Let’s have an honor code for cops

Police are under scrutiny, which is nothing new for the Philadelphia Police Department, although the bug collection known as City Council has not jumped into the Defund Police crazy car.

One reason is that Council members (except Allan Domb) accepted personal security from the PPD at a cost of $178,000 to taxpayers during the days of rage following the death of George Floyd. Who would want to defund their personal security force?

Well, new Council member Jamie Gauthier, who wants her protection, but her street cred, too.

“I am inspired by Minneapolis,” which will dismantle its police force, Gauthier said, “and I hope that our city, too, takes a hold of this moment and can be on the right side of history.”

Mayor Jim Kenney promptly clucked like a Rhode Island Red and dropped his earlier demand to increase the police budget from $748.6 million to $760.6. 

Gauthier was joined by harridan Councilwoman Helen Gym, who tweeted, “Minneapolis Council showing how transformative change can happen.”

A couple of weekends ago, Center City experienced “transformative change.” Plywood panels are still up.

Finally, new Councilwoman Kendra Brooks, of the Working Families Party, called for breaking up the police because “You can’t professionally-develop people out of being racist.” She will work to “dismantle anti-blackness and find a way to create safety for everyone.”

Basically, she is saying she is oppressed in Philadelphia, arguably the most blue big city in America, owned and operated by Democrats for almost 70 years.

Yesterday I listed about a dozen reforms for accountability that police are facing, which are discussionable, while defunding is not. But will any change imposed from the outside be effective?

For context, let’s turn the clock back just two years in Philadelphia. 

Two months before Police Commissioner Richard Ross’ surprise resignation, he had to deal with investigating 72 officers who had posted questionable comments on social media — ranging from humor to racism — and also with 10 police recruits who had cheated on an open-book test. 

That sounds like a joke, but what’s not funny is these were people we were training to enforce the rules and yet couldn’t get through training without breaking them. They were all allowed to “resign.”

Three years earlier, 29 state police cadets were dismissed for cheating.

Obviously, some cheaters get through and some cops are liars.

In 2017, D.A. Seth Williams created a secret “do not call” to testify list of 29 cops who were deemed to be liars. The phenomenon had a name, testilying, and the list became public when Larry Krasner became D.A. in 2018. 

Lying is more than a moral wrong. It undermines the entire system.

The attempt by the 10 recruits to cheat was uncovered by another cadet, who reported it.

Ah, and now we get to the nub, and a possible solution to the problem of bad policing. Better hiring and better training will help.

The first line of defense must be good policing, meaning police who will dismantle not the force, but the Blue Code of Silence.

Good cops must report bad cops.

Frank Serpico. (Photo: The New York Times)

That’s what brought me to Frank Serpico, the legendary NYPD officer who testified against dirty cops. That almost got him killed. 

The good cops must find the courage to turn in the bad cops. It won’t be easy, Serpico told me.

“First of all, they’ll try and discredit them,” Serpico told me in a telephone interview. “Then they’ll try to implicate them in something or other. And then if they persist long enough, they will be so harassed it will blow out their sanity.”

That was true because Serpico was all alone. Silence was deeply entrenched in police culture.

To break the Blue Code of Silence I would replace it with another code — an Honor Code, such as exists as the military service academies. Every cadet and midshipman is required to enforce the code that governs everyone’s conduct.

Breaking the code, or failure to report a breach, results in expulsion. It is not imposed from the outside. It is internal. 

Every service member is his or her brother and sister’s keeper. It is not snitching. It is enforcing a code that they have agreed to.

In training, as recruits, they should be required to take an oath to, pardon me, to police themselves. 

Will it be perfect? Nothing is.

It works well for the military and is worth emulating.

