If you live in the Southern California area and someone mentions “police brutality and/or police corruption,” you can probably think of two or three high profile cases of one or the other right off the top of your head. When cops go bad, especially if they go bad on camera, the story goes viral fast. The amount of press coverage a police brutality case or a police corruption case gets can make an average person think it’s widespread and out of control. It’s not, no matter how sensational news headlines get. Sure there are bad apples, but the vast majority of police officers are hard working and honest. The bad guys are usually fired without much fanfare. But “corruption” and “brutality” are words that draw readers to the story which is probably why reporters sensationalize the cases and so many novelists spin tales with corrupt cops.
My focus in this post is on fictional corruption and my imagination can weave a tale of corruption more layered then anything in real life. I think that is true of any writer who writes suspense and or mystery tales. Since I love to read suspense novels and mystery novels, I read a lot of fictional corruption/brutality story lines and often find them fascinating. I’ve decided it’s because of the classic good cop/bad cop angle and the fact that no matter how bad the corruption, the good guy wins in the end. The corrupt cop doesn’t play fair so the hero in the story, whether it be a private eye, another cop, or a private citizen must be that much cleverer to trip the bad guy up. And of course, there is always the ‘ripped from the headlines’ angle. A writer can take a true life story, say about an officer caught using excessive force, and add cover ups, shadowy liaisons and poignant back story and create a believable page-turner.
It’s funny to me that fictional corruption and cops can be so absorbing and complex. In real life, when I worked as a sworn officer, what usually got another officer in trouble was something stupid, not an elaborate, multi-layered conspiracy. Stealing drugs from evidence, lying about their actions during an arrest, or simply not being truthful in report writing, those were the things I remember people getting fired for. Bad things, but not the imaginative webs of corruption my favorite authors can weave.
Imagination is a wonderful thing. The main character in my next book will be fighting a web of corruption in what I hope will be an absorbing tale that will keep you guessing about who is the bad cop and who is the good cop.