Blue Wall of Silence: Another False Narrative

There is no doubt that the current negative attitude towards law enforcement is based upon a series of false narratives. “Hands up,” the number of minorities shot by law enforcement each year and the amount of training officers must receive before pinning on the badge have all been distorted and used against us in recent months. But one of the biggest false narratives we face is the belief that there is a Blue Wall of Silence, that cops cannot be trusted to investigate other cops. For this we are at least partially responsible, and it has hurt us almost as much as the others fabricated by our detractors.

The Blue Wall of Silence is not a new idea, it has probably been around longer than most modern officers have been on the job – or even alive. But it is not based in reality. It is something which Hollywood developed to make movies, television shows and police novels more interesting. It allowed the rogue rule breaker to still be the hero and even rise through the ranks if necessary to further the plot. Unfortunately, it also meant the audience saw more than a main character that was able to play the system, it also showed that character surviving because other officers were willing to turn a blind eye to anything and everything as long as the perp went down.

blue-wallHaving the ends justify the means makes for good entertainment but poor reality, and is in direct conflict with the values and ideals officers are careened for during hiring and expected to maintain throughout their career. More importantly, it is not a true reflection of reality. In my 25 years in law enforcement, after being raised by a retired law enforcement officer and not only coming from a police family but marrying into another one, I have never seen successful officers who bought into the idea of looking the other way when it comes to dirty cops. Nor would I have any respect for those who did. But that’s not what the public see.

As I said earlier, we are partially responsible for this misconception. While law enforcement may not have developed the idea of a Blue Wall of Silence, we did nothing to discourage it and have at times encouraged it ourselves. Some of this is understandable. We are a close knit community and loyalty is a vital part of that community, so it goes without question that we will defend our brothers and sisters when their own actions come into question. But some officers take it too far. Some officers refuse to accept that a brother or sister could make a mistake, that a brother or sister may be unsuited for the profession or that a brother or sister may actually be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Every officer deserves the loyalty of those they serve with and certainly deserves the same protection any other citizen receives – innocent until proven guilty. I would never promote throwing a fellow officer to the mercy of the mob or stand by while they are unjustly prosecuted, but once the investigation is complete and all the information is in there are those unfortunate times when the officer is wrong. When this happens, we can offer support when appropriate, call for changes when necessary or remain silent if that is best – what we cannot do is demonize those responsible for uncovering the misbehavior or demand special treatment because the offender wore a badge. There are times when wearing that badge does require one to be held to a higher standard and we should all expect that standard to be upheld.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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1 thought on “Blue Wall of Silence: Another False Narrative

  1. A culture of corruption can be planted from the smallest seeds. Example, how many times do police officers issue traffic tickets to other officers? The answer is almost never.

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