Voices From Inside the System

‘I Was Told: Just Keep Your Mouth Shut’

This detective was pushed out of his department in a large metropolitan city for reporting police brutality

Haley Cohen Gilliland
GEN
Published in
7 min readAug 17, 2020

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Photo illustration, source: Juanmonino/Getty Images

Voices from Inside the System is a GEN series where we interview people who have had firsthand experience with industries that have a history of systemic racism and inequity. We asked them to think deeply about the role they played and the work they did. We asked them why they stayed or why they left, how they might be complicit, or if they thought they — or anyone — could fundamentally change the system.

This 37-year-old police officer served nearly six years in a large metropolitan police force before he was pushed out for reporting police brutality. According to a recent ProPublica investigation, the NYPD has near-impunity in deciding how it cooperates with investigations into police conduct. Many complaints languish without results. In 2018 alone, New York’s Civilian Complaint Review Board reported receiving 2,919 complaints of officers using physical force, which involved punching, shoving, kicking, or pushing. The officer spoke with journalist Haley Cohen Gilliland about his experience.

I’m half-Italian, half-Puerto Rican. My mom’s from Puerto Rico, my dad was from New Jersey. Both my parents were New York City cops. My dad got hurt when I was really young. He walked into a bodega that was getting robbed and got his skull bashed in with a baseball bat. He ended up getting a mandatory retirement because of it.

As a kid, I used to get into trouble here and there for fights and cutting school and stuff like that. I had a reputation for being a prankster. But all my life I knew I wanted to be a cop.

To this day it sounds juvenile, but I always liked the idea of helping people. Knowing the work I did somewhat made a difference. I took the test to become a cop on September 11, 2008, and I got hired in November. It was insanely fast.

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Haley Cohen Gilliland
GEN
Writer for

Writer. Words in @nytimes , @natgeo , @Outsidemagazine @VanityFair. Previously covered the American West + Argentina @TheEconomist . www.hcgilliland.com