AL Police Officer Admits to Lying for Other Officers

Here’s a rare but important situation. A police officer in Alabama, likely at great risk to himself, testified at the trial of another officer that he and other officers lied to help cover up a case of totally unprovoked brutality by the cop on trial.

An Alabama police officer broke down at the federal trial of a fellow cop, admitting that he lied to internal affairs investigators twice, lied to an FBI agent and lied to a federal grand jury when he was questioned about his colleague brutally beating a handcuffed man and keeping his property as “trophies.”

Joshua Bates, an eight year veteran of the Huntsville Police Department, testified Tuesday that he lied to cover for fellow officer Brett Russell out of fear of losing his job, but admitted that the incident has haunted him ever since.

The incident took place on December 23, 2011 after Russell responded to a domestic violence call at the home of Gary Wayne Hopkins. Bates, who was training a cadet at the time, was called to the scene to assist Russell with putting leg shackles on the suspect.

Once Hopkins was in custody, the dashcam footage showed Russell punching and kicking the suspect, ordering him to “stop resisting,” despite the fact that he was restrained.

Hopkins was so badly injured that the jail refused to take him until he was treated at a hospital.

Following the incident, the officers on the scene reported that Hopkins was combative and defended Russell’s actions. A few days before testifying, Bates contacted the U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case and agreed to tell the truth about what really happened that night in exchange for immunity.

This is a daily occurrence in our police departments all over the country. Everyone knows it. The good cops know it, see it, but feel they can’t stop it because they’ll face threats not only to their job but to their safety. I have interviewed cops who have told me this directly, anonymously of course. They say they know that their are officers who are corrupt and abusive in their departments, but they can’t say anything because they literally fear for their lives and their families if they squeal.

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  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    The good cops know it

    Then they are not good cops.

    I do not believe good cops actually exist, any more than bigfoot or chupacabras. Show me these good cops.

  • busterggi

    Sad but true Marcus.

  • eric

    In the Dubose shooting, at least two other officers corroborated Tensing’s false story. They’re on tape saying the saw him dragged by the car – something that never happened. It will be interesting to see what those officers say if they are questioned on the stand.

  • demonhauntedworld

    I wonder if the cop is more likely to end up being convicted in this case because he’s black and the victim is white. A bit of a twist on the usual situation.

  • Moon Jaguar

    I hope the widespread use of body cams reduces this corrupt cop abuse bullshit.

  • http://www.chris-winter.com/ caseloweraz

    The testimony of Tensing in his trial will be interesting. A portion of the prosecuting attorney’s cross might be:

    PA: So, Officer Tensing, you said you were dragged by the car. How did that occur?

    OT: I was reaching into the car to take the suspect’s driver’s license when he started to drive forward. My arm snagged on the locking post and I was pulled with it.

    PA: Which arm was this?

    OT: My right arm.

    PA: So, you are right-handed?

    OT: Yes.

    PA: Then, Officer Tensing, how were you able to draw your service revolver from the holster on your right hip?

    All of this is pure speculation, of course.

  • Holms

    I do not believe good cops actually exist, any more than bigfoot or chupacabras. Show me these good cops.

    Of course they exist, they just aren’t headline-worthy because everyone loves a scandal.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    Show me these good cops.

    Well, the cop in the OP who is testifying is making a good start at becoming a good cop.

    Let me try a short version of my rant. Cops are mere professional bounty hunters in all of the relevant and evocative senses of the word. We should expect the same kinds of behavior from bounty hunters who are government employees paid by salary, and private contractors who are paid by commission. We need to regulate and control the police as such – professional bounty hunters. We need to do this:

    1- Remove all special immunity from cops – again to allow criminal prosecution of cops for their misdeeds. Ignorance of the law should not be an excuse, and especially for cops. Cops should be as liable for illegal acts as any other citizen – civilly and criminally.

    2- Allow all citizens to personally seek grand jury criminal indictments and perform a criminal prosecution so that we might be able to criminally prosecute bad cops without the approval of the state prosecutor.

    3- Require cops to follow the same standards of arrest, standards of detention, and use of force for arrest and detention as any private citizen contractor bounty hunter. If you don’t want Dog The Bounty Hunter to be able to use such and such force in such and such situation, then the cops shouldn’t be able to do it either.

    4- Except in war or insurrection, completely ban the use of “no knock, no announce” warrants. Natural disasters do not count. The persons serving a warrant must announce their presence, then wait a reasonable amount of time for an occupant to answer, then give a reasonable amount of time for the occupant to read the warrant and call a lawyer or friend, and only then may they use the power of the warrant to perform what would otherwise be criminal trespass, criminal breaking and entering, criminal wrongful arrest, criminal theft, and so on. Further, the use of warrants which allow trespass and breaking and entering shall be restricted to daytime hours – except perhaps in time sensitive matters where the purpose of the warrant might be frustrated by waiting until the next morning. (This is not an exception to the “knock and announce” requirement. It’s only an exception to the “daytime hours” requirement.)

