Magazine article Law & Order

Bad Apples: Legend or Fact?

Magazine article Law & Order

Bad Apples: Legend or Fact?

Article excerpt

The police in America are under closer scrutiny today than ever in history. When questioned about police perfonnance. police officials often respond by say. ing. "Most cops are good people, but like any profession, there will always be a few bad apples in the group."

With all eyes on law enforcement, is that type of response adequate? Doesn't it prompt a few immediate follow-up questions? Unless it is put in context, isn't this type of comment just a 'cop-out?' Why do people continue to accept it as being a rational comment? These are important ethical and moral matters worthy of more than a trite comment.

What is this 'bad apple' stuffall about? When officers do things they instinctively know to be wrong, are they 'bad apples?' When a police officer makes an honest mistake, is he/ she a 'bad apple?' Once a person earns the title of bad apple," is it a one-time thing or does he/she continue to rot? Does a bad apple really ruin the rest of the apples? Who is qualified to discuss the 'bad apple' concept with any degree of credibility? Has any research been done to determine the validity of this idea? If you know there are 'bad apples' around, what are you doing about it?

When that phrase is used to address the issues facing law enforcement today, it can no longer stand alone. High-ranking public officials have an obligation to do more than just mouth those magic words to dismiss the matter from further scrutiny.

Farmers know what to do with bad apples. I asked one recently about the issue, and he said when he spots a bad apple, he throws it away. Why? So it doesn't affect the other apples nearby. He confirmed the theory that one bad apple can actually contaminate many other apples. What does a police chief or sheriffdo when he becomes aware of a 'bad apple' in his/ her department? Faced with such a question, officials often say, "We handle it internally. …

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