Patterico's Pontifications


Should There Be a “Purple Heart” for LAPD Officers?

Filed under: General — Jack Dunphy @ 2:45 pm

[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]

The Los Angeles Times reports today on an effort to institute an award within the Los Angeles Police Department that would, like the military’s Purple Heart, recognize officers who suffer a severe traumatic injury in the line of duty. Readers may find this to be little cause for debate, and indeed such awards are already given by the police departments in Chicago, Denver, and several other cities. The New York Police Department started handing out it’s Purple Shield award in 1995, when LAPD chief William Bratton was the city’s police commissioner.

I wish I could say I was surprised by this, but there are those within city government who are concerned about the financial costs such an award would incur. The Times quotes an internal LAPD document prepared when this idea was put forth and rejected on a previous occasion. “An award for injuries sustained in the line of duty,” says the report, “serves little or no useful purpose.” Apparently, there are those who consider an expression of gratitude for a great sacrifice to be of “no useful purpose.” Another reason given for the earlier rejection was that highlighting officers’ injuries and deaths might have a negative effect on recruiting.

One might suggest that such staggering ignorance among city officials has a more deleterious effect on police recruiting than does recognizing an officer who takes a bullet on behalf of the people he serves. But hey, I’m just a cop. What do I know?

And speaking of ignorance, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the labor union for rank-and-file officers, has filed a lawsuit in an effort to protect its members from one type of ignorant decision made by command officers. In previous posts (here, here, and here), I discussed the harebrained directive by an LAPD deputy chief to send officers into a fracas without their helmets and face shields. The incident took place on January 10 at the West L.A. Federal Building, where pro-Palestinian demonstrators squared off with police officers and sheriff’s deputies. A helmetless LAPD officer was struck on the head with a sign and had to be treated at an emergency room. The lawsuit seeks to force the LAPD to follow its own written policies and not send officers into hostile crowds without their safety equipment.

It’s a pity the Protective League had to resort to a lawsuit to achieve these ends, but no one familiar with how things work in the LAPD should be surprised.

–Jack Dunphy

37 Responses to “Should There Be a “Purple Heart” for LAPD Officers?”

  1. Gee, I wasn’t aware citations were all that expensive, nor even a medal or ribbon to wear on a uniform.

    If it’s so big a strain on the city’s finances, they probably wouldn’t have that much trouble raising the money from private donations, would they? Citizens showing their appreciation for an officer’s sacrifice?

    Strick (d22786)

  2. In the meantime, you get knuckleheads like this:

    FOP demands transfer of judge
    He triggered anger after ordering photos of a slain officer removed from his court inside a police district.
    By Dwight Ott, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer

    The head of the city’s police union yesterday called for a Municipal Court judge to be reassigned from the 35th Police District after the judge ordered two pictures of John Pawlowski, the police officer who was shot dead Friday, removed from his courtroom.

    In early afternoon, union officials said, Municipal Court Judge Craig M. Washington sought to have the pictures of Pawlowski, 25, taken from his courtroom in the headquarters of the 35th District, at Broad Street and Champlost Avenue, where the officer had been stationed. District officials denied that order, and Washington stepped down from the bench and placed both pictures facedown on the table where they had stood.

    At a hastily called news conference about 90 minutes later, John J. McNesby, president of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police, demanded that Washington be removed from the judicial-hearing list at the station pending an investigation. He also urged that all court hearings be suspended in the district until an investigation is completed.

    Washington could not be reached for comment, but Municipal Court President Judge Marsha Neifield backed his actions.

    “Photographs are not permitted directly on the bench when court is in session,” Neifield said. “While photographs placed in other locations are permitted, the courtroom must avoid any appearance of bias.”

    McNesby disagreed, saying that district headquarters is a police facility first and a courtroom second.

    There was a proper and polite way to handle things, but this judge couldn’t seem to find it.

