One of the main arguments by opponents of some police and criminal justice reforms is that protestors focus too much on the actions of a few bad apples. The vast majority of police go to work and do the right thing every day.
Many protestors counter that those "good cops" need to be partners in reform and that they have a mutual interest in getting rid of police officers with questionable ethics.
One such officer — who did the right thing and lost her job for it — finally received the vindication in court she’d been seeking. It could signal another crack in the "blue wall of silence."
Fired for Stopping Police Brutality
In 2006, Cariol Horne, who is Black, was an officer with the Buffalo Police Department. A veteran of the force at the time, she intervened when a white officer applied a chokehold to a handcuffed Black suspect.
The other officer, Gregory Kwiatkowski, accused Horne of endangering him and the suspect. With no support from other officers who witnessed the incident, Horne was fired in 2008.
Kwiatkowski would go on to serve a federal prison term for using excessive force against four Black teenagers.
Additionally, Horne was one year shy of her 20th year on the force at the time of her firing, so she lost her entire pension. "I always say that if I had to do it again, I would," Horne said about actions that she felt saved the suspect’s life.
A Long Overdue Court Victory for Horne and Advocates
Horne filed several administrative and court challenges in the years since her firing, losing each time, until earlier this month.
The city of Buffalo in 2020 also adopted "Cariol’s Law," which makes it a crime for a police officer to not intervene when another officer is using excessive force. The law also included a provision to retroactively protect officers like Horne.
With that nod to recent history and the death of George Floyd, New York State Superior Court Dennis Ward this month overturned a prior court ruling, restoring Horne’s pension and awarding her back pay.
"To her credit, Officer Horne did not merely stand by, but instead sought to intervene, despite the penalty she ultimately paid for doing so," Ward wrote in his ruling.
It remains to be seen whether this ruling and the publicity that Horne won for her cause will have a broader effect on policing. However, there appears to be a little bit more support for officers who "do the right thing."
- Excessive Force and Police Brutality (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)
- What Should You Do if You Witness Police Brutality? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)
- Is It Legal to Videotape, Record Police? (FindLaw’s Blotter)
- If You Record Police Misconduct, Should You Put the Video Online? (FindLaw’s Blotter)
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