41 thoughts on “Let’s have an honor code for cops”

  1. Interesting idea Stu. I don’t know how well honor codes work for the military, but as a retired professor I can tell you that they sure don’t work in academe. I’m not sure what will work to change the organizational culture of the blue wall because it is a shared brotherhood mentality that will not easily change. Cops want to know that they can rely on their own in dangerous situations, and that is a good thing. What is not, is extending that brotherhood to condoning malfeasance. I do think that the unions are a big part of why cops continue to do what they want and not fear consequences. You see the fruits of that all over the city where incompetent employees operate with impunity because their unions protect them no matter how awful they are. I hate to union bash because I understand why they came about and why they were needed. But they have morphed into enablers of ineptitude and venality.

    1. Wanda,
      You make some very good points about the PPD. Sorry to say, it seems that all good things come to an end. Mostly because of greed and corruption. Unions had their day. The FOP has to protect their own,’cause the city sure wont! The force HAS to be a brotherhood, similar to the military. I knew the Colonel of the NJSP way back when. On T.V., during an interview, he was asked pointed questions about the State Police having similarities with the military. The reporter was set straight. We are not anything like anybody. We are a well disciplined brotherhood of Troopers. We act as one. Women came onto the NJSP. They made it better. Three sisters served together for a time. One reached the rank of captain. She earned it !That mentality didn’t happen over night. You must be able to depend on the one on your right and left in all circumstances, at all times.
      For sure, don’t mix the PPD in with the rest of the rest. District 33 and 47 and the whole crowd. I’m not quite sure what they do- or did. I know that I didn’t need them during my tenure.

    2. West Point and Annapolis are NOT your usual academic settings.
      There have been honor code violations, but they are dealt with.
      Yeah, getting civilian cops in board won’t be easy. The word “honor,” alas, is out of date.

      1. Stu,
        Your right to say that the honor is outdated. I wont accept it! I don’t think anyone that cares about OUR country should accept honor being outdated.
        As for Philly’s finest and all of the rest. I strongly disagree. Every cop that I know would gladly step up, if someone would protect their back. Not the usual, “knife in the back” routine from the politicians, filtered down the chain.
        As I said earlier. Honor works in the service academies and always will ! It flows from the top down, then right back up again. !

  2. Great idea. Keep writing Stu. Met you years ago when Jerry Mondesire introduced you. Stay safe.

  3. I like the idea. A code of honor and more comprehensive training could actually work in improving things. I tend to be left of center, but talk of abolishing police Depts. is just plain stupid!

  4. Stu

    Why would a sharp 20-25 year old in Philly want to be a cop.They..won’t get much support from their 3 bosses Kenney,Krasner and the Outlaw .There are other better ways to make a living.

    .With the cities finances they can’t be sure that they’ll have the same retirement benefits the city is now offering,

    Kenney showed his true colors when he went out of department to hire a new commissioner.That really showed his true feelings for PPD.

    You said you knew Serpico. After going against the Blue Wall how much backup did he get the day he was shot?

    The city can start by getting a Commissioner who is street patrolmen friendly. I’ve been told the Outlaw has been working at home on certain days during pandemic. Doesn’t inspire patrolmen.

    Is the PPF any worse than the fake news people who spread every lie BOs corrupt cops sread against Gen Flynn.

    We need a commissioner at least as good as Ross.

    1. Charles,
      Good point. Why would a young person want to take a job that only pays about $63,000. The bennies are good – if you stick around -, but you have to take a lot of crap from the politicians and the public that you serve?
      I disagree with you on the commish/patrolman friendship. I believe that they would rather have bosses ( chain of command ) that are smart enough to handle the outside interference while being consistent with the force.
      ( read my opinion below )
      Bennies: I don’t know how many plans the city have today. I know when I was there, Philly had 4 or 5 plans. Each new plan went to the new employees ( by contract negotiation ). Each plan had a “little bit” more shaved off in comparison to the previous plan. Bear in mind. In the ’60s & ’70s, you went to the gov. for the security – not the money. The back end was loaded. Case in point – DROP !

    1. Mark,
      Can you give me any examples of his violations. If so, then he should be impeached !

    2. Mark, I completely agree with you, you will find very, very few people here who agree with you about tRUMP. Most of the posters here feel tRUMP is perfect. To me he is a perfect ass!