    The proud father Dana (556f76)

  3. Regardless of the motivations to serve, these officers write the same check for their local communities that Veterans wrote for their country.
    How can anyone rationally dispute the expression of gratitude from the community to an injured officer? We pay them compensation for their permanent disablity, why can’t we let them wear that price on their shirt?
    Every time I think Kalifornia has reached new lows in stupidity I am proven wrong, time and again. When are the normal people there going to insist on rational government? yeeeesh.

    pitchforksntorches (4dd8c4)

  4. There are no valid reasons this was not instituted decades ago. This is a no brainer! Showing appreciation and recognition for an officer’s injury/wound is humane.

    Any idea how many officers in the nation receive traumatic injuries trying, “To Protect and To Serve?”

    If a cop becomes wounded in a display of character so many in our society are too afraid to display then that cop should be recognized. Cops put it all on the line; their lives, their jobs, their health, so the public is not forced to.

    Remember Officer Kristini Ripati? Wheelchair bound the rest of her life from a robber’s bullet in LAPD’s Southwest Division. She is one of many I could name.

    Use your head people…do the right thing!

    Irwin (978e6f)

  5. Maybe it could be funded by city council members giving up their city owned cars for a month.

    MIke K (8df289)

  6. Should There Be a “Purple Heart” for LAPD Officers?

    Absolutely not. And not because it isn’t deserved in some cases. No, because we need to reverse the deification of cops. Well, they used to be cops anyway. Now they are the much more important Public Safety Officials or vital First Responders.

    And where has this lead? Bloated salaries, pensions, and agency budgets for these indispensable government functions. Hell, most cities are too cowed by the police unions to say no to their demands, even when flat broke. Just look at the city of El Monte or what happened in Vallejo.

    Look, if a cop gets seriously hurt, let’s take care of him and his family. That’s the kind of gratitude that really matters anyway. But it’s time to start walking back from this hero designation that seems to get slapped on every public employee, from kindergarten teachers (heroes of the classroom) to firemen. This has become the equivalent of grade inflation and has served to convince the public they are helpless without grossly overpaid public “servents”.

    TakeFive (7c6fd5)

  7. Proud Father Dana: I’m not sure I see what you are suggesting the correct course of action was; as far as I can tell, the judge is right that such pictures should not be present in the courtroom. Had there been a criminal trial held in that courtroom while those pictures were mounted, a good case could be made that the presence of the photos subtly biased the jury.

    (Maybe municipal court judges don’t hear jury trials; but a picture of a police officer hanging on the walls in a courtroom where the police are involved in adversarial proceedings *still* creates an appearance of bias).

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  8. the kind of recruit who hears a tale of heroism from an officer who was wounded, and decides that the police force is not for him/her as a result, doesn’t belong on the force anyway.

    But lots of people hear of medal of honor or silver star recipients and are inspired to put on a uniform. Those are the good ones. Same applies to cops, who obviously deserve recognition for sacrifice. I can’t imagine how much it would cost to implement this. It doesn’t need to be a black tie gala. It can be a simple $20 medal given humbly at the hospital, and a thank you from the mayor at the already scheduled city counsel meeting. How much does that cost?

    Juan (4cdfb7)

  9. Let it be noted that the commenter above who thinks police officers are overpaid and over-glorified is the one who can’t figure out how to spell “servants.”

    Jack Dunphy (1bb566)

  10. takefive, I too roll my eyes at the term ‘public servant’, though it hits close to home. Ever read Patrick Fitzgerald’s blog? The man is basically the opposite of Patterico, and he apparently thinks being a public servant is akin to knighthood.

    But we all know that there are real heroes out there. They should be lionized so we have examples of what it takes to keep us safe.

    Juan (4cdfb7)

  11. I have to admit when I saw the header for this thread, I was truly bothered. Who in their right mind would want the same award a soldier earned in battle handed to police officers?

