Crossing the Thin Blue Line

One of the difficulties in holding police accountable in this country is that when an officer is accused of doing something wrong he is investigated by his fellows and usually found innocent of any wrongdoing. This thin blue line of cops protecting other cops is a breeding ground for corruption. When an officer does cross the thin blue line the vengeance dished out by their fellow officers can be terrible. Just ask Frank Serpico. His fellow officers attempted to get him killed on a drug raid because he spoke out against corrupt officers.

Smart officers who want to blow the whistle on their corrupt fellows lawyer up first. Even then the level police officers will sink to in order to exact revenge is frightening. A Arkansas lawyer who is representing some good officers that came forth against corruption found out first hand how low departments still stoop:

An Arkansas lawyer representing current and former police officers in a contentious whistle-blower lawsuit is crying foul after finding three distinct pieces of malware on an external hard drive supplied by police department officials.

The hard drive was provided last year by the Fort Smith Police Department to North Little Rock attorney Matt Campbell in response to a discovery demand filed in the case. Campbell is representing three current or former police officers in a court action, which was filed under Arkansas’ Whistle-Blower Act. The lawsuit alleges former Fort Smith police officer Don Paul Bales and two other plaintiffs were illegally investigated after reporting wrongful termination and overtime pay practices in the department.

According to court documents filed last week in the case, Campbell provided police officials with an external hard drive for them to load with e-mail and other data responding to his discovery request. When he got it back, he found something he didn’t request. In a subfolder titled D:\Bales Court Order, a computer security consultant for Campbell allegedly found three well-known trojans, including:

  • Win32:Zbot-AVH[Trj], a password logger and backdoor
  • NSIS:Downloader-CC[Trj], a program that connects to attacker-controlled servers and downloads and installs additional programs, and
  • Two instances of Win32Cycbot-NF[Trj], a backdoor

All three trojans are usually easily detected by antivirus software. In an affidavit filed in the whistle-blower case, Campbell’s security consultant said it’s unlikely the files were copied to the hard drive by accident, given claims by Fort Smith police that department systems ran real-time AV protection.

It makes you wonder what the officers who installed the malware on the hard drives were thinking. Did they believe their programs would bypass the lawyer’s anti-malware? Were they hoping he didn’t keep backups of the information he had related to the case and that erasing them on the laptop would ensure they were gone forever? Or were they hoping to install illegal material, such as child pornography, on his laptop in order to frame him? Who know. But this shows just how far officers will go to lash out against those who cross the thin blue line. Going after whistle blower’s lawyers is probably seen as nothing more than collateral damage to them.