*Officer Down – Officer Needs Assistance!
A call over a police radio which causes every officer to perk up, reach to activate their vehicle’s red lights and siren and start driving like a mad man. Show me rolling “code-3” in the direction of “downed”, former Buffalo police officer Cariol Horne.
As an honorably retired twenty year veteran sergeant of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) , I know first hand exactly what it feels like to stand on the threshold of unemployment during the twilight of your career. Like Horne, I faced a similar circumstance during year 18 of my career on the LAPD.
In 2006, Cariol Horne was terminated, with nineteen years on the Buffalo Police Department for intervening and trying to stop a fellow officer, Gregory Kwiatkowski, from choking a handcuffed suspect, Neal Mack. It would appear that Horne did what most of us would expect by attempting to step in and stop a partner officer from assaulting a handcuffed suspect. For her troubles, Horne received several punches to her face by partner officer Kwiatkowski which required her bridge being replaced.
According to Horne, as she attempted to stop the punching and choking by Kwiatkowski, approximately ten other officers who were on the scene began to pull Horne away from Kwiatkowski which resulted in further injury, this time to Horne’s shoulder.
Horne was later charged by the Buffalo police department for “jumping on Kwiatkowski’s back and/or striking him with her hands.” It should be noted that when interviewed, Kwiatkowski said, “she never got on top of me.” So why then was Horne fired? My guess is because she did not have her cart hitched to the right horse. My guess is because she did not enjoy the same pale privilege that Kwiatkowski enjoyed. My guess is that those ten officers at the scene were part of the [wolf] pack mentality and sided with Kwiatkowski. That same wolf pack mentality that we witnessed in the murder of Eric Garner. You know, where scores of police officers including a supervisor stand around and do nothing while police misconduct is being committed in their presence. Well, Horne was subsequently fired for “obstruction” and has reportedly lost every appeal of her termination ; thus losing her pension.
I know a little bit about this wolf pack mentality and the police culture where the good ole boys “back” one another. As a young black female rookie officer, I had a training officer place me in a twist lock (pain compliance hold taught by LAPD) by grabbing my wrist and twisting it and my arm behind my back with sufficient force to cause me to stand from a seated position and get up on my tip-toes in an effort to relieve the pain.
This assault, by my training officer, happened to me in the report writing room at Southwest Police Station in 1981. Watching and doing nothing were at least six or seven white, male training officers. But for the intervention of a male, black police officer whom just happened to be in the room with us, I don’t know what my training officer had intended to do to me that evening. Why, you ask? Because I wanted to get something to eat. My training officer was a male, asian, and he had forbidden me to eat during our shift saying, “as far as I’m concerned, a probationer can eat out of the vending machine.” (Note: this and other racist encounters are included in my autobiography, The Creation of a Manifesto, Black & Blue).
Luckily, unlike Horne, I was not disciplined for insubordination, as many of the male white police officers wanted; however, my training officer was suspended for five days without pay.
It was at this moment I knew I would never bleed blue. And because I did not bleed blue, I managed to navigate the sexist, racist LAPD waters all around me for the next 19 years. I learned to turtle up.
Disparaging treatment by a few of my white male partners and looking the other way by some of my supervisors no longer surprised me. Like Horne, my next challenge would come during year eighteen in my LAPD career.
So whatever happened to Kwiatkowski? Well, I can tell you what did not happen to Kwiatkowski back in 2006 after he allegedly choked a handcuffed suspect. He was not fired. Kwiatkowski lived to offend again.
Like former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who after having been fired by Jennings Police Department, went on to work as a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, only to later shoot and kill Mike Brown; Wilson was gifted with “resignation.” Like Tim Loehmann who was allowed to “resign” from Independence Police Department before being hired by Cleveland Police Department and later fatally shot 12-yr old Tamir Rice. Like officer Andrew Daniel who was allowed to “resign” from the California Highway Patrol after repeatedly punching in the head MMA-style Marlene Pinnock, a grandmother, on the side of the Santa Monica freeway. And like NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo,who used a prohibited chokehold on Eric Garner which resulted in his death. Athough Pantaleo has not been fired, he has been sued three times for civil rights violations. All of these seemingly unfit police officers lived to offend again and again.
So finally, “in May 2014 Kwiatowski and two other officers were indicted for federal civil rights violations against African-American teen suspects” Only then did Kwiatowski receive the gift that keeps on giving. He was “forced to retire” [that usually means in lieu of termination].
And what about fired officer Cariol Horne? Despite failed appeals, Horne is currently awaiting a decision from the New York State retirement system regarding her request to have her pension restored. I wonder if Kwiatkowski had to “fight” for his pension when he was “forced to retire?”
This is the stuff that could lead to the creation of a manifesto. While I do not condone the actions of Christopher Dorner, I understand. Dorner was a black, LAPD police officer who had been fired by the department and then fought for years to restore his good name. After years of lost appeals for reported false allegations that had been used as justification for his firing, Dorner snapped. Only now, nearly two years after his death in the San Bernardino mountains, at the hands of law enforcement, a LAPD survey of its officers seem to corroborate [some of] Dorner’s claims.
Rather than sitting around and waiting, hoping and praying that the New York State Retirement System gets it right, why don’t we flood their offices with letters of support and recommendation for reinstatement of Buffalo Police Officer Cariol Horne’s pension?
Clearly, the Buffalo Police Department acted in a manner that has become all to familiar: they circled the wagons and protected an errant officer. We cannot sit around and wait for administrative remedy nor grand jury remedy. Federal civil rights charges aside, why not request our legislators to institute laws that will hold police policy violators — and law breakers who abuse under the color of authority — personally and financially liable for damages, injury or death when incurred. If courts do that, this abusive behavior will stop — yesterday.
Cheryl Dorsey is a retired LAPD sergeant, speaker, and much sought after police expert on important issues making national headlines; as such she has appeared as a guest expert on the Dr. Phil Show, HLN and KPCC. She writes and provides commentary on police culture and surviving police encounters. She is the author of The Creation of a Manifesto, Black & Blue; an autobiography that pulls the covers of the LAPD and provides an unfiltered look into the department’s internal processes. Visit Cheryl’s website www.cheryldorsey.net., listen to her on Soundcloud follow on Twitter @retLAPDsgt