    But as I read the post, I understood more fully. I agree, a Purple Shield should be given to any police officers wounded in the line of duty. Such an award does not add a dollar to the officer’s pay. And even if it did add a $100 monthly stipend, so what. It’s not like any officer is going to stand out in the open and ask for a bullet so he or she can get the extra c-note.

    Should a Purple Shield award be considered at promotion time? You bet your backside it should. But such a consideration should only be used when considering two equally deserving officers.

    It is high time police officers nationwide be recognized for their devotion to duty, life-risking decisons to protect society, self-discipline in the face of an undeserving and abusive populace.

    Bad-mouth the nasty cop who wrote you a speeding ticket all you want. Blame the nasty cop for the $200 fine you earned by breaking the law all you want. Tell the evil cop to go after “real” criminals instead of taxpayers all you want. Actually, no, sit down, shut up, quit breaking the law. And give honor to the police officers who have shed their own blood to protect your right to be a living idiot instead of a dead one.

    Mr. Dunphy, I would be honored to get the opportunity to tell you “your money is no good here” some day. Yours is a burden I would never want to shoulder.

    John Hitchcock (fb941d)

  12. “Let it be noted that the commenter above who thinks police officers are overpaid and over-glorified is the one who can’t figure out how to spell “servants.””

    Jack – I expected a little more in they way of a counter argument than a spell check. But look, I don’t argue with the idea of a citation for bravery (don’t the police already give those out?), but let’s not continually elevate everything to progressively higher honors. Police and Fire are nearly the new priesthood. A purple heart may seem like a small token and perhaps well deserved. But let’s retain it’s original intent – a battlefield award.

    If the police need a higher honor, create one, like the navy did with the Navy Cross. But let’s avoid conflation of military service with public service.

    As for overpaid:

    SGV Tribune, Sept 18, 2008

    So the El Monte City Council approved the salaries for a new cheif and assistant chief in preparation for the December retirement of Chief Ken Weldon. And the grand total: $429,000.

    The new chief, Thomas Armstrong, will be getting $234,000.
    And the new assistant chief, Steven Schuster, will be getting $195,000.

    According to the story written by new reporter Rebecca Kimitch, “Mayor Ernie Gutierrez said the salaries – $234,000 for the chief and $195,000 for the assistant chief – are competitive among cities in the San Gabriel Valley.”

    Aside from the increases coming at a time when the city is facing a $400,000 deficit, it also comes just one week after this story about the El Monte cop that shot himself in the leg.

    “We have to have the finest Police Department, and they don’t come cheap,” Gutierrez said.

    TakeFive (7c6fd5)

  13. There are more problems than just budgetary if a city has police so frequently wounded that it doesn’t think it can afford the little medals.

    Newtons.Bit (489fda)

  14. Maybe all victims of violent crime should get one.

    Cops don’t even crack the top ten most dangerous profession list. Not even close. You don’t see people in the following professions clamoring for awards, and yet their work is far more dangerous:

    1. Fishers and fishing workers
    2. Logging workers
    3. Aircraft pilots
    4. Structural iron and steel workers
    5. Refuse and recyclable material collectors
    6. Farmers and ranchers
    7. Electrical power line installers/repairers
    8. Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
    9. Miscellaneous agricultural workers
    10.Construction laborers

    Hans (126dc3)

  15. The problem with municipal finance is not the salary scale of police and fire personnel, it is the complete lack of controls on overtime – this is how Vallejo had several Lt’s gross over $200K.
    It is this uncontrolled o/t that decimates budgets and leaves departments with deficits at the end of the year.

    AD - RtR/OS (dd5f17)

  16. Having been a truck driver and a construction laborer, I can tell you, Hans, to take a long walk off a short pier.

    Having been to “Paradise Island” and having a daughter who recently returned from the “sand box” I strongly object to the lack of military on that list.

