In America, citizens are killed by the police every day of the year. We have come to expect that harsh reality, and in fact we like our lawmen rough and ready, as long as they are blowing away someone who apparently deserves it. We entrust the police with our lives, and in return we give law enforcement personnel the benefit of the doubt, assuming that in most cases such deaths are justified as self-defense.
Killer Cops: An Encyclopedia of Lawless Lawmen is not about trigger-happy "cowboys" who pursued their duties with excessive zeal, nor does it second-guess the officers whose handling of violent suspects led to "accidental" deaths in custody. Instead, it lifts a different stone in order to scrutinize America's worst nightmare: sworn protectors of the law who used their badges as hunting licenses, killing on a whim for profit, sex, or personal revenge.
No rank or agency has been immune from shame in this regard. The cases profiled in this book span the continent and run the gamut of law enforcement's social scale, from small-town police departments to the normally sacrosanct FBI. Patrolmen stand convicted side-by-side with sergeants, chiefs, and county sheriffs. From the Old West's legendary Wyatt Earp to today's Bad Lieutenants, the pattern of homicidal lawlessness is clearly defined.
As Jack Webb, portraying the LAPD's Joe Friday, once pointed out, there will always be a few bad apples to be found among the police "because we have to recruit from the human race." The cases singled out in this book reiterate that point, without indicting law enforcement en masse. These examples of police malfeasance illustrate that while abusers may be few and far between, a better job of screening new police recruits and supervising veteran officers should be one of society's top priorities. We must be aware that there will always be a few lawmen who defile their pledge "to protect and serve," and be ever-vigilant in guarding against this obscene threat to our lives and personal safety.