I'm reading the recent Edgar winner: C.J.Box, BLUE HEAVEN. I wanted to know what makes this book worthy to be a winner among the many, many mysteries of all subgenres.

This one is a thriller. That was a tad surprising. Almost by definition, a thriller doesn't have much going for it but violence and suspense. The characters are black and white. There's frequently some evil conspiracy. And the violence is nasty -- in this case torture.

Mind you, it's not badly written and he has a multiplicity of character types. The threat is specifically against two children who saw too much. That would make it meaningful to men and women alike.

But what appalled me in this book (and once again raised the idea that writers have some sort of moral obligation) is the fact that the evil in this case is the LAPD. And lest you think that it involves only three retired officers, the book makes it clear that the Idaho community is the retirement village of large numbers of crooked LA cops: their Blue Heaven.

What does a book like that do to a decent police officer anywhere, let alone in L.A.? And in spite of the attention given to the occasional bad cop by the press, the vast majority of policemen are surely decent and doing a very tough and dangerous job.

There is very little here that, to my mind, deserved an award.

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Americans have a strange, love-hate relationship with cops. (This may be true elsewhere, of course, but I'm primarily aware of what happens here.) People who don't like cops are happy to see one when they call for help. Even those favorably disposed toward law enforcement--as am I, with friends and in-laws working in law enforcement--will always feel uncomfortable if a cop seems to pay attention to us, even when we've done nothing wrong..

To paraphrase a cop from one of Connie Fletcher's books, "No one likes cops. I'm a cop, and if I see a police car in my rearview mirror, I automatically think, 'What's this asshole want?'"

Being a police must be the most fascinating and frustrating job in the world, sometimes both at once.
I think Dana nailed it.

And I think Ingrid is absolutely correct about the problems of LAPD having very complex roots.

When I was a cops/crime reporter, I saw police officers at their very worst - abuse of power is just the beginning. We've all seen videos of cops beating up on someone. But as has been noted, we see that in any group - ministry, teachers, etc.

But I've also seen them at their best - and a best that exceeds what most of us have done. I have seen the video from dashboard cameras and watched these men and women take extraordinary abuse trying to write a speeder a ticket. I've seen first hand and in person a cop get shot while trying to get some citizens away from the shoot-out - that day 5 cops were shot.

The video footage that isn't aired nationally are the tens of thousands of men and women who every single day act professionally calming domestic situations before they get out of hand, stopping speeders who are endangering others, arresting the drunk driver before he can hit anyone and doing the grunt work of walking and gathering information that may solve a string of burglaries, and countless other actions they perform day in and day out.

Are there bad cops? Of course.
Does that make cops as a whole bad? No.
Exactly. I think it's a job that attracts risk-takers, to a certain extent. And I should add that it's a job I'd suck at--I don't think I'd be a racist authority freak, but on the other hand I wouldn't be all that great about getting shot at, and I hate the kind of on-the-ground scuffling with drunks that cops seem to do a fair amount of, if the "live action" TV shows are any indication. I'd also be likely to engage in certain kinds of illegality, given the opportunity. If I impounded a drug dealer's car with a sack full of hundred-dollar bills in the trunk, would I keep it? Probably.
A cop acquaintence once told me he'd seen a study that identified the two key demographics that go into police work: those who genuinely want to help others, and those who want to run the siren and chase bad guys. The first group often quit, or had unsatisfying careers, in large part because, no matter who they helped today, there's alwaus someone else in need tomorrow, so they never get ahead. The second group usually did pretty wellThere will always be opportunitoes to run thre siren and chase bad guys.
Thank you, Clay. For my money, you're the only one here who knows about the work a cop does. The rest is hearsay.
All I can say is this all sounds like great material. Maybe for a TV show....

This is what I've been telling you, about why The Bridge has me so interested.
I interviewed cops all over the US in my federal consultant days and, in even earlier days, went through the police academy and worked as a campus cop (pretty easy beat, but even that job had its moments), and I would agree with Clay and Dana. More than one cop has told me cops aren't morally superior or inferior to the general public, they reflect the public, but what they choose to do has greater impact.

I think most people would be shocked at how much shorter a cop's average lifetime is. It's very stressful and leads to bad health habits. It's also much harder than you think to control one's actions when the adrenaline is spiking. That's one reason why we're always going to have scandalous episodes with cops shooting when they really shouldn't and, shall we say, applying more physical coercion than necessary after a car chase or what have you. They're people, not machines.
Yeah, but what about lying on police reports, planting evidence, hassling clearly unsuspicious people, roughing up handcuffed suspects, etc. That stuff you can't blame on an adrenaline rush. And even worse, what about the cops who see this kind of behavior and do nothing about it. Any cop who puts his fellow officers above the law is not a good cop.
Well John people under heavy stress in any profession do bad and/or unlawful things, and every profession has its equivalent immoral behaviors. I'm not aware there are any studies suggesting there are more dirty cops than dirty lawyers, for example.

Immoral behavior is what (rightly) earns the focus, while all the thousands of good cops and millions of moral, appropriate behaviors go largely unnoticed.

Oh and about the cops protecting their own, that's a complex issue I don't have the time or energy for right now. But of course any organization can create warped norms. Think of Enron and more recently all those people on Wall street and elsewhere who caused the housing crisis and tanked our economy.
Corporate executives often escape punishment for their crimes too, as do cops sometimes. The difference is people don't rush do make excuses for corporate executives. Sure, the police are often involved in high stress situations, but they're not like everybody else. Police are supposed to be trained for those kinds of situations. I don't think that, say, three officers tasing one man 19 times is within the acceptable margin of error, though apparently the jury thought differently.

If we want to say that police just make mistakes like everybody else then fine, but let's treat cops the same as ordinary citizens all the time instead of just when it's convenient. As it is now, if I punch you in the face, there is a certain level of punishment for that. But if I punch you in the face and you're a cop, then I'm in a lot more trouble. Why should it be different?

We don't make such excuses for the suspects do we? Maybe the suspect was under pressure too and overreacted. Cops are allowed that, why not the suspect? I mean, he's just a suspect, he's not guilty of anything yet.

But instead, the man with a bag of pot in his car gets five years in prison and the cop gets suspended with pay.
Police officers deserve a level of special consideration--call it protection, even--because of the unique nature of thier jobs. Cops, firefighters, and other emergency personnel run toward danger when everyone else in his right mind runs away. We expect them to do that. In eturn, they should be able to expect support for their actions that may occur in the heat of the moment. Yes, their training demands we hold them to a higher standard, but they should be granted leeway in matters than involve arrests and keeping order, especially when they, or someone else, may be in danger.

Should falsifying reports, abusing witnesses, and outright criminal activity be tolerated? Of course not. The cops who tased that guy 19 times should face severe consequences. Let's not forget that while those three were acting up, hundreds of thousands of others did a thankless job well.


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