    And “cops” aren’t clamoring for awards, nimrod. If anything, they just wish they could get a modicum of respect from the idiots the officers risk their lives to protect on a daily basis. Obviously you, Hans and TakeFive, are not among the wise ones who respect the officers’ life-risking daily work.

    John Hitchcock (fb941d)

  17. John, I’ve had way too many relatives die on battlefields or come home mangled to tolerate your brand of fake tough guy douchebaggery. The list of professions I put up there underscores the massive amount of sacrifice that many Americans take. The guy working the downtown convenience store, the one that gets knocked off all the time, that guy, has a tough thankless job too… so who should get awards in this world? Douche bag!

    Hans (126dc3)

  18. Talk about the inmates running the asylum. Take away the police officers head protection gear but give them a purple heart when some criminal bust their head. Liberals are so stupid they are becoming dangerous enough to exterminate like the cockroaches they are.

    Scrapiron (996c34)

  19. Hans, you have got to be a parody. I have my problems with police and firemen salaries (and my son is a fireman) but the “dangerous professions” you list are a joke. Please tell me you are kidding. Nobody is that dumb.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  20. Mike you must be extra dumb… here is the CNN article it came from… police in America died at a rate of 18.2 per 100,000 in 2005… the professions I listed, the toll per 100,000, was higher and in some cases a LOT higher than police work:

    Hans (126dc3)

  21. Hey, Dr. K….what do you always tell me about trolls?

    Police and security folk are in the top ten now.

    The real issue, of course, is the “danger” due to criminals attempting to kill you or danger accrued in the process of protecting other people. Hence policemen and firemen.

    But the 2005 poll was a recent entry on Huffington Post, so you shouldn’t be surprised.

    Eric Blair (ec334b)

  22. Hans, I repeat, I was a trucker for six years. I was a construction laborer for two years. Neither of those jobs had anywhere near the risk the police force have.

    I did the Marine Corps Reserves thing for a while. My daughter just finished her 15-month tour in Iraq. Military service entails much greater risk than any of those jobs you listed.

    And the police force deserves far more respect than you will ever give it.

    John Hitchcock (fb941d)

  23. Shouldn’t there be a post about the racism displayed by the New York Post? Ah, only pretend racism exists here, right fellas? If we had to admit that racism is real and sometimes even rears its ugly head in the mainstream media then we’d have to go back to square one in our analysis of the historical context of the current presidency. Ho hum.

    Ed from PA (d99227)

  24. John, I am not saying that being a cop is not a tough job. Of course it is. It’s just that there are many very very tough jobs out there that are fraught with more danger that get no recognition at all.

    The statistics for what profession is more likely to result in your death is just not so obvious to people… truth of the matter is, if you are a farmer and you want a safer job, you should consider becoming a cop. If you are a roofer and you want to play it a little bit safer, police work might be for you.

    You think I’m putting cops down which is absurd, I’m just putting their sacrifice, which is real, in perspective with these other professions where people get no recognition whatsoever for getting injured or killed.

    A coal miner, if something happens to him, he won’t be getting a new award or even an old award. He will get no award. Now how is that fair? Where is your respect for him? Where is your respect for the city power worker who has a WAY higher chance of getting destroyed on a power line than getting injured if he had become a cop. Where is your respect for the nurse who loses an arm to a staph infection? Where is her medal?

    Hans (126dc3)

  25. Purple badges and big yellow bars for their chest when they shoot a dog!

    Firemen and police have been overly aggrandized since 9/11. They do have a difficult job, but I think many of them make it more dangerous than it is.

    Aren’t most police injuries still due to car crashes? Yet any discussion with cops leads one to think they just dodge bullets each shift.

    TC (0b9ca4)

  26. I will always and forevermore consider “cops” a dysphemism for police officers. And anyone who has the audacity to disrespect them en masse should be forced to walk a year in their shoes. I guarantee they would have a vastly different view of police officers afterward.

