Don't Be a Bully with a Badge

I understand full well the temptation to administer a little street justice. But while you may be able to rationalize Avenging Angels actions to yourself, you'll have a devil of a time defending it in court.

Author Dean Scoville Headshot

Sometimes our more vindictive brethren inspire interesting, even humorous, stories.

For instance…

There was the cop who hit a suspect, but denied doing so when called on it. The only problem was the smack-induced impression embedded deep in the complainant's forehead matched the unique design of the officer's ring.

Then there was the deputy who pulled a 'Goldfinger' and spray-painted a gangbanger (and probably inspired a similar scene in the movie 'Colors').

Finally, perhaps you heard of the burglar who fell through the roof of a cleaners. When he later turned up in an emergency room bearing all manner of bruises and burns, he claimed that cops found his ass inside the closed business and put him in a dryer prior to taking him to jail.  The cops, of course, denied any such thing.  Three hours later, a little old lady showed up at the station with a wallet belonging to suspect --- that she found in the dryer.

They say that the equation for humor is tragedy plus time, and I'd be a damned liar if I didn't recognize the warped humor in these anecdotes.  But just because I find them funny doesn't mean a jury would.

I also understand full well the temptation to administer a little street justice. When you see the same dirtbags going in and out the revolving jailhouse door, generating the same ill-warranted beefs on your ass, you'd like to get a piece of theirs. But while you may be able to rationalize Avenging Angels actions to yourself, you'll have a devil of a time defending it in court.

Still, there are those who succumb to the temptation. Periodically throughout my career, I've had my suspicions about particular cops. While booking prisoners I'd happen upon some misshapen piece of arguable humanity whose limbs had been tweaked or broken at the hands of a fellow deputy, and quite often I saw the same deputy's name on the ensuing paperwork. 

The pro-aggressive cop in me would like to say that these particular specimens were the kind of hard-assed felons who had it coming.  But by and large they were the wastrels that cops find in stupefied states in dark alleys, the ones that encourage the inter-agency shuttling of drunks and bums to various sites of abandonment. Nor was the deputy whose name adorned the booking slip anyone who did anything particularly noteworthy, the kind of "kick ass and take names" kind of cop we all begrudgingly admire.

But he was the kind of guy who quickly becomes known as "badge heavy."

Even then, armed with the fast-acquired knowledge of how broad-stroked cops can be, part of me wanted to believe that the deputy just had a knack for meeting people at their worst and dealing with them in like manner.  That at base he was just a decent and well-intentioned cop.

But then, none of his interactions with the public or his co-workers supported that conjecture.  In any event, he worked another shift, and I was a mere deputy myself.

Still, all these years later, I've heard tales of cops like him who administered their own peculiar brand of street justice.  Do I believe it to be as pandemic as portrayed on television shows and by controverts in the street?  Not on your life – or your badge.

But I can understand how it occurs.  

There was a period in my career when I saw myself on the verge of being invincible. With four years of patrol experience under my belt; there was no incident I couldn't justify, no fight I couldn't document. I was experimenting with steroids and my fuse was quick to light. In short, I was on the road to becoming one of the very entities in law enforcement for whom I had the most contempt: The badged bully, outwardly self-secure, inwardly cowardly. Fortunately, I had a partner who told me to pull my head out of my ass before I went down the same road that some of our fellow deputies had gone, the one that leads to various administrative gulags, and occasionally, custodial confines.

I know that there are street cops out there right now who have nothing but the best of intentions, but who may find themselves on the proverbial slippery slope. They may be getting away with things and with each subsequent evasion feel more empowered to push the envelope that much further. 

Maybe you know him. Perhaps, he's not so far gone that you can't save him. If so, do him a favor. Pull him aside and tell him to pull his head out of his ass. You'll be doing him, yourself, and your fellow officers a favor.

Go back and review the three anecdotes, and you should see quite clearly where I'm coming from. If we need to use force, we should. If we use force, we should report it. If we report it, then we should be supported by our employing agencies as long as our credibility holds true. 

We need to keep our emotions and ourselves in check.

That way, WE don't get taken to the cleaners. 

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Author Dean Scoville Headshot
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