We Need to Have Each Other’s Backs

Daniel Coyne

What does the phrase “thin blue line” mean to you? The origin of the phrase dates back to an 1854 battle during the Crimean War, in which a British infantry regiment, in red uniforms, stood its ground against a Russian cavalry charge. The British formation became known as the “thin red line.”

This phrase was later repurposed by Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Parker, who referred to his department, the LAPD, as the “thin blue line.” Throughout the years, this phrase gained popularity and now is widely recognized as a term for law enforcement.

If you look again at the origin of this phrase, the members of the British infantry regiment survived the cavalry charge by having each other’s backs, fighting together and not leaving one another vulnerable.

That is what the “thin blue line” means to me and many other officers today. We have each other’s backs, we are a family, and if we don’t stick together and look out for one another, we will not survive this career. Law enforcement has recently survived attacks by the media, the public, the bad guys and even our Department’s liberal administrations who have turned their backs on us. We have survived all these attacks because of the “thin blue line.” We survived because we are a family and we were there for and protected each other, and because of that the “thin blue line” symbol itself was attacked by the media.

I fear that the “thin blue line” is at risk because this new generation of law enforcement officers is not taking ownership of it.

I am writing this article because I want to remind everyone how important it is to remember what the “thin blue line” is and what and who it has protected for generations. However, I fear that the “thin blue line” is at risk because this new generation of law enforcement officers is not taking ownership of it; they are not creating a brotherhood or a family with their peers, but instead are attacking each other from within.

I am seeing an alarming trend of officers telling on each other for hurting their feelings, playing music that they don’t like or countless other stupid things. I am even seeing officers writing each other traffic citations. I’m not telling you not to do the right thing when you witness something truly wrong or unlawful, by all means that is when you need to tell on someone. I don’t want you covering things up, either. The issue that I am talking about is the personality conflicts and minor issues that people are complaining on each other about. I guess some people can’t just tell you “Don’t say that word” or “I don’t like that joke,” but instead will SOC you and come after your career.

I don’t know if you are aware of this, but a large number of complaints filed on our cops come from other cops. I believe the Department is breeding this tattle-tale culture starting in the Academy. They encourage you to tell on people, to give bad reviews to instructors if they aren’t entertaining enough and to tell on your Academy mate for forgetting something. They even let you critique/tell on your FTO when you finish FTEP. They love turning us on each other because that’s how they control us.

Think about it, they don’t have your back, and if we don’t have each other’s backs, who is going to help you? We don’t ever see the brass telling on each other, right? That’s because they have figured out the game. They have each other’s backs. To make things even better, they don’t let you tell on them, either; they only want you to complain on other officers. And if you do tell on them, more than likely your complaint won’t be taken seriously, and the tables will be turned on you. You’ll go into the interview as a witness and come out defeated, your career will be in jeopardy and you’ll be a target for your supervisors. I have personally seen this; I have seen our officers have legitimate complaints on their chain. These officers stand up for themselves and then end up standing in the unemployment line. Most recently, a lieutenant played a video at a briefing that legitimately offended many officers because of its content, which was vulgar and used the n-word many times. Our officers did the right thing and reported this incident. The Department investigated it and the lieutenant was given an admin spot, which comes with an 8% raise. It was reported to us that this lieutenant has gone around saying, “If this is what I get for being in trouble, I’m going to get into trouble more often.” Now the officers who complained have expressed to us that they have been treated differently and unfairly after complaining, but the lieutenant gets rewarded. They now have said that no matter what, they will never complain on a supervisor again because of the outcome in this case.

Have you ever wondered why LVMPD has a covert recording policy that pretty much only protects supervisors? I mean, they are OK with you being recorded by your body cams, they are OK with you being recorded by the public and they are OK with criminal IA recording you. They are generally OK with everyone recording you because transparency is a great thing for you! Yes, they love body camera and surveillance for you, but when your supervisors talk down to you, curse at you, make fun of you, try to illegally enforce quotas on you or even threaten you, and you try to make a record of it, the Department will open an SOC and discipline you. Again, I am not against body cameras, I would just like for the rule to be fair across the board and allow our officers to record an incident where their rights are being trampled on. The Department’s rules are not enforced fairly across the board; “the rules are for you and not for them.” Remember that and recognize who really has your back. This was a lot to write for one very simple message, which is to please stop telling on each other for the little things!