Concerning the so-called “Blue Wall of Silence”
Diesel v Town of Lewisboro, CA2, 232 F.3d 92
While some might allege that there is a "blue wall of silence"* encouraged by certain individuals involved in law enforcement, rarely does one find a court decision that specifically addresses the concept.
Not so in the Diesel case. Here a New York State Trooper complained that his civil rights were violated when fellow Troopers failed to accord him a "blue wall of silence."
New York State Trooper Dennis Diesel, sued other members of the New York Division of State Police. Diesel claimed that he had cooperated with an internal affairs investigation involving alleged misconduct by other State Police officers. He alleged that in a subsequent, unrelated incident, -- he was found early one morning passed out or asleep behind the wheel of an official car -- he suffered retaliation as a result of his having cooperated in the internal affairs investigation by being subjected to:
1. An "excessive, prolonged and overzealous investigation" of the incident;
2. The failure of the investigating officers to extend to him a form of "professional courtesy" he terms the "blue wall of silence"; and
3. The officers involved in investigating the incident violating his rights under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution and New York state law.
Addressing the "blue wall of silence" issue, the Circuit Court said:
1. A selective enforcement claim under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment cannot rest on the allegation that police officers refused to close their eyes to another officer's serious misconduct in accordance with the tradition of the "blue wall of silence";
2. The investigation into Diesel's misconduct was reasonable as a matter of law both in its initiation and scope; and
3. Diesel failed to prove that he was subjected to retaliatory harassment where the alleged retaliation was a reasonable response to Diesel's own culpable conduct.
Accordingly, the court held that Diesel was not, as a matter of law, entitled to any damages and reverse that portion of the district court's judgment in favor of Diesel.
* The phrase "Blue Wall of Silence" has been popularly used to characterized the alleged unity exhibited by law enforcement personnel to limit or minimize their co-operation in an investigation where the target of the investigation is a police or other law enforcement official.
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