For 22 years, Derick Waller protected and served in New York City as a member of the New York City Police Department. He joined the NYPD in 1995, starting out as a street cop, but he eventually became a detective.
“I absolutely loved being a police officer,” said Waller. “I loved helping with their problems, and I was fortunate to work in the communities of color, which I thought I could serve best.”
While Waller enjoyed the comradery with other officers, serving in his hometown communities and helping people in need, there were things about the job he didn’t love and didn’t agree with.
“The police department is basically a business, like you work at Macy’s you have to sell. Once you become a police officer, you have to bring in bodies,” said Waller.
Bodies, he explained, is a term many officers use to describe when an officer makes an arrest and brings someone in to be booked and processed.
“Let’s say you have the company commander of your precinct, he basically gets promoted based on how many arrests he gets,” Waller added.
On the surface, that may not seem concerning, but what Waller witnessed was some officers over-policing, especially in communities of color, for the purpose of promotions, higher pay, or because of pressure to fill unofficial quotas.
“There are so many amazing officers that just want to do right, but with that pressure on them, how can they?” asked Waller.
Toward the end of Waller’s career, he began speaking up about arrest and citation quotas. He made his concerns public on what they were doing to officers’ mentality and the community.
He believes what happened to him is a prime example of why so many officers around the country are concerned to speak up when they see another officer potentially doing something wrong or the department implementing questionable policing practices.
“A lot of officers want to speak out, but they are so afraid of the retaliation that the police department is going to come after them,” said Waller.
After Waller spoke out, he went from being named Officer of the Month to being written up and ridiculed.
“I would come back after my days off my locker would be flipped over; they put a big rat poster on your desk, all kinds of stuff,” Waller recalled.
Breaking through, the often referred to “blue wall of silence” made the last few years of his career tough, but he left the job still hopeful that improvements with policing could come.
“There are many officers who love the job and there are good officers, more than not,” said Waller. “Right now, the definition of a good officer is the one who brings in those arrests. If we can change the definition, then maybe we can change the mentality of the police department.”
Waller’s definition of a good officer is one who is respected but not feared in their community.