    5- In particular, cops shall be required to follow the same laws as anyone else regarding firearms, including brandishing, shooting bullets, possession and ownership, open carry, and concealed carry. Yes – I said it. If an average citizen cannot own a particular firearm and possess it, then neither can a cop. (This is not a restriction on the use of firearms by the military in times of war or insurrection.)

  • bmiller

    Enlightened Liberal has an interesting list.

    2. bothers me a bit. I can just see Sovereign Citizens, Birthers, Truthers, etc. using such provisions and creating chaos in the court system.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @bmiller

    IMHO, that’s no more or less true than filing a bunch of frivolous civil suits. And worse for civil suits is that it bothers the target immediately, whereas for criminal charges, the grand jury can withhold an indictment without the future-defendant from ever getting involved.

    This is also how it worked for more than 200 years in this country. The whole way we approached criminal justice as a country changed about a 100 years ago. I know at least 120 years ago, many if not most criminal prosecutions happened as a result of private citizens seeking criminal indictments from grand juries, then performing the criminal prosecution themself. I don’t know what changed, or when, or how, to get us from that state to today. I really think we should go back to that state.

    I used to buy the line that we need police with superior police powers to keep a well-functioning society. I no longer think that is true.

    Having said that, I am not a libertarian. Without police, many people would resort to private agencies such as the Pinkerton Detective Agency, which at its height had more agents in its employ than the entire standing army of the United States – a frightening prospect. I want that power to be controlled by the government, which is why I still want government paid police. However, I do not see why the government paid police need any additional police powers to do their job. The system seemed to have worked to some degree for hundreds of years and society did not collapse.

    What seems to have happened is we as a country became more fascist and totalitarian, and in the words of Benjamin Franklin, we have sacrificed essential liberty in exchange for purported temporary safety. It’s a bad deal. We should take that deal back.

    Here’s a brief primer which sounds amazing and full of lies, but I’ve confirmed a fair bit of it personally.

    >ARE COPS CONSTITUTIONAL?

    >Roger Roots*

    http://www.constitution.org/lrev/roots/cops.htm?PageSpeed=noscript

    Again, I think it’s amazing that this kind of thing is not covered in any sort of civics class and that I didn’t know about it until recently. The bill of rights and our constitutional framework didn’t make sense in a lot of places, but with this knowledge, everything makes so much more sense, and the frames totally had it right IMHO on these points.

  • colnago80

    Re Marcus Ranum @ #1

    Hey Ranum, if you happened to get mugged some day, call a hippie.

  • Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y

    Re Marcus Ranum @ #1

    Hey Ranum, if you happened to get mugged some day, call a hippie.

    Sound advice. At least the hippie is unlikely to make things any worse…

  • colnago80

    Re EL @ #8

    Spoken like someone who lives in a low crime area (I live in such an area). If EL lived in a high crime area, I suspect that he would recognize his statements as the bullshit they are.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @colnago80

    Totalitarian statist.

    Live free or die!

    Give me liberty, or give me death!

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @colnago80

    Further, what is your position – exactly? Which of my proposals do you seriously believe would impede the ability of the police and others to fight crime? Go on; explain it to me.

  • grumpyoldfart

    As a teenager I was being harassed by the local police when one of them asked the other, “How many break and enters have we got on the books?”

    “About forty,” came the reply.

    “Well book this bastard for ten of them.”

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    To everyone else, whenever you hear quotes of the US founders complaining about standing armies, take a moment and realize that they’re actually complaining about modern police as you understand them.

    From the f’ing US Declaration Of Independence:

    He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

    He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

    He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

    For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

    For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

    From a phampleter of the time:

    Standing Armies have ever proved destructive to the Liberties of a People, and where they are suffered, neither Life nor Property are secure

    Sound familiar?

    Consider that the estimates on the number of people shot and killed by police is comparable to the number of non-police shooting deaths.

    Consider civil forfeiture law.

    Consider the fact that police are almost never held criminally accountable for their actions, and what trials do happen are show trials by state prosecutors.

    Sound familiar? It should. In context and with a little bit of knowledge, it’s blatantly clear that the founders went to war for independence because the British king sent the equivalent of modern police to American to enforce certain (unjust) laws. Again, when the founders say “standing army”, in today’s language that should be translated as “a modern police force”.

  • Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    They say they know that their are officers who are corrupt and abusive in their departments, but they can’t say anything because they literally fear for their lives and their families if they squeal.

