BAD COPS: THE CODE OF SILENCE AND THIN BLUE LINE AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE?
L-R: Chief Burtell Jefferson & Earl K. Bell
KIT Youth & Police Forum on Violence
Santa’s Helper Judge Harry T. Alexander
Second Row L-R: Santa’s Helper Chief Burtell Jefferson & Sgt. Earl K. Bell in Germany standing tall against racism in the U. S. Army (Jet Magazine 1969)
Third Row: Politician/Federal Judge Alex Williams
I had two brothers who took on careers in law enforcement. My older brother Robert Alfred Bell (aka Bobby) was a U. S. Marshall for 20 years and my younger brother Earl K. Bell was a DC cop for thirteen years. They both both had encounters with The Code of Silence and The Thin Blue Line.
My brother Bobby had a Guardian Angel looking over his shoulder, my mentor and friend, the late Luke C.Moore. Luke was the first black appointed U. S. Marshall in Charge in modern day history by President Lyndon Johnson. When Bobby joined the U. S. Marshall service Luke was a sitting judge in the DC Superior Court. Judge Moore sat in The Cat Bird’s Seat and intercepted any problems Bobby had in-house. My brother Earl was not so lucky, my associates/friends on the police department were nothing but go along to get along Negroes just short of being “Uncle Toms.” They included, Chief Maurice Turner and Assistant Chiefs Marty Tapscott, Isacc Fullwood. If they had balls the DC Police Department would be eons ahead of other departments in the country when it came to Community & Race Relations.
In the late 60s the Godfather of Police Community Relations, Patrick Murphy the former Chief of Police in New York City was hired to come in and clean up the Department. During that era I was working for the DC Recreation Department in its elite Roving Leader Program (Youth Gang Task Force). Mr. Murphy was so impressed with our work in the streets he invited us to Police HQ once a month to discus police and the community. He was a brilliant man with some great ideas but before he could get them implemented the corrupt cops and the police union ran him out of town.
On August 1, 2013 my young brother Earl died in a nursing home somewhere in Maryland twenty five years after his horrific automobile accident on the way to his new assignment. It was against all odds he overcame a juvenile receiving home, a NE Housing Project, a dead beat dad, racism in the U. S. Army, and racism in his hometown while trying to join the DC Police Department. He beat prostate cancer and almost overcame a Code of Silence before his accident in 1988. He was no match for The Code of Silence and The Thin Blue Line of the DC Police Department.
When he returned home from Germany after serving eight years in the U. S. Army Fighting racism, he found more racism. Black recruits who were seeking employment in the DC police department were being denied jobs because of their past juvenile records. DC law clearly stated “Juvenile records were not to be used as a measuring rod for employment.”
Earl passed the physical and written exams with flying colors only to discover his life as juvenile delinquent was now being held against him. The law was a little known fact until I asked my friend Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Bill Raspberry of the Washington Post to investigate this unknown policy. The department cried “Mistake” by a clerk who didn’t know any better. Several days later Earl K. Bell received a letter saying he was hired as DC Police Officer.
During my brother’s tour of duty in the U. S. Army, he stood up to fight racism in a downtown German night club that admitted white enlisted men but discriminated against black enlisted men (Jet Magazine 1969). He fought to protect abused and jailed inmates during his tour of duty in the cell block located at DC Police HQ.
He studied hard to be promoted to the rank of Sergeant only because he wanted to make difference in people’s lives. It was Chief Burtell Jefferson who encouraged him to take the exam. Burtell was a no-nonsense leader during that era. In 1986 Earl was assigned to the cell block located in MPD HQ on weekends. He discovered two cops were using black prisoners as punching bags. This was a form of entertainment for them—one officer was black and one was white. This was equal opportunity abuse, except all the prisoners being brutally abused were black. He quietly pulled the abusive officers aside and warned them that their kind of behavior was not to be tolerated on his tour of duty.
The two officers continued the abuse. Earl turned to me for advice and I advised him to report the abuse to my childhood friends, Chief Maurice Turner and Assistant Chief Marty Tapscott (Chief Jefferson had retired). They apparently approved of the practice or were members of “The Code of Silence Fraternity.” It looked like their mission was to sweep the abuse under the rug. My next advice, report the incident to the U. S. Attorney’s office. The officers were convicted but won on appear and were rewarded for their cowardly acts. The black officer Tommy Musgrove was given back pay and retired as an Inspector.
