BALTIMORE (WJZ)— The blue wall of silence, it’s the unwritten code among officers not to snitch on each other.
But could that culture be changing among police in Baltimore after some high-profile incidents?
“This code of silence has been going on as long as there’s been multiple police officers on the same organization,” said policing expert Doug Ward, with Johns Hopkins University.
In one of the rare times it’s been exposed in Baltimore, former Officer Joe Crystal found a rat on his car after telling prosecutors he witnessed fellow officers assault a suspect. He claimed he couldn’t get back up and that the commissioner at the time failed to shield him from retaliation.
“I didn’t become a cop to beat somebody or to get street justice, I became a cop to do my job and get real justice,” said Crystal, during a September 2014 interview.
It’s not just Baltimore, in Chicago the mayor cited it in the fallout after the police shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald.
But has the culture changed?
At a press conference Monday, Commissioner Kevin Davis praised two officers for testifying after a fellow officer assaulted an unarmed man. The officer was later convicted.
“Reporting this conduct–now absolutely required by our new use of force policy–is something our community has a right to expect from all police officers in Baltimore,” said Davis.
“When you find the good things, the officers doing the right thing, you have to do that praise,” said Ward.
Ward says breaking the blue wall of silence means setting an example at the top and firing people who aren’t complying, but concedes–it’s hard.
“It’s one of the most difficult things. It tends to perpetuate itself,” Ward says. “That culture of that’s how we do it here, ‘I don’t care what they taught you in the academy. This is how we do it in this precinct.’ That’s what happens. But it changes and it changes over time.”