Yet over time the rigors and emotional strain of dealing with society's worst element can wear on even the most idealistic officers like a sheet of sandpaper, until what used to be a compassionate human being is slowly rubbed away.
A few become corrupted and slip into criminal behavior, directly contradicting their oath to safeguard the public. Even worse, there are some who hide behind their badges to commit the most heinous crimes imaginable.
In Murder Behind the Badge: True Stories of Cops Who Kill, former police officer, former detective, and mystery writer Stacy Dittrich tells eighteen stories about cops who kill. From the brutal to the bizarre, the senseless to the extreme, these men and women abused their power, took human life, and are now (except for one) paying the consequences. Some killed for love, others for money, and still others because of seemingly trivial personality conflicts.
As a veteran police officer with seventeen years experience, Dittrich is careful to emphasize that the vast majority of law enforcement officers dutifully uphold their oath to protect the public trust. The stories she tells are about some of the few whose character flaws turned them into the very criminals they at one time pursued.
Interview with Stacy Dittrich by Barry Leibowitz, Senior Writer at 48 Hours | Mystery
Is there a typical profile and M.O. of cops who kill?
Dittrich: No, there is not a "typical" profile of cops who kill and their motives differ. However, they do share common personality traits. If you look throughout the history of each officer, you will see many of them are narcissistic, overly arrogant, have a history of irrational or violent behavior, and are promiscuous. The majority of the officers in "Murder Behind the Badge" should never have been hired in the position to begin with. During their background investigations, numerous and blatant red flags were raised that indicated a potential problem and were ignored by background investigators and department officials. I, personally, point the finger at them for hiring these men and women in the first place.
Which case do you consider the worst you've come across, and why?
Dittrich: It is difficult to pinpoint the worst considering some of the individuals, including serial killer Gerard Schaefer. However, if I had to narrow it down, I have to say Antoinette Frank of the New Orleans Police Department. Her cold and callous nature, her manipulations and forgeries to get herself hired as an officer, and her crimes make her simply evil. This woman, who has no remorse, can murder two innocent citizens, plus her police partner, as well as her own father, and remain calm enough to look veteran officers in the eye and lie. She is downright scary.
When police commit murder do they expect to outsmart investigators?
Dittrich: Of course, but then again, most criminals when committing such a violent act truly believe they will get away with it and outsmart the investigators. This is simply a common element among violent criminals, including ones that become cops.
Do cops who kill commit the same kind of blunders as other deadly criminals?
Dittrich: Absolutely. As you'll see in "Murder Behind the Badge," each one of them was caught. Take Craig Peyer, for example, who was so blatantly arrogant (and ignorant) that he gave a television interview about highway safety with fresh scratches on his face after murdering an innocent college student.
What's the biggest difference between murder committed by cops, and other homicides?
Dittrich: Other than the fact that police officers are held to higher standards, and receive more publicity and attention, not much. If you stood Gerard Schaefer next to Ted Bundy there is little difference, other than a metal badge.
Do you think 'killer cops' are created by the pressures of dealing with criminals every day?
Dittrich: Absolutely not. There are hundreds of thousands of officers that perform their job daily with honesty and dignity. Again, these men and women sought this particular job out, coming into it with deep-seated personality disorders/traits that were there long before they were sworn in as officers. The power and authority of becoming a police officer helped them carry out the crimes they would have, undoubtedly, committed anyway.
What question should Crimesider have asked you that we didn't… and what's the answer?
Does the "thin blue line" still exist when it comes to cops like these?
Dittrich: No. These days no officer wants to put their career, family, and freedom on the line for something as serious as murder at the hands of a fellow officer. Sure, the thin blue line still exists when it comes to minor issues: "Nope, never heard Officer John say the F-word at that call, Chief!" But, again, murder is something no one is going to touch. If there are a few that do, they should pay the price, and most honest officers will agree with that.
Stacy Dittrich is an award-winning veteran law enforcement officer, author, media consultant, and former detective specializing in sex crimes. In 2002, she received the Victims of Crime Award from former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro. She is the author of the CeeCee Gallagher thriller series about a female detective. She has been featured on HLN's Nancy Grace show, Fox's Geraldo at Large, and other programs.