It was this same mentality that Assistant Chief Isaac Fullwood used to punish my brother for testifying against two rogue cops. I had known Fullwood since high school so I stopped by to see him for an update on my brother’s status. He said “Harold don’t worry I got Bull’s back.” Fullwood turned out to be another lying police department administrator.
Two months later The Code of Silence kicked in. He assigned my brother to the Police & Fire Clinic for 60 days taking him off the streets. On the morning of his first assignment at the clinic he encountered an icy bridge on Southern Ave SE and Suitland Parkway. His airborne car ran head on into a 16 wheeler tractor trailer. When I arrived at the SE Community Hospital I was told by the doctors “It does not look good for him to make it.” But they didn’t know Bull Bell and that God was in charge. He was able to survive the ordeal because he ran 10 miles each day and was an avid swimmer.
Against all odds he beat the Devil at his own game. He lived through the ordeal but he was paralyzed from the waist down. To think of him dying in a filthy nursing home without people who cared by his side is not the way I thought of my brother’s last days.
Police departments around the country have developed and implemented what is known as a “Code of Silence and Thin Blue Line.” It was established to cover-up wrong doing by rogue cops and their fellow officers. The Code of Silence was the brainchild of white officers and was to be used as a cover-up of police related acts of brutally against black Americans. It was never meant to include black officers but being “The Followers” that we are we jumped right on the bandwagon.
The LAPD and Prince Georges Police Departments are two of the worst racial profiling departments in the country. Rodney King was the norm for the LAPD until the video camera caught them in the act.
The most dangerous “Gang” in America is not The Bloods and The Crips, the most dangerous gang is your local police department. There are some good cops but today the bad cops seem to outnumber the good. I have spent the last five decades working in the streets, courthouses and with law enforcement departments in the DMV. I have seen the Good, Bad and Ugly.
Working in the inner-city has become more difficult because it hard to tell the difference when it comes to the cops and the thugs—sometimes they are one of the same.
The problem, we give them a gun and a badge and some become bullies and many are just flat-out cowards. They lack self-esteem to start with and most barely got out of high school. Many have never played anything (sports), couldn’t dance and chew bubble gum at the same time. But now with a gun and badge suddenly they are smarter and bigger and badder than anyone else. Many use that sense of power to abuse the people they are supposed to be protecting.
In 2008 Ronnie White was murdered in PG County KKK style. He was found hanging by his neck in his jail cell in an Upper Marlboro Detention Center. He had been arrested for vehicle homicide in the hit and run death of Prince Georges County Police Officer Cpl. Richard Findley.
It is now 7 years later and the FBI and the Justice Department on Civil Rights violations have not found the guilty party or guilty parties responsible for this hideous crime. But they found a “Fall Guy and Scapegoat” in a jail guard by the name of Anthony McIntosh.
McIntosh was 48 years old and according to the Washington Post in a published story written February 1, 2013, “He was charged with deprivation of rights under color of law, a civil rights violation, in connection with White’s death at the County Detention Center in Upper Marlboro.
McIntosh allegedly found White unresponsive and didn’t get him the proper care, the Justice Department said in a news release.
According to the Washington Post, “Ronnie White was found in his cell ASPHYXIATED (hung by his neck). The newspaper was hoping by using the word asphyxiated many black folks would not have a clue to how the young man died! It has often been said “If you want to hide something from a black person put it in a book.” Their thinking, a dictionary was out of the question.
What is the difference in the 1955 murder and lynching of 14 year old Emit Till in Mississippi and 2008 lynching of 24 year old Ronnie White in a Prince George’s County jail cell, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Gardner, Walter Scott and the list goes on and on? Only the dates and ages have changed. Police brutality across America is a “Modern Day Lynching.”
Sixty years later the theme song in the black community is “We Shall Overcome?” The march into Selma should have been directed to Fugerson where it would have made more sense.
In Prince Georges County, jail guard McIntosh was charged with covering up his role in White’s death. It was discovered he falsified an incident report and witness statement, according to the Justice Department.
The other charges include, two counts of destruction, alteration or falsification of records in a federal investigation.
McIntosh faces life in prison for the civil rights offense, authorities said, and further prison time for the others.”
On June 2, 2013 Justice & Just-Us raised its ugly head in another American courtroom——Greenbelt, Md.
Let me fast forward to an old associate, U. S. District Court Judge Alex Williams Jr. and focus on his comments during the sentencing of McIntosh, he said, “It remains unclear whether Ronnie White was slain or took his own life.”
My question was, where was the video that is suppose be on and running in facilities like these, suddenly it is not working? First, White’s death was correctly ruled a homicide until “The Good Old Boys” got their heads together and convinced the coroner to change his mind to say it was suicide.