    Not that I want such rapscallions to have badges and side-arms…

    John Hitchcock (fb941d)

  27. John,

    There is respect and there is boot licking.

    Hans (126dc3)

  28. Very nice, Hans. Are you sure you don’t go by another name here?

    Eric Blair (ec334b)

  29. It’s just that there are many very very tough jobs out there that are fraught with more danger that get no recognition at all.

    I don’t disagree with your list of dangerous jobs. My husband worked as a hot tar roofer while in school and it was indeed fraught with danger – hot tar over 400 degrees, on rooftops that hovered around 130 degrees, and chunking the kettle (opening the kettle, carefully adding to the boiling tar big chunks of tar while steadfastly maintaining the flame at a certain temp to make sure no flash fires occurred, and most importantly avoiding any splashes so there wouldn’t be any 3rd degree burns that day. It was indeed a dangerous job.

    But the danger is predictable. The precautions necessary to the job were pretty much fail safe. Stupidity and lack of patience is what caused accidents. (My husband also said everyone knew by the burn scars who tipped back the brews at lunch).

    A cop can take all the precautions he’s ever been trained in, SOP, and meticulously follow it to the T and remain relatively safe. However an element that a cop faces that the other professions you list don’t, is a person whose intent is to harm citizens or harm the cop himself. That is tenuous life or death at the hand of another.

    The fisherman might face a storm, or an ice truck driver getting caught in a horrific ice storm, or construction workers shoot himself with a nail gun but they are not facing the unspeakable danger of a fellow human being attempting to harm, maim, or kill another person. Apples and oranges.

    Of course the obvious difference between all the professions and the danger is none involve the sacrifice that being a cop does. Their service and willingness to keep me safe from harm is worth a thousand purple hearts in and of itself. And you know what’s funny? From the people I have known in law enforcement, the last thing they would want is recognition or an honor bestowed because they are a humble lot who say they are simply doing the job they were hired to do.

    Dana (137151)

  30. As someone says in the article, it’s the least we can do. If this means something to the line officers, they should have it. End of story.

    From the article: “by highlighting injuries and deaths, the purple hearts could negatively affect police recruiting.”

    Right, they don’t want people to realize being police officers is dangerous until after they’re hired. Who the f*ck could even think up a quote like that, and what idiot could believe it?

    Jesus f’ing Christ.

    Jim C. (9e7cc9)

  31. It’s a pity the Protective League had to resort to a lawsuit to achieve these ends, but no one familiar with how things work in the LAPD should be surprised.

    One of the rather uncommon instances when I’d describe a lawsuit from a government-employees union as being quite appropriate, quite understandable, and quite necessary.

    Mark (411533)

  32. For the writers like Hans and Takefive I disagree with your opinions and your logic. Training, education, experience, and the threat of harm to oneself (as a suspect) along with the consequence of incarceration reduce injuries and deaths of police officers. Get it? Go after a cop and you may be hurt or killed? Does the farmer or iron worker ever have suspects going after him with a knife or gun? Are any of those Top Ten called to stop a 285 lb. man from beating the life out of his pregnant girlfriend? Those Top Ten death/injuries are results of accidents, not willful acts of evil or impaired people. Do you see the difference or understand why it is different to be a police officer?

    Where is the correlation of that Top Ten list of hazardous occupations and the issue of allowing a LAPD officer to receive a Purple Shield or Purple Heart? Are you suggesting that a commercial fisherman who fell off a boat or hooks himself is a similar act of bravery or valor as an officer being shot while attempting to enforce the law and make it safe for others? Where is the dedication to duty, sacrifice, service to the community in those Top Ten jobs? Standards and training have made police work safer. Some of those occupations have no standards and official training or oversight, thus > deaths and injury (I.e. farming).

    If you don’t want to pay police management that much money, don’t do it. Impose your will on city management. Scrape the bottom of the barrel and get some ‘ass-clown’ that you will end up replacing months later for twice the salary, plus litigation and legal fees after he destroys the public safety model of your community. Have you ever heard you get what you pay for?

