Real Cops Who Stood Up To Corruption In Their Departments (And What Happened To Them)

Police officers have a bond like no other - both to each other and their communities.  Sometimes called the "thin blue line," officers are sworn to protect people against the horrible things of the world. But what happens when that bond is broken, and police officers aren't the ones stopping crime but creating it? Sadly, there are plenty of examples of cops who committed heinous crimes, and often the only reason these rogue cops are caught is thanks to whistleblowers in police departments. 

These whistleblower cops should be counted among the most honorable and noble police officers because of their dedication to justice. These anti-corruption cops were against the misdeeds of their fellow officers, and fought against the system when they saw something wrong. Some of them were hailed as heroes, while the others paid dire consequences. 


  • The Original Whistleblower Cop Got Shot In The Face And Was Left For Dead

    Francesco "Frank" Serpico was one of the original whistleblower cops in modern times. He joined the NYPD in September 1959. During his time in the police academy, Serpico said many of his fellow students complained about being off the streets during their time in school because they were missing out on illegal payoffs called "the nut."

    Serpico began speaking about the corruption in the department, and he was reportedly told to "go along" with the other officers. He continued complaining, and was ostracized from the officers he worked with. Realizing he wasn't getting anywhere within the system, Serpico took his story of police corruption to the New York Times, which printed a story in 1970 detailing how corrupt cops were making more than $1 million a year from their shady dealings with drug dealers and gangsters. City Hall demanded an investigation. 

    Serpico became even more hated in his department when he testified in June 1970 against fellow officers for taking bribes and receiving payoffs. During a drug arrest attempt in Brooklyn on February 3, 1971, Serpico faced an armed assailant and called for back-up, but the three officers conducting the raid with him failed to respond. The assailant shot Serpico in the face with a .22 pistol, the bullet lodging just below his eye.

    Serpico's fellow officers left him to bleed out rather than call in a "Officer Down." After an elderly man who lived in the neighborhood called 911, Serpico made it to the hospital and recovered. He still experiences chronic pain from the bullet fragments lodged in his brain. Serpico received the Medal of Honor, the NYPD's highest honor, in May 1972, and retired from the force a month later. He moved to Europe and spent a decade in Switzerland and the Netherlands. His exploits with the NYPD inspired the Peter Maas book Serpico, and the 1973 film of the same name that earned Al Pacino an Oscar nomination.

  • Patrol Partners Exposed Corruption And Paid The Price

    Patrol Partners Exposed Corruption And Paid The Price
    Photo: Chicago Police Department / Wikimedia Commons

    Beginning in the early 2000s, suspicions arose that members of the Chicago Police Department's (CPD) Second District were shaking down drug dealers and pocketing the cash. Officers Shannon Spalding and Daniel Echeverria went undercover in a joint CPD and FBI investigation to find evidence of the claims.

    In February 2012, tactical unit Sgt. Ronald Watts and tactical team officer Kallat Mohamed were arrested after being videotaped taking money from a drug dealer, who was actually an undercover informant. The department called the case closed, despite rumors more than a half dozen other cops were involved in illegal activity - including two unsolved homicides.

    The investigation was stopped after the arrest of Watts and Mohamed. In an interview with NBC 5, Spalding said she was told the investigation was "too big" and included too many high-ranking officers. Spalding and Echeverria were ostracized and intimidated after their role in the undercover investigation was intentionally leaked within the department. "My life, my safety my freedom was threatened," Spalding said. "I was subjected to daily harassment."

    The two officers filed a civil rights lawsuit against the CPD and a third officer stepped forward to corroborate their claims. Spalding and Echeverria were given dead-end assignments and supervisors instructed other officers in their unit to ignore their calls for backup. A sergeant was heard saying Spalding "better wear her bulletproof vest" or she might "go home in a casket." In November 2016, the city of Chicago settled the with Spalding and Echeverria, awarding them $2 million.

  • A Cop Who Released Tapes of Corruption Was Thrown In The Psych Ward

    Officer Adrian Schoolcraft felt there was something wrong in his Brooklyn precinct, but he didn't know what to do about it. He decided to carry around a digital audio recorder at all times and capture as much evidence of what he believed was top-to-bottom corruption in the NYPD.

    From June 1, 2008, to October 31, 2009, Schoolcraft recorded hundreds of hours of audio from within the precinct and out on the streets. His recordings revealed cops in his precinct were expected to meet quotas for stop-and-frisks and arrests or face punishment. Commanding officers instructed beat cops to neglect some robbery reports to manipulate crime statistics, and even intimidated crime victims who filed complaints.

