It's among the first lessons you learn as a rookie cop: Don't break the "code of silence."
If you do, prepare to be an outcast - a "rat."
Two Broward Sheriff's Office deputies were recently suspended after they gave investigators inside information about the alleged falsification of the agency's crime reports.
The deputies, Joseph Isabella and Scott Jordan, not only implicated themselves in the scandal but said BSO supervisors put pressure on underlings to fudge the crime numbers. Isabella and Jordan were either trying to do the right thing or gain leniency if they're ever charged by the Broward state attorney's office.
But, like other cops who have broken the "blue wall of silence, " their careers are finished.
"The consequences are life- changing and extraordinary for police officers who come forward, " said Hollywood attorney Myles Malman, a former state and federal prosecutor, who represented two Miami police officers who had testified against 11 other city cops in a massive gun-planting conspiracy case.
"They can forget about a career in law enforcement. It's over."
Only two former BSO detectives in Weston have been charged since the State Attorney's Office launched a massive probe 17 months ago into allegations BSO deputies falsified crime reports.
Chris Theiman and Christian Zapata have been charged with official misconduct and placed on administrative leave with pay as the investigation continues.
In dozens of statements released by the State Attorney's Office, very few BSO deputies swore they "falsified reports, " nor did they incriminate others within the agency.
Experts say that's not uncommon.
"It's all about 'if you don't back us up, you may call for help one day and we may not come, ' " said George Kirkham, Florida State University professor emeritus, former police officer and criminologist.
"They know they might be in a tight situation one day with their life on the line. They need those cops to help them."
Officers who cooperate in investigations could face years of scorn, threats and potential retribution.
Isabella and Jordan, former detectives, have been suspended without pay.
Experts say bad cops who break the blue wall of silence to testify against other bad cops can say goodbye to their law enforcement careers.
On the other hand, any police agency that learns an officer may be guilty of misconduct or criminal activity has to take measures against the officer to avoid the appearance that it is condoning what the officers did.
"It's tough because the deputies have to tell the truth, and the department has to take action if those deputies admit to wrongdoing, to breaking the law, " said former New York City narcotics detective Robert Leuci, whose exposé of widespread police corruption were chronicled in the book and movie Prince of the City.
"But for those who see what happens when you spill your guts, the unspoken message is loud and clear: 'Keep your mouth shut, ' " said Leuci.
In recent decades, Broward's police corruption scandals have been far fewer than those in Miami-Dade. Consider these notorious Miami-Dade cases:
- In 1980, the Miami-Dade state attorney's office lost a racially charged case against four county cops accused of the beating death of black insurance agent Arthur McDuffie and tampering with evidence.
- In the mid-'80s, corrupt officers cut plea deals and turned against others in the Miami River Cops case, a saga of drug rip-offs, bribes and murders.
- In 2003, two veteran Miami officers testified against 11 fellow cops accused of using throw-down guns or lying to cover up misconduct in four questionable shootings between 1995 and 1997.