New Research Examines Retaliation Against Police Whistleblowers

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A recent USA Today article highlights the dangers law enforcement officers face when they blow the whistle. A follow-up opinion piece provides more insight into the investigation into police whistleblower retaliation and the investigative reporters’ takeaways from the whistleblowers’ stories.

The original investigative piece aimed “to quantify, for the first time, the extent of the problem and how it impacts the whistleblowers,” the opinion piece states. Author Nicole Carroll describes the challenges that the reporters faced in getting records about whistleblower complaints, finding little success in asking police agencies for documentation. “They cited privacy issues and ongoing investigations or just ignored the requests,” Carroll writes. To find answers, reporters instead went to whistleblowers themselves and asked about the other avenues down which they pursued blowing the whistle.

From there, the reporters found that whistleblowers turned to a variety of agencies and organizations outside of their own departments to make their complaints. USA Today requested records from these places, which include state labor boards, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, state police, etc. However, Carroll writes that “[m]any fought the requests, and we fought back for the public’s right to know. We sent reporters to seven states to interview police officers, victims of misconduct and grieving families.”

Ultimately, the reporters “found 300 cases in the past decade where an officer helped expose misconduct…The vast majority of those cases ended with those whistleblowers saying they faced retaliation.” Carroll’s piece continues to delve into different reporters’ thoughts about the whistleblower cases they analyzed and the stories they learned about. Read the article here.

WNN has previously featured several law enforcement whistleblowers as Whistleblowers of the Week. Through this ongoing series, which profiles whistleblowers from all industries and walks of life, police whistleblowers have told their stories of bravery and the treatment they often undergo for their courageous actions.

“The fight for justice against corruption is never easy. It never has been and never will be,” advised New York Police Department (NYPD) whistleblower Frank Serpico. “It exacts a toll on ourself, our families, our friends, and especially our children. In the end, I believe, as in my case, the price we pay is well worth holding on to our dignity.” Serpico blew the whistle in the late 1960s and 70s on corruption in the NYPD, having witnessed bribery and a lack of accountability for corruption, among other offenses.

The stories are endless. Former Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Heather McWilliam experienced sexual harassment on the job and was subject to harsh retaliation when she reported the behavior. Austin Handle, a former police officer in Georgia, blew the whistle on a superior officer’s sexual harassing behavior and was terminated from his job for his refusal to engage in inappropriate and corrupt systems. Ottawa Police Department Constable Kimberly Cadarette experienced bullying and sexual harassment on the job and as a result, she was forced to engage in a fitness for duty exam that turned out to be fraudulent. Each of these whistleblowers’ stories highlight the challenges of speaking truth to power in law enforcement.

Read more Whistleblower of the Week profiles on WNN.

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