    I have zero empathy for these cowardly fucks. All “good” cops have to do is collectively assert they will no longer standby while evil is done. That instead they will do precisely what the people hired them to do, always.

    If there’s a supposedly only a few rotten apples within law enforcement, then the “good” cops can feasibly overcome the garbage within their midst.

    I point this out as some who has received death threats in meat-world for speaking out. I’ve also alienated family who abuse other people. Yes there can be a personal cost. But I argue each of us has a moral obligation to do the right thing. In the long run, humanity is winning. But that requires good people to stand up for what’s good and to also expose those who do evil.

  • cthulhusminion

    “A police officer in Alabama, likely at great risk to himself”

    Said officer only testified after being granted immunity from prosecution for perjury so not a good cop after all.

  • EigenSprocketUK

    Regarding high-crime vs low-crime areas, and why EL is apparently too liberal to live in a high-crime area without the, um, protection of a police force which brutalises and robs someone already handcuffed, and then lies about it.

    Don’t the cops pretty much write those high crime-rate statistics?

  • Lady Mondegreen

    Regarding high-crime vs low-crime areas, and why EL is apparently too liberal to live in a high-crime area without the, um, protection of a police force which brutalises and robs someone already handcuffed, and then lies about it.

    Don’t the cops pretty much write those high crime-rate statistics?

    *sigh*

    I’m as distressed as the next person by the rampant dishonesty and brutality found throughout the USA’s various police agencies. But as somebody who has actually lived in a high crime area, I’m not impressed by this sort of denialism.

    I’ve lived in high crime areas. I lived in high crime areas as a young woman on her own. I assure you it was scary. I once lived in a neighborhood that became a war zone every weekend.

    One time a young family who lived across the parking lot from me–mom, dad, one or two small kids–were returning home to their apartment, about 10 pm, after a Saturday night out. Some guys in cars threatened to shoot them. I got down on the floor (below the window, out of range) and called 911. It must of been a busy night, because I was put on hold. I could hear somebody shouting, “shoot her!” and the mother saying, “stop it, you’re scaring my kids.” (In hind sight, maybe it was just a horrible joke, betwern friends? But not long after that my downstairs neighbor got shot up in a drive-by. She was sitting on her porch after work. She survived. She wasn’t in a gang; she was just caught in the crossfire.)

    Anyway. By the time somebody came on the line, things had quieted down outside. I told this to the dispatcher, and he said well, we’re really busy tonight, so I won’t send anyone out, but if they come back let us know.

    None of the above should be taken to mean I support dysfunctional policing.

    One thing that seems to work is community involvement–on both sides. You stop training cops as if they were soldiers in an enemy zone. You get them involved in community projects, and you form community groups like Neighborhood Watch. And you get community oversight committees.

    The area where I now live used to be high crime. I suppose it still is, but the crime these days is non-violent. The local police district was once notoriously corrupt. Now a lot of the cops do community work, like volunteering at shelters for at-risk youth. It’s not perfect, but it’s not dystopian either.

  • smrnda

    @colnago80

    I actually lived in a high crime area on the south side of Chicago for a while. Probably higher crime than any place you’ve lived. The neighborhood was mostly Black. People didn’t bother to report crimes to the police because, if they did, the cops would likely just show up, get a foot inside their door and then magically *find* drugs in order to bolster their arrest stats. Calling the cops would just as likely get the person calling arrested as get the cops to actually investigate a crime. And when it comes to high crime areas, how much of that is because of the war on drugs, which is really a war on non-white and poor people? Cops decide to destroy the lives of minority teenagers to boost their arrest stats for drug possession, and then complain they’ve created economically depressed areas where crime seems the best paying job?

    Cops are fairly useful if you look respectable, preferably white and affluent and you have a problem with say, a homeless person loitering about. Or on the rare cases when there actually is some threat, but without accountability it’s like any protection racket that it comes with a cost.

    In general, I think that cops should be in a position where they have little job security and even a small number of complaints from citizens concerning their conduct should have them face some kind of trial, hearing or dismissal. I agree with zero immunity, the abolition of all civil asset forfeiture.

    I also think we have to get rid of the whole quota system. Tell a cop he gets a bonus for X citations and he’ll magically get X citations, whether valid or not. Maybe we also need better screening on officers as well.

  • EigenSprocketUK

    Sorry, Lady Mondegreen, my sarcasm wasn’t intended to belittle the genuine fear of living in a high-crime area. The snark was aimed at the idea (13) that EnlightenmentLiberal was criticising (8) the criminal behaviour of the police from the privileged safety of a low-crime area, and that conversely EL would be grateful for the protection of those poorly-trained mob mentality cops if it were a high-crime area. This was a repeat of the comment (11) to Marcus – “why don’t you call a hippie?”.

