A question I wanted to ask Chief Serpas on Saturday at Rising Tide was in reference to his “You Lie, You Die” policy toward the department. Just wondering if the end result will be more firings or less lying?
I think it depends a lot on Serpas’ level of respect within the department and how swiftly the rule is enforced when the first few instances come up. Will it be zero tolerance? How will mistakes be separated from lies? If an officer mistakenly writes “Opelousas and Verret” whn it was really “Opelousas and Vallette” will it result in him being shitcanned? Or will it be done on a case-by-case basis perhaps resulting in popular, well-liked members of the department will get special treatment?
It also depends on how brazen the corruption is within the department. As we have begun to see from the reports following Katrina, it is systemic and widespread. Saying nothing of the
Unfortunately, the public demands measures like these. They spell things out for them in terms they can easily understand. Even I have to admit if Serpas said, “We will be examining reports with greater scrutiny and lying on a report could be cause for termination,” doesn’t sound as cool as “You lie, you die.”
Another problem with enforcement of such a rule is it is reactive rather than proactive. It puts brass a few steps back from where the corruption is. The Corruption has to occur before it is detected. Another question for Serpas is, “What is being done to prevent lying on reports in the first place?”
It’s as if rules within the department are mimicking rules of society, we are becoming obsessed with laws, enforcement and punishment. Root causes like education and poverty are just tossed aside and thought of as novelties that we could have taken care of years ago but the problem is so bad now we need to lock them all up. It’s “a war.”
Also, let’s look at why a cop may falsify a report? Perhaps as a means of covering up some offense committed on the job which he or she may face termination for in the first place? It’s like falsifying a resume: If they call to check, you don’t get the job. If you don’t lie about your experience, you don’t get the job. Or perhaps when Nagin deleted his e-mails. What’s more damning, deleting the e-mails or someone finding what is in them? Wouldn’t a crooked cop be better off being fired for lying on a report than say, kicking the crap out of someone or sprinkling some crack on a kid?
Then there is the matter of experience and attrition. Serpas has said there will be emphasis on recruit training with help from the State Police. Excellent. Inexperienced police are easily overwhelmed, make mistakes, create “misdemeanor murders.” If, “You Lie, You Die” does create a glut of firings and as a result, new recruits, consideration to the training and experience of these new officers should be a priority. This story from a few years ago leaps to mind. Then I remembered this one too.
This all sounds like an indictment of “You Lie, You Die” but it isn’t. Nobody wants crooked cops falsifying reports. It’s unfortunate I have to clarify that but it seems a typical response would be, “You must want crooked cops on the force!” That’s not it. I just want to examine the effectiveness of the new rule and I hope it’s not going to be the cornerstone of the department’s restoration. It seems like it could be a good tool if used effectively but the potential for abuse could make it a tool for corruption it is trying to bust up.