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"Dummy Up": article draft by Roosevelt Fitzgerald




1991 (year approximate) to 1992 (year approximate)


From the Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers (MS-01082) -- Drafts for the Las Vegas Sentinel Voice file. On rogue cops and maintaining silence about them.

Digital ID



man000985. Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers, 1890-1996. MS-01082. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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OCR transcription





"I won't tell on you if you don't tell on me." "Ok."
I'm not certain when I first heard those words but it was when I was just a child--even before I started kindergarten. Agreeing to that code of silence had nothing to do with criminal activity. As I recall it was more on the order of making a mess, eating the last piece of cake or accidentally breaking something. The fact that my brothers and I found it necessary to enter into such agreements points out that we knew right from wrong otherwise there would have been no need for our doing it.
There was a fear of punishment but the punishments were never severe.
I think, actually, we were more concerned with how we were thought of by our parents than anything else. A good feeling was always derived when our parents, in conversations with other adults would describe us as "good children." That feeling was always enhanced when other adults would agree with their estimation. There was nothing worse than to be described as a problem child. Funny, just recently a film was made on that same subject and it has been very well received. I guess it just goes to show how far we've come.
In any case, the habit of concealment was started early on in life.
By the time the early grades of elementary school had been completed those little harmless habits had escalated. "Who put that thumbtack in Leroy's seat?" Everyone in the classroom was as quiet as the heartbeat of a dead person when the teacher asked that question. There were many who had no idea who had placed the tack there. Actually, only a handful knew but they had bought into the code of silence which mandated that one student not tattle on another. I didn't know who had done it so I don't know whether I would have told or not. It can be awfully rough on a kid who is known as a
tattletale. Peers hate such a kid's guts and even the teachers seem to have
disdain for such a person. Frequently, from all quarters, can be heard the admonition; "Don't be a tattletale." One really does not understand why tattling is looked down upon but, by adolescence, the negative perception of it has become part of one's value system.
When I reached that point in my own development, sometime during the mid 1950s, I saw a movie which pointed out that even in adulthood the same values existed. "On The Waterfront" was a classic. Anyone who has never seen it and who owns a video machine ought to rush right out and rent a copy and take the two hours to be thoroughly entertained. It was released in 1954 and was one of Marlon Brando's first big hits. There was a great cast with Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Eva Marie Saint and a bunch of others. I personally think it is one of the all-time great gangster films.
Brando plays the part of a New York City pug whose brother is a big time mug in the mob which ran the union local on the waterfront. The longshoremen got a bum deal from the outfit led by a "cheap, lousy, dirty, stinking mug" named, of all things, Johnny Friendly. The union members had been shortchanged for years and the crime commission had finally initiated an investigation. Their prime witness, a fellow named Joey, whom everybody thought of as one of the "nicest kids in the neighborhood" got "bumped off" because he was no longer willing to "dummy up" as did the others and was about to "sing" to the commission. Everybody knew who did it but they were all "D & D"(deaf and dumb) because they knew what happens to "pigeons" who decide to "sing" like a "canary." From their childhood and on through the street gangs they understood that "stooling" made them outcasts even among their own. Joey's dad knew who had put the "Jerry G" on his son and even he wouldn't "rat." One of the heavies, upon being told that Joey had been thrown off the roof, commented;
"Maybe he could sing but he couldn't fly."
"On The Waterfront" reminded us that stooling "is when you rat on your friends." Nobody likes anyone who "sqeals." In all of the popular television and big screen detect!ve/cop shows where "stool pigeons" are in evidence, they are portrayed as low lifes and held in disdain. They are often treated worse than the criminals they inform on by the same cops who rely on their services. This tells us how they are perceived and that perception is based, in part, on the officer's own nurturing.
Realizing how the "stoolie" is thought of, no distinction is made, in a philosophical way, in regards to right and/or wrong. Interestingly, that which is despised within,-.amongcand aboot'cHminaKelementS; is, at the very least, unconsciously condoned within police departments across the United States.
The same code of silence which prompts law enforcement officers to look upon "stoolies" with contempt exists within those departments. The greater part of police work has to do with observation, detection, and apprehension. It is ludicrous to imagine that trained police officers might be oblivious to wrongdoing withing the respective departments. A code of silence prevails. Police forces, which are in fact, para-military organizations, nurture fear of reprisal. Rookie officers, fearful of negative evaluations during their probationary periods, and who are assigned to rogue cops are forced, by that fear, into complicity. Once that occurs, the supervisor has something to hold over the recruit. Without a clear knowledge of who might be turned to in the chain of command, the rookie "dummies up."
The harmless "I won't tell on you if you don't tell on me" is resurrected only with much more damaging results. In those departments where there is no clear definitions or intolerance to misbehavior the officers are left to their own devices. Within a short period, the good cops know the names of
the problem cops. The problem is the latter are generally ranking officers.
Those few who are among the newcomers--those who became police officers with the sole intent of "kicking butt" are looked upon by many of the young officers as being conduits to their tainted supervisors. In this instance, the definition of "stooling"; "ratting on your friends" is put aside because those officers who abstain from such behavior are not considered the friends of bad cops.
Daily, on television, we see commercials having to do with cops and Hollywood. A video series for Clint Eastwood tells us that "from the wild west to the mean streets, Clint Eastwood has enforced his own brand of law." Even more frightening is that which has to do with the television series; Hunter. When Sargeants Rick Hunt and Dee Dee McCall tackle a case, they pack a one- two punch. He's six foot six of lean, mean muscle and he never goes by the book. 1 Rogue cops emulate these two. Just what we need, cops who enforce their own brand of law and who never goes by the book.