Corrupt Cops: Meat Eaters Versus Grass Eaters

Criminal defense attorneys are no strangers to the devastating effects of police corruption. Even a slight misuse of power can turn a simple misdemeanor into a life-altering felony. While the NYPD is often shown in a negative light in popular media, it is important for New Yorkers to remember that some of those stories have a basis in reality.

The NYPD is the largest municipal police force in the United States, and the words “Courtesy Professionalism Respect” are emblazoned on the rear doors of their squad cars. Even here, however, corruption exists. Not all police corruption is as insidious as movies would have us believe, however. Whether the misuse of power is active or passive, New Yorkers are, ultimately, the ones who suffer the consequences.

In 1970, the Knapp Commission coined the terms “meat eaters” and “grass eaters” after an exhaustive investigation into NYPD corruption.

  • Meat eaters: Police officers who aggressively use their position of power to gain personal profit or acquire favors can be referred to as “meat eaters.” This would be the form of corruption typically characterized in popular movies and television shows. A cop shaking down a business owner for protection money or a group of detectives who skim some evidence off the top for their own personal use – these examples typify a meat eater.
  • Grass eaters: Police officers who don’t seek out personal benefits – but also don’t wave them off with a “no thanks” – can be considered grass eaters. What’s the harm in accepting a free coffee and Danish from the corner market? If nothing else, this officer would not be maintaining the appearance of impropriety. Would this shop owner receive preferential treatment in the future? Would the police officer stop by this shop more often than usual, to the detriment of the rest of his “beat?” It’s impossible to tell for sure, but the mere fact that these concerns can be raised calls the officer’s objectiveness into question.

There are certain circumstances when a criminal charge can be tied to police corruption, brutality, excessive use of force or other misuses of power. A criminal defense attorney can carefully examine your case and provide valuable insight into your legal rights.

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