The argument that police should not be investigating themselves when it comes to charges of brutality is gaining ground in some quarters - including among African-American officers.
Convinced that the so-called "blue wall of silence" makes it difficult to hold police officers accountable in such cases, some minority officers are joining with community organizers and others who want to throw the whole process open to the public.
Lt. Eric Adams, assigned to the 88th Precinct in Brooklyn, says police forces are incapable of adequately investigating cases such as those that recently rocked the New York City Police Department. "There is too much possibility of corruption," says Lieutenant Adams, who is black. "We need independent investigations." Most recently, two officers were convicted in charges stemming from a brutal attack on a Haitian immigrant.
Adams has been highly visible in efforts to demand greater public accountability by police departments, as has Sgt. De Lacy Davis, a black officer in East Orange, N.J. The two have organized peers, decrying disciplinary systems that they say protect the abusers.
HE TESTIFIED last month at a hearing here before the US Commission on Civil Rights. The federal panel is looking into charges of police brutality and discrimination against minorities in New York.
The hearing came as one sign of growing skepticism over internal investigations by police departments. Human Rights Watch, an international monitoring group, examined disciplinary procedures in 14 US cities and concluded that holding abusive officers accountable is virtually impossible.
Some minority officers, of course, argue that blaming departments' internal affairs units - which investigate charges of police abuse - is unfair because the units lack the resources needed to ferret out bad cops.
But Sergeant Davis, who has advised police departments around the country, places much of the blame on cops, including blacks, who adhere to the code of silence. He sees the need for independent investigating bodies, and also for community-based training of police, as well as mandatory drug testing and annual psychological testing.