At 4 p.m. yesterday, Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk resigned from his job under pressure from the police department, the mayor, and seemingly every resident of western Washington who'd ever heard his name or knew what he did. So what does a man like that do next? Where can a young, seemingly intelligent guy go who has no criminal record, but who, if Google searched, will bring up endless pages of news stories and hate-blog entries about how he unjustifiably killed a man and got away with it because he was a cop? If other such officers are any guide, then the odds at a decent life are long, but hardly impossible.
The Los Angeles Times published a story in 2004, in which the paper checked in with former LAPD Officer and infamous baton swinger Timothy Wind.
The first sentence of the article reads: "Timothy Wind has no job, no money, no friends."
It seems that after the King beating and the subsequent L.A. riots, Wind moved to Indiana, developed horrible ulcers, and had trouble finding even a single job.
The story paints him as a thoroughly disgusted and dejected man, furious at the world for rejecting him and unrepentant at the actions that led to his circumstances.
"We used our training," he says in defending the beating he and the other officers famously gave King, which was captured on camera (a rarity back then).
Not all the Rodney King cops have been dismal failures. Stacey Koon, one of the two officers convicted in the beating, wrote a relatively well-received book about his ordeal.
Another, Ted Briseno, got a job as a security guard.
There are other stories too. Michael Allegretti was fired from his job with the Chicago Police Department in 2007 for pulling two women over and making them show him their breasts to avoid a traffic ticket.
He was later hired by the city of Chicago as a supervisor of parking attendants, but two weeks into his job he was fired again when the city decided his history was too embarrassing after all.
There's also Scott B. Smith, a former cop in New Milford, Conn., who was fired for shooting an unarmed man and pleaded guilty to negligent homicide.
Scott B. Smith
In 2007, Smith made it onto a long list of approved candidates for a firefighter job in New Haven. Though, at #58 on the list and already generating buzz in the press at the time of his application, it seemed unlikely that he would ever actually make the cut.
Indeed his name currently appears nowhere on the city's published documents or directory.
Not all the shamed officers wind up ulcer-ridden and jobless. Daniel Guzman, a former officer with the Albuquerque Police Department, lost his job after he attacked a television news photographer who pissed him off.
He ended up, however, getting a new job with the Bernalillo Police Department after they decided he "deserved a second chance."
Another somewhat similar story happened barely a month ago here in Washington.
Brad Thoma was fired from his job with the Spokane Police Department for a DUI hit-and-run. But in January he was offered a new $74,000-to-$82,000 per year detective gig with the same department after a change in the law allowed him to avoid using the ignition interlock device he'd been ordered to use beforehand.
Stories such as these exist ad infinitum, and cover the spectrum from hopeless wandering and depression to quick and easy transition.
Where Ian Birk will end up will first depend on what Seattle's Office of Professional Accountability decides should be the lasting mark on his record and whether he's able to work as a peace officer again in the state. After that, tenacity and luck will play itself out.
But despite his infamy in this corner of the country, one would likely be hard-pressed to find anyone who's heard his name elsewhere--that is unless they bother to do the aforementioned Google search.