    In adding the reference to cops writing the statistics, all I’m saying is that it’s been painfully obvious for a long time that even dilute racism throughout the policing and justice system causes cops to focus disproportionately on poor neighbourhoods and black neighbourhoods. The DOJ report on Ferguson put it pretty succinctly. I’m certainly not siding with either colnago or EL in any other respect. I should have just said what Askyroth said (12), that was much better.

    I’m nodding vigorously with everything that you and smrnda (22) wrote.

  • whheydt

    Re; chtulhusminion @ #19…

    I don’t think the risk he is courting has anything to do with DA. It has to do with his fellow cops.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @EigenSprocketUK

    I would be curious if you disagree with me, and where, and why.

  • http://sidhe3141.blogspot.com jy3, Social Justice Beguiler

    EnlightenmentLiberal (8):

    There’s reasonable objections to 4 as well as the one you’ve heard to 2: the (theoretical) purpose of no-knock warrants is to prevent evidence from being destroyed or hidden between the time the cops knock on the door and the time someone opens the door.

    IANAL and all that, of course.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    colnago80:

    Hey Ranum, if you happened to get mugged some day, call a hippie.

    Last time I was mugged was in Baltimore, by a gentleman with a chrome .38 and a drug problem. After I emptied my wallet and handed it to him, my companion and I high-tailed it 2 blocks and found a cop, sitting in their cruiser, idling the engine. I ran over, they rolled the window down, I explained what had happened and they told me “this is (whatever) precinct, across the street over there is (whatever other) precinct; you need to call 911 and log a call with them.” Then they rolled the window up and drove away. In retrospect, I’m just glad they didn’t shoot me.

    I have nothing but contempt for cops. Though, in comparison to you, most cops seem a bit less douchey.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    PS – probably the biggest “hippie” I know was a scout/sniper in Vietnam with 19 kills on his card; I’m sure we would have been in a lot less danger with overwatch like that. (This happened 15 years ago; since then cancer got my hippie friend.)

    Anyhow, since you made it specifically personal to me: I’ll take hippies over cops any day.

  • brucegee1962

    Colnago is evidently just one of those good Americans who prefer safety over freedom. He probably claims to respect the founding fathers, too. I’m sure the good Doctor Franklin can tell him precisely what he deserves.

    When any U.S. Citizens are living in a police state, we are all living in a police state.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @jy3, Social Justice Beguiler says

    Sure, I know of these objections. I’m just trying to get some anecdotal sense of what other people find compelling. I personally find the idea that “evidence might be destroyed” to be utterly ridiculous as a justification of allowing SWAT teams to break down doors at 3 AM with no warning with guns drawn pointed at people without any particular reason. And I find the argument of frivolous lawsuits to be even more without merit.

    But thanks for answering. Still, I would like to know if you actually those reputtals convincing, or if you’re just doing a devil’s advocate.

  • EigenSprocketUK

    Re 25, I’m here to read/listen and learn. not get dragged off into off-topic argumentation. But thanks for the kind offer.

  • mostlymarvelous

    I have zero empathy for these cowardly fucks. All “good” cops have to do is collectively assert they will no longer standby while evil is done.

    I know I’m a bit boring online, forever quoting General Morrison “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept“, but.

    I do have some sympathy for cops who don’t like what happens around them and who get bullied into supporting actions of people they despise. We are asking them to be not just good or honest, but downright heroic in taking on not just fellow officers but whole hierarchies. They certainly couldn’t rely on their unions to support them.

    Considering how extensive and pervasive bad behaviour, illegal behaviour, is right across the country and through all levels of many if not most police forces, it seems silly to rely on individual officers, isolated heroes, to take on the job of cleaning it up.

    People always do better when doing better is supported and recognised. Even though it’s not much of an analogy, let alone a parallel, the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund* comes to my mind. The most important feature of the fund is not its fairly small size and narrow focus. It’s the effect it has on climate scientists generally. They now know that someone’s got their back and, if they do get embroiled in a court battle, the call will go out for people to chip in and help out. The legal funding is, of course, quite separate from the personal protection and bodyguard escorts for the kids going to school – mostly provided by the FBI iirc.

    I think more cops would be more willing to speak up and step out of line if they knew, from the outset, that their families would be protected and that their financial costs would be covered.

  • mostlymarvelous
  • Hillary Spragg

    test

  • TheRidger

    This is what makes a mockery of #NotAllCops. It’s almost certainly true that most cops, or even the overwhelming majority of them, won’t brutalize or murder. But far too many of them cover for the few who do, out of fear for lives and/or jobs or out of solidarity.