I had to take a deep breath and my heart sunk when I read Judge Williams’ statement. The Alex Williams I once knew knows better, but I am willing to conceive this is not the same Alex Williams I once knew. The former lawyer that I supported for the United States Congress?
It saddens me to say, Alex has become a part of the problem in the American Justice system and not a part of the solution as many of us had hoped. I know our old and dear friend the Honorable Judge Luke C. Moore must have turned over in his grave when he heard the statement (see link). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fkafk63frbg
DC Superior Court Judges Luke Moore and Chief Judge Eugene Hamilton
I have to agree with the legendary neurosurgeon now Presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson. Several years ago he spoke at a National Prayer Breakfast with President Barack Obama in attendance, he said “Whatever happen to common sense?” I would have to ask Alex the exact same question.
McIntosh speaking for the first time on the White hanging, said, “I often think of how I should have done things differently, I should have been honest…no excuses.”
Interpretation; “with this payout I am getting from the PG County Police I can do two years standing on my head.”
Alex tried to clean up his act later when he said, “In a county with a long history of corruption, McIntosh’s awful lie did broader damage, furthering a perception that there is cause for residents to be distrustful of authorities.
Law enforcement officers and correctional officers are the glue that holds society together. What has happened here is this lie. . . has inflamed and fueled the skepticism of the public that something fishy took place.” Too late Alex, the damage had already been done.
White’s family members used the forum to go further, saying they still believe White’s death was vigilante justice. The same Justice and vigilante acts that have been a part of this county for decades are still in play and now with black faces in leadership positions it has gotten worst instead of better.
Former Upper Marlboro Court Chief Judge William Missouri another old friend was known as “The Hanging Judge” because of the way he sentenced black folks in his courtroom. He hung you without a rope. This a sad commentary when you see old friends you once knew up close and personal become a part of a system that is rotten to the core.
White’s mother and stepfather said in court that they do not accept the explanation that White committed suicide. Lonnie Gray, White’s stepfather, said he thinks county police killed White. He called McIntosh a “scapegoat” in a larger conspiracy.
Alex countered with, “I cannot blame Mr. Gray for the accusation.”
“The father, the family, is expressing the view that is out there that something occurred that has never been resolved, adding that he, himself, is not sure. No one clearly knows whether the death was a suicide or a homicide.”
Evidently, Judge Williams thinks the folks who murdered Ronnie White “Were Standing Their Ground!”
The family has been paid off, McIntosh has been paid off and Alex??? This is a very scary situation for Prince Georges County residents, the county is fast becoming a “Police State.” Alex and his neighbors don’t have to live it so far, but it is coming to his neighborhood any day now—-it is just a matter of time before he receives his wake-up call.
According to the Justice Department the White case is now closed and they will not look any further for White’s murder. I thought that a murder case was never closed (Cold Cases)? Add to Alex’s slap on the wrist to McIntosh, this now means that black Prince Georges County residents are playing Russian roulette with their lives. Every time they leave home, they will never know that the next PG cop car that pulls them over, behind the wheel just may sit Ronnie White’s killer.
There are police officers in PG County who will say that Ronnie White was murdered, but only off the record.
My brother Earl and I talked about this case when it first happen, he said, “The cops hung that brother.”
I showed him the outcome and verdict in the Washington Post, he only said ‘What did you expect?’ I expected better because my partner in the community was the judge on record. The bottom-line, what did I know and when did I not know it?
Remember the Washington Post in its early report said, “McIntosh faces life in prison for the civil rights offense, authorities said, and further prison time for the others?” How did we get life in prison down to two years? Alex missed an opportunity to send a message to the Fraternal Order of Police and their kind but instead he went along to get along.
It is “The Us against Them” mentality that has made racism rampant in police departments all across America.
The verdict and sentencing in the Courtroom of the Trayvon Martin trial and the sentencing rendered by Judge Alex Williams proves that there is still Justice & Just-Us. If you don’t think that there is Justice & Just-Us visit an Upper Marlboro Court Room on any given Monday through Friday and count the white defendants, they barely exist.
Sgt. Earl K. Bell, rest in peace my brother, I am still in the fight for honesty and transparency in police departments across America.
In a Redd Foxx sit-com 30 years ago Sanford & Son, Lamont played Red’s son on the show. He asked Redd if he knew that heart disease and hypertension were responsible for more black deaths than anything else? Redd’s response, “No I thought it was the police.” How prophetic!