The topic of today’s discussion is How and why? Interrupting acts and practices of police misconduct.
Interrupting police misconduct is for law enforcement professionals and groups who interact with law enforcement. This program outlines the levels that law enforcement professionals can undergo to interrupt acts and practices of police misconduct. This program also features law enforcement who has demonstrated through their actions, how they interrupted acts and or practices of police misconduct. This program will highlight the three levels that law enforcement can engage to interrupt police misconduct and how they can work with their community to engage around these topics, which are: “Speaking Out” “Whistleblowing” and “Intervening.”
The first level, “Speaking Out” on injustice is an action step that law enforcement professionals can take to interrupt misconduct. This act is not necessarily tied to an incident; however, it lets individuals around you know where you stand, impacting the immediate environment around you.
The second level, “Whistleblowing” is an action step that law enforcement professionals can take to address a specific incident(s) they have witnessed. Usually, this misconduct violates a current policy or laws but is not strongly enforced in their environment. This action is to make a departmental and institutional change.
The third level, “Intervening” intervention or intervening is an action step that law enforcement professionals can take to stop harm from happening on the spot. Although an intervenor can become a whistleblower, the main difference is that they stopped the harm from happening at the time.
Nakia Jones is a former police officer who in 1999 joined the Highland Hills Police Department and in 2002 she was sworn in as the first African-American female officer for the City of Warrensville Heights, Ohio. She held that position as the Senior Response Officer until 2017. Officer Jones not only worked for the City of Warrensville Heights, but she also lived in the city. She was an active member of her community and volunteered for Career Day throughout the district. On many occasions, Officer Jones sat with Juveniles and their families, while off duty, to help resolve conflict.
Kenneth E. Williams (Expert Witness in Police Practices, Use of Force, and Forensic Video Analysis) Ken Williams is a former decorated homicide detective of the Brockton Police Department in the Boston area, employed by them for nearly twenty years until raising legal compliance issues to his co-workers and superiors about unlawful activity and refusing to cooperate in the Boston Police Department’s concerted efforts to protect the institution. The City of Brockton had engaged in a pattern and practice of unlawful discriminatory police conduct directed at minorities, i.e., African-Americans, Hispanics, and Cape Verdeans who had systematically been denied their constitutional rights. As a result of Mr. William’s reports of unlawful conduct, on or about November 12, 2010, he was forced out of his department due to his lawful whistle-blowing activities. Prior to his discharge Mr. Williams experienced unlawful retaliation in the form of humiliation, discrimination, and continued harassment by the department causing extreme emotional distress. He filed the first-ever Lincoln Law Title VI Qui Tam whistleblower civil action against the police institution and is confident this civil action could possibly be the solution to help reform and correct longstanding intentional discrimination, waste, fraud, and abuse in law enforcement throughout the United States. Mr. Williams is retained by civil rights attorneys for the evaluation and rendering of his unbiased opinion in officer-involved shootings and is an expert witness consultant in wrongful death cases. He is also a “Use of Force Expert” and a leading voice in Criminal Justice Reform.
Cariol Holloman-Horne served Buffalo, New York, as a police officer for twenty years before being fired for stopping a fellow police officer from choking a handcuffed African American man during an arrest. During this encounter, Officer Horne was physically assaulted by her fellow officer, which had a physical and psychological impact. Officer Horne speaks of how PTSD has interrupted her life since this incident and how speaking out has impacted her livelihood. Officer Cariol Horne was unjustly fired because she dared to intervene in stopping her co-worker, Officer Kwiatkowski, from assaulting a cuffed suspect and violating a suspect’s rights. Officer Kwiatkowski later went to federal prison after pleading guilty to unlawful unnecessary force from a later incident. We need laws to protect Officers like Cariol Horne, not Officer Kwiatkowski. More about Cariol Horne can be found at http://cariolhorne.com/
Moderated by: Carlos A. Wiley, Director of the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, Penn State University. His successes have all been based in accordance with his philosophical practice rooted in critical race theory, social justice, racial identity development, and inclusive excellence. Always with the goal of equipping diverse students with the tools to empower themselves and others, to take responsibility for their actions and behavior, and to serve in a global world. His philosophy and demonstrated success in his career along with his professional and personal life experiences allow him to approach this work with professionalism, vision, leadership, and understanding of the complicated issues related to student development, racial identity development, and microaggressions
The presentation began with introductions followed by video news clippings of police officers engaged in misconduct and police brutality. You will hear from each Panelists’ as they explain how their attempt to prevent the acts and practices of police misconduct during these three events, ultimately costs them their jobs.