      1. Mark,
        disregarding people that make empty comments helps to have a serious none vile conversation.
        I don’t know anyone who worships the ground that OUR PRESIDENT walks on. I know a lot of people that grovel at his feet, and if given the opportunity would kiss his a**.
        Take a breath Mark. You can dislike someone for a good reason. You really have to go way out there to hate someone. Mr. Trump, as you know, was/is a successful business man. He earned his money, while he made money for his investors. If you’re in the stock market – same deal. Had Trump done anything illegal, there is no doubt in my mind that it would have come out a long time ago.

        1. Tony,
          Everything is about DJT!
          That last point you made ‘if Trump had done anything illegal…..’, you said it before and that’s so true. How much do you think of the present investigation into the scoundrels will come out? Will it go to the top? Will people be jailed? Will the ‘dark side’ believe? Will it change their op’s? Etc. I value your Op. Thanks

          1. Tom,
            In our world of the “little sisters with the brass knuckles”, from obama down would have their collective heads handed to them. Today, they will be gently admonished, and told don’t ( get caught )doing it again.
            For your amusement. You certainly remember when Fumo went away to that federal motel – I mean jail. If he had opened his mouth, the feds would have had to build an addition ! Everybody’s dirty. Fumo took the fall and saved face. I’m sure that his investment counselor was working overtime on those deals !
            Get Stu to chime in on this one. We know that he knows where the bodies are buried .

          1. HAPPY THURSDAY !!!
            sometimes, life interferes with the blog playtime.
            are you asking me about “The Donald” ? Certainly hope not, because you are coming off like someone with a grudge. I wont get personal and ask about your station in life. I know a little bit about business, which ties into finance, which is incorporated with law. Actually, I built it, and my people made sure that I had what ever I needed in the way of advice. Rule #1. Don’t use the corner lawyer who specializes in weddings, divorces, bar mitzvahs, all for $100 per hour. In my world, research was the key. Know the COMPLETE history of the parcel that you intend to buy. Then, know the value. Now, next year, 5 years….
            Mr. Trump did exactly the same thing, except at a level far greater than mine. You are in business to make money not necessarily friends. You hire the best that you can afford, and you buy the best. And should the market go south, then you sell or declare bankruptcy. In the ’80s & ’90s, money was available to the right people. Declaring bankruptcy could help as well as create more opportunities. People that are backing you are investing in you and your abilities. They want a sizable return on their money. Everything that Trump did was legal. As Merv Griffin said about Trump, when Griffin bought a Trump casino. Everybody says that they won and they screwed the other guy. The truth is, two people agreed on a price and then a handshake. As for Trump dumping the A.C. casinos. Pretty smart, I’ld say.

      2. Typical lib BS. I think Trump is a lot better than the last 4 presidents we had spanning 28 years.

        tRUMP shows how immature you are.

        Nobody here ever stated he was perfect.Do you know the difference between perfect and better? I don’t think so!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        1. Charles, with the “Typical lib BS” remark and you using so many exclamation points it appears I have struck a nerve.

          You also said “I think Trump is a lot better than the last 4 presidents we had spanning 28 years.” Some of the things tRUMP has done more of in his 3+ years in office, than the previous 28 years is lie and fan the flames of racial intolerance.

          1. You have never stated 1 fact. Trump had more AA voters than the R candidates in the last 36 years.

            I think I hurt your big baby feelings with the !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          2. Charles, there is nothing you or your tRUMP loving cohorts could say which would hurt my feelings because I consider the source from where it came.

            The problem you, and your cohorts, have is that you cannot shut me up, nor get me to change my mind about tRUMP. I know that really gnaws at you.

          3. H Bogart

            The thing that upsets me about you is that your trump bashing is so childish and immature. You can’t make 1 adult post.You have never stated a fact.You are 1 little boy embarrassment to this board.