    If public safety is not a priority in your community, don’t pay for it. Skimp by, cut them, lay off, and pay them next to nothing. You will find you have only those left with your City that could not get hired anywhere else. Your businesses, parks, and schools will suffer and fail eventually. Public safety begins with a commitment to fund it properly to ensure businesses, schools, and parks may thrive and reach their potential in a safe environment. Professionals are the way to go.

    Logging and construction workers are needed, but no one is trying to kill them in order so they don’t place the log on the truck or build the building. Are they? Oh wait, that’s police again. I wonder if being the police is dangerous?

    Irwin (978e6f)

  33. …a similar act of bravery or valor as an officer being shot while attempting to enforce the law and make it safe for others?

    You mean like the policeman that ran away from the conflict at Columbine?


    Maybe the brave police officers that plotted and murdered 93 yr old Mrs. Johnson in Atlanta?

    BTW this particular list can go on for some time, I should mention that most dangerous feller in CA that got shot dead while handcuffed, with at least four other officers handling the crowd.

    As I said, Yet any discussion with [policemen/policewomen/protectors/defenders and other blind dolts], leads one to think they just dodge bullets each shift.

    TC (0b9ca4)

  34. All of you who think that cops don’t deserve $200,000 a year need to shut your pie holes and watch this video. This cop deserves ten purple hearts:

    Ben (126dc3)

  35. “For the writers like … Takefive I disagree with your opinions and your logic

    Those Top Ten death/injuries are results of accidents, not willful acts of evil or impaired people. Do you see the difference or understand why it is different to be a police officer?”

    I would argue that a police recruit knows exactly the dangers he will face. It’s on the news every night. The roofer is more likely to believe everything is under control and his co-workers know what they’re doing. But that’s beside the point I was trying to make.

    If we continue to elevate police to ever more venerated status, we (the public) will become increasingly subservient to them. The rampart scandal is an example. Cops could get away with this because secretly most of us want scumbags dealt with one or another. But more importantly, it was the word of honest, heroic cops facing these dangerous lowlifes that precluded looking too deeply into charges of abuse.

    But what happens when this moves to the middle class? When you get your property seized through some bogus asset forfeiture, and it’s your word against that of a Public Safety Official?

    Look at the funerals for cops. They’ve practically become state affairs. I can understand special recognition for guys that were murdered, but now even motor officers that dropped their bike on the way to work get hundreds of uniformed officers driving state owned vehicles.

    As I said earlier, take care of these guys and their families, tack care of them well, but let’s cool it with the adulation. I realize the taciturn town sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones / No Country for Old Men) is just fiction, but I sure seems like a good role model.

    TakeFive (7c6fd5)

  36. I get it. Some don’t like public safety officials elevated in stature when other occupations are just as or more dangerous. However, most “twenty-something” police/fire recruits with public service in mind and no military experience can possibly fathom the death, heart ache, and destruction they are forced to deal with daily. Many could go the rest of their lives without seeing another dead person and they have seen enough for ten life times.

    Cut ’em a break, show some humor and compassion and you may just find they are real people just trying to be good at their job in public service. Remember the article was about police officers being recognized with a Purple Heart for being wounded in the line of duty. Remember what started this debate.

    Irwin (978e6f)

  37. Yes, give them a purple shield award (not a military purple heart award though as it would be unconstitutional), but only give these awards if you also give the same award to county nurses who contract HIV while taking a short cut to try to save a life and to city power workers whose arms explode on transformers because they’ve been tasked with hurrying up a repair so that the elderly in the neighborhood don’t die without air conditioning and how about giving one to the street repairmen who get rolled out under buses from time to time and let’s give one to the city trash collector guy who gets the big C at 40 because of that one strange bucket he spilled.

    Hans (a64612)

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