FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 10, 2022
The Vital Role of Whistleblower Protections for Law Enforcement Officers
Government Accountability Project publishes landmark report recommending urgent law reform to promote police accountability.
WASHINGTON – A new report published by Government Accountability Project entitled “Breaking The Blue Wall of Silence: The Vital Role of Whistleblower Protections for Law Enforcement Officers,” provides a comprehensive overview of whistleblowing in the law enforcement community and seeks to begin a productive dialogue around this crucial, though often overlooked, aspect of police reform. This report is launched after an interview with our Legal Director Tom Devine on NPR’s “On The Media” about the horrific experiences of law enforcement whistleblowers who suffer chilling, and sometimes life-threatening retaliation for reporting abuses by their fellow cops. Protecting law enforcement whistleblowers who witness wrongdoing is a critical component of addressing the vacuum of meaningful accountability in law enforcement.
This culture of silence, ingrained in the nearly 18,000 police departments across the United States, makes whistleblowing in law enforcement extremely unlikely, and thus all the more necessary. To restore public trust in law enforcement institutions, a rigorous pursuit of police integrity must provide safe channels for reporting the truth if justice and accountability are going to prevail. Strong legislation that protects the indispensable role of police whistleblowers is an essential component of reform efforts to prevent and address police misconduct. Without meaningful legal protections, those officers who dare to disclose law enforcement corruption and abuse will continue to be left wrongfully exposed to ostracism, hostility, and retaliation, chilling others who might consider breaking the blue wall of silence and leaving the public at risk of harm.
By discussing the vital role whistleblowers play in enhancing policy integrity and community trust that is silenced through blowing the whistle on police misconduct—based on the nightmarish ordeals of numerous law enforcement whistleblowers—this report offers best-practice policy recommendations to dismantle the Blue Wall of Silence, including:
- Anti-retaliation rights for all who provide evidence, whether law enforcement officers, citizen witnesses or victims;
- Protection against all forms of retaliation, including a whistleblower defense against civil and criminal liability;
- Best practice legal standards to enforce those rights, including burdens of proof, administrative and judicial remedies, protection against gag orders and adequate relief for those who prevail, and
- Independent investigations of disclosures with best practice confidentiality shields and action free from conflicts of interest, so the truth makes a difference.
The report reinforces legislation recently introduced in Congress by Representative Gerald Connelly, the Special Inspector General for Law Enforcement Act, honors all these principles with best practice provisions for legitimate reform. It was developed after in-depth consultation with law enforcement officers, civil rights groups, and whistleblower organizations.
Our Legal Director Tom Devine commented:
“Congress could not reach consensus on new police controls, but it has a second chance to make a difference saving lives by enforcing the laws already on the books. After all, murder always has been illegal. Safe legal channels for truth are the lifeblood for justice, but the blue wall of silence cuts off the flow of evidence. It is not realistic to expect the police to defend the public if they cannot defend themselves. Representative Connolly’s bill gives them best practice legal rights to be public servants.”
Contact: Andrew Harman, Communications Director
Phone: (202) 926-3304
Government Accountability Project
Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.