      3. I agree with your description of Trump, but that does not violate any oath that I am aware of. Feel free to enlighten me.

        I dislike the man as well as some of his policies, but I do not vote on personalities. At the end of the day, I disagreed with more of the other candidates policies, period.

        I have no reason to change my voting strategy, still hoping for a candidate that is more palatable.

        The only candidates in the primary run that were interesting to me were Yang and Gabbard. The others were purely career politicians, except Bloomberg, who touted an agenda that I disagreed with.

        1. well said, Philly. I had said during the campaigning, that Yang should get put on a committee or higher. Tulsi Gabbard, A Vet and still serving, should be taken under some ones wing and mentored

    AS always, Stu, interesting view – which I don’t necessarily agree with.
    First Serpico: Back in the day, he was a standout. He put his life on the line everyday, protecting the city of New York. Who protected him ? Of course you have heard of the phrase, “killed by friendly fire”. Could thing God was Frank’s wingman that day. His crooked backups were not watching his “6”.
    The Honor code vs. snitching, etc: In the military ( and few other places ), Everything flows from the top down. Without honor and respect, there is no cohesiveness. You are taught from day one that without honor and respect, you will have a very short career. Snitching comes about from the bottom, as we all know. You “rat” on somebody about something that is incorrect or flat out wrong. You are right to do it, but persecuted for the same. I questioned this choice of words in previous blogs.
    More obvious: There is no honor and certainly no respect in the politics of Philly. Everyone at the top will gladly throw you under the bus, for personal gain. Even if it’s deflecting the moment of answering truth . The Philadelphia Police need a Commissioner that will have one set of rules for all employees – civilian or uniform. It would be administered equally to the brass as well as the street cop. Occasionally, Philly gets close to that rule, but they can’t hold to it, because politics rears its ugly head.
    Having said all of that, I would dismiss most of the ideas circulating about at this time. Civilians shouldn’t tell cops what to do any more than a medical doctor would tell be how to be a civil engineer. And vice-versa. Sure, we need to monitor the police as well as everything and everyone else out there that is in charge of people or power or money, etc.

  6. What bothers me the most is the lack of freedom of speech, and the attack on due process. Everyone agrees the Floyd killing was wrong, but to fire the cop on the day of the event, without due process, should bother everyone including the radical left and right who I have nothing but contempt for. The latest example is the Rowan NJ University policemen who was fired because he killed a criminal while on duty as a policeman 26 Years ago. Policy in America is controlled by spineless apologists and Twitter activists.

  7. “We will not lie, steal, or cheat, or tolerate anyone among us who violates this oath.” I believe that is the oath the West Point cadets swear to. I suspect the other military academies have similar oaths. The oath has worked very well for many years, although West Point cadets (being human) have violated it on several occasions, resulting in dismissals from the academy. Would such an oath work for police? Perhaps…if honor is built into their system from day one. But one thing seems evident: there MUST be a line over which a cop cannot step without being kicked off the force. When I read that a cop has 15 or more complaints against him/her, and that cop is still on the job, I suspect a cover-up. Then the cover-upper should be canned along with the bad cop.

    1. Way to go, Vince !
      Here’s a thought. Your family has big bucks and they want you out of the house. What do they do? They contact their congressional delegates, throw out some “seed money”, as we used to call it, then off you go to a service academy. ( all slightly exaggerated ) If you are a mediocre student that can’t handle pressure – A LOT OF PRESSURE – then you resort to what ever gets you through. Drugs, cheating, bribes. Why not ? That’s how your family made their fortune. THEN, add female cadets, or middies. Things happen, and more times than not, not for the good. Thus, the honor code. “If I can’t trust you to do the right thing in the academy, then should I worry when we graduate, and you’re in command, or you fly or sail or what ever ?
      Vince, you are also right about the cover-up. At the very least, the guy was trouble, so they kept him moving to new precincts.

