become court, judge, executioner. You become all powerful, and all controlling. Your moral authority becomes the only right one. You become the one to obey, and we, the mere people, are the assholes. It cannot be helped, you are not really a bad person, you know that you are not. Society has given you an impossible mission, and over the years, they have delegated to you more power than any one human can be trusted with.

Again, I am not saying that I am somehow holier than you, I am not. I have been to the river, and I have seen abuse. I have held the dead babies, the injured spouses. I have dealt with the abuses handed out by the perpetrators without guilt, and seen juries allow the evil ones to go free. I have also seen the courts, and or the grand juries that refuse to hold officers accountable for going too far, as in the Fouad Kaady case. I have been on both sides of the baton, less lethal weapons, pepper spray, and guns. Because I know that human nature cannot handle absolute power, I am thankful that I woke up one day and realized that I no longer wanted to carry the power that was given me, and moved on. Today, I am not your worst enemy, officer, but I will not be idle as you abuse that power. I will call bullshit when you try to excuse your misconduct, and hopefully, with enough allies, we can reign in that human nature that is trying to destroy our world.

Oops! forgot to mention 03.Feb.2006 09:18


Just as a side, I, too, made the career choice based upon the fact that it was mistakenly called a profession. I also entered because I wanted to make a difference, to be a hero, to help the underdog. That was quickly beaten out of me by my superiors, and I joined the league of indifferent coppers, issuing my own version of the truth to myself and the public, as well as "deserved" punishment.

For these, and other sins, I am truly sorry.

to be a hero, to help the underdog, commander-in-chief.. vanguardism 03.Feb.2006 21:49


Spouse-beaters, child-abusers, all claim they are are doing it for his/her own good.