On Speaking Out: Mr. Wiley felt it only appropriate to ask Ms. Jones about the pushback she received from her Facebook posting regarding the shooting of Alton Sterling. In June 2016 Officer Nakia Jones gained popularity by posting a very passionate statement on Facebook that went viral after the death of an African American male, Alton Sterling, who was shot by a police officer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Ms. Jones put the uniform aside and immediately entered into the role of a mother of two African American sons. She reacted to her oldest son expressing his fear of some of the women and men wearing the same uniform she wears. “Before you posted your Facebook video, did you think about what could potentially happen to you as a police officer?” Ms. Jones responded with a candid “no” as she explained how she had never had a problem with law enforcement and therefore had never heard of the “blue wall of silence.” She also explained that one really never knows about the “wall” until one actually walks into it.
On Whistleblowing: Mr. Kenneth Williams explains why after fifteen (15) years as a homicide detective he was forced out due to the undercurrent of discrimination while helping a gentleman who was wrongfully arrested navigate through the Internal Affairs Department with the filing of his complaint. Also, willing to testify after the complaint was filed against the police officers involved and being at odds with co-workers, he was ultimately forced out. While referencing his present position and how it came about, he was asked, “What was the driving force behind becoming an expert witness after leaving policing? His response was candid, short and to the point, “I didn’t leave on my own, I was forced out.”
On Intervening and Intervention: In 2006, Officer Cariol Horne intervened to save a civilian from being harmed by a fellow police officer and had her employment terminated. The City of Buffalo has codified “Cariol’s Law: The Duty to Intervene.” Mr. Wiley asked the question, “If you had to go back to the night when you stepped in would you do it again, and if so, why not?” Ms. Horne’s response, “I definitely would do it again, and the reason why is because we need to be accountable. Police officers need to be held accountable. If I can go back in time, of course, and know what I know now I would do things a little differently, but I definitely would; his life was not worth my job and I shouldn’t have lost it.”
Throughout the presentation, there were additional questions asked, and a number of issues discussed, but one question, in particular, was presented to all three of our panelists, it had to do with their no longer being in policing, “Why do you think that it is important for you to be in these spaces and doing what you are doing to stop police brutality and the aggressive policing that is happening specifically as it relates to people of color?
Mr. Williams was the first to respond in telling young people in the audience today to “recognize the fact that in order to bring about change, you have to sometimes go to the table where change occurs; you have to be a part of the process.” Ms. Jones explained that she was the first African-American female officer in her department and worked twelve to sixteen-hour shifts away from her children to affect change in her community. “Sometimes you have to be the change you want to see.” She went on to say that, “It doesn’t stop because they fired me; as long as God gives me a voice I’m going to continue.” Ms. Horne explained how important it is to know that “you are the change you want to see.” She went on to explain how she had to convince people to believe in what she was pushing for and ultimately was able to get Cariol’s Law passed. “If we know something is wrong, then create change, and get people behind you that will help you make that change.”
As the presentation came to a close, Mr. Wiley asked if there were any questions from the audience; there were, but one, in particular, stood out in reference to the panelist’s thoughts and opinions on the term “defund the police?” All three panelists chimed in with very interesting responses, but one response, in particular, stood out. Mr. Williams explained how important defunding the police is, and how it worked for the City of Camden, New Jersey.
Here’s a brief clip:
“It has been hailed as a potential model of police reform, a crime-ridden city in southern New Jersey that disbanded its force and rebuilt it from the ground up. The Camden Police Department underwent the unprecedented overhaul in 2013, leading to sharp reductions in crime and a focus on improved community relations. Seven years later, with the nation grappling over police reform after the killing of George Floyd, attention has turned to Camden for lessons on the path forward.” By: Brenda Breslauer, et al. Updated June 22, 2020. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/new-jersey-city-disbanded-its-police-force-here-s-what-n1231677
Perhaps the Camden, New Jersey model of police reform can be considered across the country as a stepping stone to eliminating the acts and practices of police misconduct in law enforcement.
Each panelist was sent the following points that we were asking them to address during this forum.
Why did you speak out? What made you post the video?
What stop others police officers from speaking out?
What happened after you spoke out?
What needs to change in order to encourage police officers to speak out on injustice
Why did you intervene? What stop other officers from intervening
What is the solution? (Cariol's Law)
How can a city or state pass Cariol's Law?
What happen that you blew the whistle on?
What stops other law enforcement professionals from blowing the whistle
What can be achieved by blowing the whistle on police misconduct?
About the author
Elinor A. McNeel, currently retired after a lengthy career as a Legal Assistant, decided to return to school and is presently attending Penn State University completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Law and Society. She enjoys reading a good book, writing, editing, and anything involving technology. Elinor is a published author of Understanding Rhetoric: A Student Guide with Samples and Analysis. Originally from Chicago, Ill, her family relocated to Los Angeles, California where she presently resides.