    Here’s an invitation to you. Come with me out here in Chester County. Politics out here are not as viscous as they are in Philly, but give them time. I’m trying to get my buddy elected to the state house as a representative. In this primary election, just as in the 2018 election, the dimocrats kicked the collective republicans out of the county. I’m a newby out here. I’m told that Chester County was a republican stronghold for years. Then one day, the dimocrats cut in-roads to Harrisburg. It’s certainly not because of the caliper of the candidates. They are good bad and mediocre on both sides. What I am finding is this. When I was canvasing for signatures to get my buddy on the ballot, many republicans told me that they wont vote for another republican until Trump is out of the White House. Just like here, no one can give real answers to that question, therefore, there can be no real discussion – just like here.
    H, I’m asking you to come out here and help me to light a fire under the republicans ! I don’t believe in cheap politics where you just attack. You present a platform, then you run on those merits. Then, if there is a debate to be had between candidates, you do exactly that. None of this T.V. bull, where you don’t answer the question. In plain words, you either put up or shut up.
    Times burning

  9. Tony, you said:

    “I don’t believe in cheap politics where you just attack. You present a platform, then you run on those merits. Then, if there is a debate to be had between candidates, you do exactly that. None of this T.V. bull, where you don’t answer the question. In plain words, you either put up or shut up.”

    I am not sure but this may be the first time I agree with everything you said in what I copied and pasted just above this. I cannot say I disagree with what you have been told but I do understand it.

    1. H
      thanks for taking the high road. POLITICS SUCK !
      are you old enough to remember when we actually had statesmen who did run on a platform? Who did what I previously said. Back in the day, the basic difference between democrats and republicans were how they achieved their goals. The republicans believed that money flows better downhill. You give a tax incentive to a millionaire and he’ll go in business, creating work, prosperity, etc. The democrats believed that if you spread the money amongst the working class, the money will continue to flow outward and upward. Sadly, that all went away in the ’60s.

      1. Tony, I remember, just barely, the second Eisenhower administration. Politics appeared to be much different then.

        One of the things I remember is that there was room in both party’s for people of dissenting opinions. I do not really see that too often now.

        I would like to discuss this more with you but I do not have the time right now.

        I would like to call for at least a partial truce between us. When I reply to you I will refrain from any type of name-calling if you do the same. I will also be willing, when posting, to you to properly spell Trump (I do this now to start the truce).

        1. Tony, I said something wrong. I remember the Tony, I remember the second Eisenhower administration. I just barely remember the last part of the first one.

          1. H,
            ( half wit & sarcasm )
            We better be careful. if we appear to be too civil, there’s no telling what will happen.
            ( full wit )
            we could be mistaken for Arlo Guthrie singing Alice’s restaurant !
            on a serious note. thank you,

          2. Tony, if we are too civil toward each other this site will go completely off-kilter.

            Darn you for reminding me of that song. Now I will have to go to YouTube to listen to it.

        2. bogart

          You don’t like to criticize.people you disagree with.You like to ridicule.them .Your lucky you didn;t grow up in my neighborhood with this bush league attitude of yours.

          1. You are the lucky one Charles. With your faux-superior attitude of your you would not have lasted.

  10. Back then you didn’t have 24/7 media and social media looking for outrageous soundbites.

    Go to the internet and look up the 1960 Kennedy Nixon debates. Excellent debates.

    The media dealt with serious content.They were serious journalists.

    1. Charles,
      There you go speaking the facts, again.
      I don’t think 24/7 coverage would have made a big difference. Reason being, they were actually professional journalists. Stu would have fit in quite well back then.
      I keep repeating myself. Greed and Corruption. It screwed up everything.

      1. Those journalists weren’t getting indoctrinated by far left college profs.They were taught to think for themseves, Also before deregulation put 90% of media in hands of 6 corporate giants.

  11. Bogart

    I guess your are proud of the progressive mayor of Seattle and the governor of Washington for what’s going on in Seattle.

    Is that Trump’s fault?

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