Note: This article was cut down from five examples to three for conciseness. It appears Medium is displaying the old title.
There is no such thing as a good cop.
Tensions between American citizens and police departments across the country continue to be tense. Many citizens are removing their consent to be policed by ever more heavy handed and violent forces. In return, stunningly, police forces have acted with near reckless abandon on many peaceful protesters.
One of the conversations the unrest has sparked is that of police reform. On one end, more force is necessary to establish order, but this is simply the solidification of the United States as a police state, even if advocates of “law and order” tell you otherwise. As I have written about previously, order is given when laws are just. You cannot mandate order through force, and have it also be just.
On the other side, the #ACAB “All Cops Are Bad” hashtag trends. Most people feel the truth lay somewhere in between these two extremes. But I actually disagree with the compromise here — I buy into the idea that “all cops are bad”.
Stick with me, law & order people.
This should not be confused with the idea that “all cops are bad people”, which I do not believe to be the case. The #ACAB calls out that the institution is built in a way that leaves little room for “good cops”.
With that, here are five good cops that were fired for being a model of what we should expect our peacekeepers to be.
1. Stephen Mader — The Cop Who Wouldn’t Kill A Suicidal Man In Distress
Stephen Mader is, more or less, who you’d want to be a police officer. Having served in Afghanistan as a Marine, Mader had far more tactical and training in identifying the risks a person or situation presented than your average police officer.
In the early morning hours of May 6, 2016, the Weirton Police Department responded to domestic distress call. Mader happened to be the closest, and was first to respond.
In the front yard of his home, Ronald Williams Jr, a 23 year old black man, was pacing the front yard, his hands concealed behind his back.
Mader initiated contact, and asked Williams to make his hands visible. He did not comply. Mader shouted “show me your fucking hands”, and when Williams did, he produced a silver pistol in his right hand.
“We have a gun here,” Mader called out on his radio.
Unbeknownst to him, the dispatcher had reconnected with William’s girlfriend— who had made the call — and she told the dispatcher “he doesn’t have a clip in the gun.”
Mader had no way of knowing that, and drew his gun.
“Drop your gun, drop you gun,” Mader called out.
“I can’t do that. Just shoot me,” Williams replied.
It was at this point that Mader’s military training and instincts picked up on what was happening. This man, from body language, and the interaction, did not seem to be a threat to the officer — he was a threat to himself. It looked like a ‘suicide by cop’ situation.
Mader, still unaware the gun was not loaded, said to Williams “I’m not gonna shoot you brother — just put your gun down.”
Regarding that moment, Mader told NPR “”Before you go to Afghanistan, they give you training. You need to be able to kind of read people. Not everybody over there is a bad guy, but they all dress the same. That’s kind of what the situation was that night.”
It was about then that backup arrived. It is unclear why the dispatcher did not convey the message that the gun was not loaded. Within seconds, Officer Kuzma had his gun pointed at Williams and was shouting commands. When Williams waved his gun between the two officers, Kuzma fired 4 shots, including one striking Williams in the head, killing him.
While Mader made every attempt to deescalate the situation, he admits that, in that the officer arriving on scene was credibly threatened, “I believe he was justified in what he did.”
It would be a sad story if it ended there — a moment of pause seemed to have been working to save this man’s life. A second officer gave no such pause.
Weeks later, after an investigation in which Mader was not interviewed once, he was fired. He had ‘put the lives of other officer’s life in danger.’
Mader stands by his actions: “I wouldn’t change anything. Even after them saying that I failed to eliminate a threat and that it should have been handled differently, I still believe I did the right thing,”
He has since sued the city, and settled for $175K.
2. Cariol Horne Tried To Stop A Fellow Officer Who Placed A Chokehold on a Handcuffed Suspect
In 2006, Buffalo Police officer Greg Kwiatkowski had his arm wrapped around the neck of a black suspect who was already in handcuffs.
“You killing him, Greg!” Cariol was an 18 year veteran of the Buffalo Police force. She grabbed his arm.
Kwiatkowski assaulted Horne for intervening. Two years later, just months away from receiving her full pension. Horne was fired.
Her story remained one of complicity until the death of George Floyd brought it back to the surface. Two interesting developments on that note: this is the same Buffalo Police Department that shoved a 75 year old man who remains hospitalized for his head injuries.
And Officer Kwiatkowski? He later was sentenced for 4 years in prison for excessive force against black teens — though he was never disciplined for the incident Horne was fired for.
The suspect in that case, Neal Mack, maintains that Horne saved his life.
Horne has been fighting for her pension ever since, but to date, has given up her career for standing up to a fellow officer.
3. Justin Hanners Fired For Speaking Out Against Illegal Quotas
Auburn Police Officer Justin Hammers was upset to learn that he would be expected to make 100 ‘contacts’ per month. While 40 could be just traffic warnings, the other 60 had to come from citations, field interviews, and arrests.
Then Sergeant Terry Neal was recorded saying “Let’s go out here and make some contacts, put some asses in jail, write some tickets and all that neat, fun stuff we signed up to do when we signed up to do this job.”
Office Hanners disagreed with the policy: “The role of policy in society, I believe, are to interfere with the lives of people as little as possible… but protect them from the one percent element that wants to victimize them,” Hanners told Reason TV. “Let them be free to live their lives, but protect the people and property — that’s what they pay us to do.”
Hanners sent a formal grievance too the director of public safety. When he refused to drop the complaint, he was fired.
I am friends with several police officers. They are not racists or bigots, so far as I can tell. They are good men, of sound character. I understand that they may be disheartened to see me use the #ACAB hashtag.
But the history of institutional policing in the United States is clear. While all cops may not be bad people, the act of being the enforcer in a system which continues to operate outside what is necessary for the peace of our communities is a bad role.
Until sweeping, lasting and meaningful reforms are made to police departments, it’s well justified to condemn the institution at large. It would take so little to start to restore faith.
In a conversation with one of the few conservatives I am friends with, he pointed out that simply coming forward and saying that every death at the hands of police will be fully investigated, and include a community board, would cost nothing, and show that they are committed to reform. But most have been silent, or offered empty platitudes.
Or, worse, we see places like Broward County that invite those who have been fired for excessive force to join their ranks. How can we have good faith in moving forward when some are outspoken on maintaining the status quo we protest against?
Until police forces endorse and support good cops, until they commit to ensuring bad cops will be weeded out, the institution festers in rot.
And in that rot, all cops become bad.