    Schoolcraft released the tapes to The Village Voice, which ran a series of damning articles. An investigation opened up that corroborating Schoolcraft's claims. On October 7, 2010, Schoolcraft was interviewed by the Quality Assistance Division for three hours about his allegations. Later that month, after he left work early because he felt sick, he was visited at home by precinct supervisors. He was thrown to the floor, handcuffed, and admitted to the psychiatric ward at Jamaica Hospital against his will.

    Schoolcraft was forcibly held at the psych ward for six days. He returned home to find that officers had removed paperwork detailing his grievances against the NYPD's actions. Fortunately for Schoolcraft, the digital audio recorder that initially got him into hot water was running when he was cuffed and taken to the psych ward, proving he was coherent and rational and had refused medical assistance. Schoolcraft sued the city for $50 million for violating his civil rights and finally settled the case for $600,000 in 2015. Only four cops from his precinct received internal disciplinary charges - none were fired or arrested.

  • A Veteran Officer Lost Her Pension (And Her Teeth) For Stopping Police Brutality

    A Veteran Officer Lost Her Pension (And Her Teeth) For Stopping Police Brutality
    Photo: Heron E. Simonds-Price / GoFundMe

    Former Buffalo Police Officer Cariol Horne was a veteran with the department when she stopped one of her fellow police officers from brutalizing a handcuffed suspect. On November 1, 2006, Horne responded to a call of domestic abuse at the home of Neal Mack and found him in handcuffs for resisting arrest.

    Horne and nine other officers dragged Mack from his home, at which point Horne claims the arresting officer, Gregory Kwiatkowski, began choking the handcuffed Mack. She told him to stop. Instead of standing down, Kwiatkowski flew into a rage and punched Horne so hard she had to have the bridge in her teeth replaced. Horne was fired and charged with obstruction of justice for interceding. She was two months shy of earning her pension.

    It might be small consolation for Horne, but her actions were vindicated when Kwiatkowski was forced to retire from the police department for choking an officer and for an off-duty scuffle with another office. In May 2014, Kwiatowski was indicted for violating the civil rights of several Black teen suspects.

  • A Whistleblower Cop's Life Was Threatened With Arson

    Scott Germond wanted nothing more in life than to serve and protect. He worked for the Chenango County Corrections Division and then landed his dream job with the Norwich Police Department (NPD) in 2014. As soon as he started at the NPD, Germond was asked by a commanding officer to help him get another officer fired. Germond wouldn't do it and suddenly he did not "fit the norm" and became the target of harassment from his fellow officers.

    When Germond reported the misconduct within the department to the city, things really started to heat up. One of the accused officers got "violently confrontational" and another threatened to burn down Germond's house and kill him. The commanding officer who asked Germond to get another officer fired was relieved of duty, but the harassment continued and even worsened.

    When fellow officers told Germond they would not back him up in dangerous situations on the job, he was diagnosed with PTSD and took a medical leave. "I took an oath to protect and serve the public," Germond said in June 2016. "I’m not going to uphold the 'blue line' when people are doing things they shouldn’t. My ethics are better than that."

  • A "Rat" Cop Who Fought Police Misconduct Was Forced To Quit

    Before Baltimore became synonymous with police brutality in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray in 2015, one officer attempted to blow the whistle on police misconduct and paid the price for it. Baltimore Police Department officer Joseph Crystal reported a fellow officer for beating a suspect while in custody and he was harassed for being a "rat" and eventually forced out of the department.

    Crystal was working a drug arrest in October 2011 where a suspect threw away what his fellow officers believed were drugs. They pursued the man and later found them hiding in the home of an officer's girlfriend. According to Crystal, the suspect, while still handcuffed, was taken out of the police wagon and back into the house where he was found, at which point an off-duty officer proceeded to beat the man.

    Crystal did what any honorable officer would do and reported the misconduct. After cooperating with prosecutors, Crystal became the target of harassment by his fellow officers, who called him "rat" and even left a dead rat on his car.

    Feeling the Baltimore Police Department had become a hostile workplace environment, Crystal quit the force and filed a $5 million lawsuit contending that "nothing has come of the investigation into what the department did and allowed to continue to happen to plaintiff for whistleblowing police misconduct." The city eventually settled with Crystal for $42,000, a paltry sum in light of the stress he was subjected to and the loss of his career and reputation.